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Distracted Teacher

Shelves of classics organized by time periods and topics. I'll be working on reading and reviewing them with a one word/one sentence summary, book history, and topics to think about.


Oresteia by Aeschylus

The Oresteia: Agamemnon / The Libation Bearers / The Eumenides - Aeschylus, Robert Fagles, William Bedell Stanford


Ok. So I can't say this author's name . . . but as far as old plays go, the Oresteia trilogy is pretty good. It was a fast read, had multi-faceted characters, and a lot of topics to think about. As you will see from my one-sentence and one-word summaries below though . . . I would probably put this play under the theme of horror. I mean if it didn't have so many deep topics, I'd probably just plainly list it under horror. I'm extremely surprised I didn't have nightmares last night. Just saying.



One Sentence Summary: 


Basically this play is all about a blood thirsty family with a grandpa who boiled some babies and fed them to their father, a son who sacrifices his daughter, a mother who chops up her husband with an axe (oh and her husband's concubine), and a son who then kills his mother and his mother's lover.


(show spoiler)


One Word Summary: 




Book History: 


So Oresteia is actually a trilogy of plays. (Originally it had four plays but one, Proteus, didn't survive, so we only have the three.) It is (according to Wikipedia) the only surviving example of a Greek Trilogy of plays, so that makes it important. 


Good Quotes:

Wisdom comes through suffering.
(Agamemnon Line 211)
So men against their will 
learn to practice moderation.
(Agamemnon Lines 214-215)
There’s no security in riches
      for the insolent man who kicks aside
      and pushes from his sight
      great altars of righteousness.
(Agamemnon Lines 464-467)
It’s the unholy act that breeds
more acts of the same kind.
A truly righteous house is blest
its children always fair and good.
(Agamemnon Lines 899-903)
 But Righteousness shines out
from grimy dwellings, honouring
the man who lives in virtue.
She turns her eyes away
from gold-encrusted mansions
where men’s hands are black,
and moves towards integrity,
rejecting power and wealth,
which, though praised, are counterfeit.

Righteousness leads all things
to well-deserved fulfillment.
(Agamemnon Lines 913-923)
  By nature few men
possess the inborn talent to admire
a friend’s good fortune without envy.
(Agamemnon Lines 976-978)
Those who practise moderation
in everything they do
acquire strength from god,
(Eumenides Lines 671-673)



  • 1) Women Stereotypes and Women Roles
  • 2) Retribution vs. Forgiveness
  • 3) Pride



Summary of My Thoughts:


I don't know anything about how the Greek stereotype for women, but this play is confusing in trying to set one for me. One minute their female characters seem powerful, e.g. Clytemnestra running her husband's kingdom? in his absence, addressing her subjects with authority, playing a submissive part only to chop her husband up . . . But then there are quotes from the narrator chorus like "Noble men shall not be subject to the heart of a woman" and " You speak wisely, like a prudent man." 


I also couldn't help despising the old chorus women in The Choephoroi because they convinced Oresteus to kill his mother. I just kept thinking that murder in vengeance just begets more murder. Someone has to end the cycle. And this is a great example of how terribly difficult that could be. Who would want to let the murderer who boiled your brothers and fed them to your father live? Nobody! Letting that vengeance go is necessary though. Eventually we have to trust in the system to exact justice (as is done in the last play - albeit with more than a little god control) instead of just going around lopping people's heads off. 








Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oresteia