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... in it, their glory, stare out death for death for death (ii) CASSANDRA: ‘I know that smell’ (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1333) Gorges down black drops white water after shadows plunge out of wild all around to deep trees a white cock crows. Deer in snow at a deer angle the sudden drenching its black throat. White ...

Echoes and Whisperings

Colin Burrow: Colm Tóibín’s ‘Oresteia’, 1 June 2017

House of Names 
by Colm Tóibín.
Viking, 262 pp., £12.99, May 2017, 978 0 241 25768 5
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... At the start​ of Aeschylus’ Oresteia a watchman sees a flaming beacon. This is supposed to be the sign that Troy has fallen and that Agamemnon is coming home from the Trojan war. The watchman briefly rejoices. Then he says (in Richmond Lattimore’s translation): ‘The rest/I leave to silence; for an ox stands huge upon/my tongue ...

Ah, how miserable!

Emily Wilson: Three New Oresteias, 8 October 2020

The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Oliver Taplin.
Liveright, 172 pp., £17.99, November 2018, 978 1 63149 466 6
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Jeffrey Scott Bernstein.
Carcanet, 288 pp., £16.99, April 2020, 978 1 78410 873 1
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by David Mulroy.
Wisconsin, 234 pp., £17.50, April 2018, 978 0 299 31564 1
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... Aeschylus’​ Oresteia begins with the story of a grieving, righteously angry woman seeking justice for her daughter. The child was killed by her father, the woman’s husband, in order to enable a vast war. Each of the three plays is radically different in style, mood and action. But each centres on female anger and female grief at violent loss of life and the willingness of family members to kill one another ...

Among the Barbarians

James Romm: The Other, 15 December 2011

Rethinking the Other in Antiquity 
by Erich Gruen.
Princeton, 415 pp., £27.95, January 2011, 978 0 691 14852 6
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... in particular. Gruen begins with the Persians, as depicted in both Herodotus’ Histories and Aeschylus’ historical tragedy Persae, and they are in many ways paradigmatic. The people Gruen is interested in are the well-organised and powerful neighbours of the Greeks and Romans, especially those who came into conflict with them. He looks through Greek ...

Let’s Cut to the Wail

Michael Wood: The Oresteia according to Anne Carson, 11 June 2009

An Oresteia 
translated by Anne Carson.
Faber, 255 pp., $27, March 2009, 978 0 86547 902 9
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... her sharp, sceptical, often laconic version of three plays about the legacy of Atreus, one each by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, as well as in her translations of four other plays by Euripides,* I kept hearing an invitation to extend and refine the thought. These gods are the names of forces humans cannot otherwise name and must still name somehow. Do ...

Faint Sounds of Shovelling

John Kerrigan: The History of Tragedy, 20 December 2018

Ladies’ Greek: Victorian Translations of Tragedy 
by Yopie Prins.
Princeton, 297 pp., £24, April 2017, 978 0 691 14189 3
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Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages 
by Tanya Pollard.
Oxford, 331 pp., £60, September 2017, 978 0 19 879311 3
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Eclipse of Action: Tragedy and Political Economy 
by Richard Halpern.
Chicago, 313 pp., £34, April 2017, 978 0 226 43365 3
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Samson Agonistes: A Redramatisation after Milton 
by John Kinsella.
Arc, 109 pp., £10.99, October 2018, 978 1 911469 55 1
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... however, suggests to the adult Aurora, by now a poet with an interest in tragedy, the death of Aeschylus, who according to legend was killed when a circling eagle or vulture, mistaking his bald pate for a rock, dropped a tortoise on it from a great height in order to crack open its shell. Perhaps the beginnings of this thought had struck the young Aurora ...

Missing the Vital Spark

Mark Ford: Tony Harrison, 13 May 1999

by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 86 pp., £8.99, November 1998, 0 571 19753 1
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... the Fire-Bringer has been lost altogether. Prometheus Bound has traditionally been ascribed to Aeschylus, but there are no Festival records to confirm his authorship. The case against this attribution has been made with particular force in recent decades, most compellingly by M. Griffith in The Authenticity of ‘Prometheus Bound’ (1977). In a recent ...

Keys to Shakespeare

Anne Barton, 5 June 1980

Shakespeare’s Tragic Practice 
by Bertrand Evans.
Oxford, 327 pp., £12.50, December 1979, 9780198120940
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The Tragic Effect: The Oedipus Complex in Tragedy 
by André Green, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £10.50, October 1979, 0 521 21377 0
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Shakespeare’s Tragic Sequence 
by Kenneth Muir.
Liverpool, 207 pp., £9.50, November 1979, 0 85323 184 2
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Shakespeare’s Comic Sequence 
by Kenneth Muir.
Liverpool, 207 pp., £9.50, November 1979, 0 85323 064 1
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... the heart of tragic experience, and he pursues it not only through Shakespeare’s Othello, but in Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Racine. Green’s interpretations of individual plays are sustained by a formidable theory of dramatic representation, set out in a densely written ‘Prologue’ bristling with structuralist terminology. Frank Kermode, who ...

Gods and Heroes

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 18 December 1980

Sophocles: An Interpretation 
by R.P. Winnington-Ingram.
Cambridge, 346 pp., £25, February 1980, 0 521 22672 4
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... in a general way is probably correct.Winnington-Ingram lays strong emphasis on the influence of Aeschylus, and is everywhere aware of the importance of religion in the work of Sophocles. After dealing with the three supposedly early plays, he frames his chapter on the Oedipus Tyrannus between a chapter on the Erinyes in Sophocles – he calls them by the ...
The Bayreuth Ring 
BBC2, October 1982Show More
directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg.
Edinburgh Film Festival, September 1982
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by Lucy Beckett.
Cambridge, 163 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 521 22825 5
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Wagner and Literature 
by Raymond Furness.
Manchester, 159 pp., £14.50, February 1982, 0 7190 0844 1
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Wagner to ‘The Waste Land’: A Study of the Relationship of Wagner to English Literature 
by Stoddart Martin.
Macmillan, 277 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 333 28998 6
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Wagner and Aeschylus‘The Ring’ and ‘The Oresteia’ 
by Michael Ewans.
Faber, 271 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 0 571 11808 9
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... attempts a sadly misconceived and portentous expansion of the sensible paragraphs on Wagner and Aeschylus in Cooke’s I saw the world end and in the two biographies of Wagner by Curt von Westernhagen. Given his willingness to countenance far more tenuous parallels, it is surprising that he deliberately denies the influence of Prometheus Bound (as expounded ...

Ancient Exploitation

Christopher Hill, 4 February 1982

The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World: from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests 
by G.E.M. de Ste Croix.
Duckworth, 732 pp., £38, December 1981, 0 7156 0738 3
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... works, and he gives short shrift to his Marxist predecessors in the field. George Thomson, whose Aeschylus and Athens excited me very much when it came out in 1940, is dismissed in three curt sentences. But Dr de Ste Croix is no less critical of his fellow Classical historians, among whom he commonly refers favourably only to A.H.M. Jones and P.A. Brunt. Sir ...
by Jerry Hopkins.
Elm Tree, 275 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 241 11548 5
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Alias David Bowie 
by Peter Gillman and Leni Gillman.
Hodder, 511 pp., £16.95, September 1986, 0 340 36806 3
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... crowd-poets whom Aristotle praised for their command of spectacle and song, pity and terror. ‘Aeschylus tragical on stilts,’ sighed Aldous Huxley. ‘Bawling sublimities through a tortured mouth-hole!’ It is not for his ‘artistic merit’ that I would compare him with those old Greeks, only for his choice of medium. The crowd-poetry of ...


Mary Lefkowitz, 4 November 1993

In and Out of the Mind: Images of the Tragic Self 
by Ruth Padel.
Princeton, 210 pp., £18, July 1992, 0 691 07379 1
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The Age of Grace: Charis in Early Greek Poetry 
by Bonnie MacLachlan.
Princeton, 192 pp., £21.50, August 1993, 0 691 06974 3
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... about audience reaction, what the Athenians would have thought about the meaning, for instance, of Aeschylus’ the Eumenides? Would the play have made Athenians aware during their ritual libations to Dionysus (Choes) that they were surrounded by polluting waste-matter (normally unseen), because of their ability, as family members, to bring grief to the ...

Forever Krystle

Nicholas Shakespeare, 20 February 1986

Watching ‘Dallas’: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination 
by Ien Ang, translated by Della Couling.
Methuen, 148 pp., £10.50, November 1985, 0 416 41630 6
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... Pam and Cliff are smitten with the hereditary curse of ‘neurofibromatosis’ – and instead of Aeschylus and Sophocles we have the goat-songs of Edward Deblasio and Joel J. Feigenbaum. Sue Ellen’s drinking bouts are a hangover from the Bacchanals of Cithaeron. Blake Carrington’s ‘I’ll be in the library’ harks back to the oracle (who today, in the ...

How do you wrap a skeleton?

J. Robert Lennon: David Copperfield Sedaris, 9 June 2022

A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries 2003-20 
by David Sedaris.
Little, Brown, 566 pp., £10.99, June, 978 0 349 14190 9
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... observation I keep thinking about showcases him at his most delightfully oblique: he reads that Aeschylus died in 456 BC when an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a rock, dropped a tortoise on it. Sedaris’s reaction: eagles make mistakes? He doesn’t elaborate, and I wonder which figure in this story Sedaris identifies with. Is he ...

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