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18 August 2005
... a sponge can wipe you off you I pity [exit Cassandra] CHORUS: as brightness blows the rising and hang 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 ...

Echoes and Whisperings

Colin Burrow: Colm Tóibín’s ‘Oresteia’

31 May 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 ...

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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... The hyper-pink shepherdess represents the dainty femininity wished on the child by her aunt. The hat, 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 ...

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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... Vernant reminded us that Greek gods are not persons but forces; and in Anne Carson’s Oresteia, 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 ...

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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... barbaros, along with other tonal cues that might reveal Herodotus’ attitude to non-Greeks, the Persians 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 ...

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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... dates are known – corresponds with Reinhardt’s theory of the poet’s artistic development, and in a general way is probably correct. Winnington-lngram 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 ...

Missing the Vital Spark

Mark Ford: Tony Harrison

13 May 1999
Prometheus 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 86 pp., £8.99, November 1998, 0 571 19753 1
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... Bound and Prometheus’ Release. Only a fragment survives of Prometheus’ Release, and Prometheus 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 ...
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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... a hedgehog: a man dominated by a single, all-embracing idea. For Green, the Oedipus complex lies at 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 ...

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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... Croix has evolved his own personal brand of Marxism, though he relates it carefully to Marx’s own 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 ...
20 November 1986
Bowie 
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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... he can blow them or sing them while he shows off his costumed body. He is more like the old Athenian 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 ...
5 August 2004
Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s ‘Ring’ 
by Philip Kitcher and Richard Schacht.
Oxford, 241 pp., £14.99, April 2004, 0 19 517359 7
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... very much what happens to Wotan in the Ring, and to us when we see the Ring performed. I think Wagner’s model for the Ring was, quite self-consciously, not Lear or anything else Shakespearean, but Aeschylus’ Oresteia sequence, of which the Ring offers a sort of dialectical critique (the suggestion has been made before – see, for example, Michael Ewans’s Wagner and Aeschylus: The ‘Ring’ and the ...

Nietzsche’s Centaur

Bernard Williams

4 June 1981
Nietzsche on Tragedy 
by M.S. Silk and J.P. Stern.
Cambridge, 441 pp., £27.50, March 1981, 0 521 23262 7
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Nietzsche: A Critical Life 
by Ronald Hayman.
Weidenfeld, 424 pp., £18.50, March 1980, 0 297 77636 3
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Nietzsche. Vol. 1: The Will to Power as Art 
by Martin Heidegger, translated by David Farrell Krell.
Routledge, 263 pp., £11.50, March 1981, 0 7100 0744 2
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... consciousness which the tragic outlook involves, of the unity of destructive and creative forces, was embodied only in the earlier period of the Greek Classical Age – above all, in the tragedians Aeschylus and Sophocles. Of these, Nietzsche tends to emphasise Aeschylus, who was indeed the earlier, but (as Silk and Stern point out) it is certainly Sophocles who most clearly and unpityingly embodies what ...

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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... fluctuating oil prices and incurable diseases – Miss Ellie’s cancer took up two whole episodes, 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 ...

Wombiness

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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... late to change the course of the action? How can we know, in the absence of any secure information 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 ...

Polygons

Tony Harrison

19 February 2015
... Dionysius of Halicarnassus once likened Aeschylus’ poetry to this Cyclopean wall beneath Apollo’s temple before us, this wall I always gaze on whenever in Delphi, blocks shaped like continents pre-early Jurassic where capers cascade down ...

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