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What Wotan Wants

Jerry Fodor, 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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... 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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... 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 Nietzsche had in ...
... themselves in music. In Aristophanes’ comedy Frogs (the first documented response to Euripides), Aeschylus complains that Euripides ‘picked up Cretan monodies’ and dragged gamous (‘marriages, fucking’) into tragedy. ‘Cretan monodies’, whatever they are, go with sex. Neither belongs in tragedy’s music or libretti as ...


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 landlocked Pangaea, polygonal Gondwanaland, in tasselly swathes. Unspaced Greek capitals cross all the cracks keeping blocks bonded with alphabet tack-stitch, manumission inscriptions that seal all the junctures ...

Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton, 6 February 2020

A Cultural History of Tragedy: Vols I-VI 
edited by Rebecca Bushnell.
Bloomsbury Academic, 1302 pp., £395, November 2019, 978 1 4742 8814 9
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... real-life catastrophe, as we do today, is a case of life imitating art. It follows from this that Aeschylus is tragic but Auschwitz is not. Although sorrow and despair constitute a lingua franca among human beings, tragic art tends to flourish only in highly specific circumstances. Tragedy is an act of collective mourning, remembrance and meditation, an ...

Aspasia’s Sisters

Mary Lefkowitz, 1 September 1983

The Family, Women and Death: Comparative Studies 
by Sally Humphreys.
Routledge, 210 pp., £15, March 1983, 0 7100 9322 5
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The Golden Lyre: The Themes of the Greek Lyric Poets 
by David Campbell.
Duckworth, 312 pp., £28, February 1983, 0 7156 1563 7
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... so that they may live together beneath the earth for the rest of time. When Orestes and Electra in Aeschylus’s Libation-Bearers call upon their father’s ghost, they are not so much performing a magical incantation as rallying the family together for the next dreadful challenge that faces them. The 19th-century scholar Fustel de Coulanges had on the basis ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Clytemnestra du jour, 21 February 2013

... with a single blink. The other day, in a move that would have made Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus call suddenly for more papyrus, Ms Pryce announced to the court that she wanted to ‘expose’ Huhne’s ‘true character’. There is a design fault in the modern male that allows his true character to make itself felt only after he has cheated on ...

An Easy Lay

James Davidson: Greek tragedy, 30 September 1999

Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy 
edited by Simon Goldhill and Robin Osborne.
Cambridge, 417 pp., £45, June 1997, 0 521 64247 7
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The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy 
edited by P.E. Easterling.
Cambridge, 410 pp., £14.95, October 1997, 0 521 42351 1
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Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning 
by David Wiles.
Cambridge, 130 pp., £13.95, August 1999, 0 521 66615 5
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... if you had plumped for a Pinter or an Ibsen or a David Hare. When we hear, for instance, that Aeschylus’ rival Phrynichus was particularly noted for his choreographies, or learn from Peter Wilson in Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy that the shawm (aulos) which always accompanied a performance came in various shapes and sizes depending on the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’, 2 April 2020

... In​ Aeschylus’ Oresteia, and in the myth he was staging, the Furies that drove vengeance and justice are appeased, and converted into the so-called Kindly Ones. Pier Paolo Pasolini accepted this story as still current in Italy in the 1960s, but with an important variant. The transformation did not mean the Furies were any the less ‘irrational and archaic’, only that instead of haunting our dreams, ‘they reign over works of poetry, of affective imagination ...

Et in Alhambra ego

D.A.N. Jones, 5 June 1986

Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... to alter their plays, but he was more fortunate when he directed Robert Lowell’s version of Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound. Since Miller did not want to set this play in the Caucasus, with an actor tied to a rock, he ‘superimposed another level of translation by setting it in a 17th-century limbo. Lowell was pleased to discover that his own work, not ...


Marina Warner: Medea, 3 December 2015

... Euripides for searching too far into motives and feelings. He contrasted him unfavourably with Aeschylus and Sophocles, for whom the principle ‘in order to be beautiful, everything must be reasonable’ meant the story must be subject to law, divine and human, without allowing individuals or their passions to make a difference. Euripides took this ...

‘I can’t go on like this’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 19 January 1989

The Letters of Edith Wharton 
edited by R.W.B. Lewis and Nancy Lewis.
Simon and Schuster, 654 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 671 69965 2
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Women Artists, Women Exiles: ‘Miss Grief’ and Other Stories 
by Constance Fenimore Woolson, edited by Joan Myers Weimer.
Rutgers, 341 pp., $42, December 1988, 0 8135 1347 2
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... recall the scene so vividly, she has neither the education nor the discipline to know anything of Aeschylus beyond this chance acquaintance – an acquaintance casually ‘picked up’ in one of those luxurious houses where the beautiful but impoverished young woman has been a perpetual hanger-on. Having failed to make a wealthy marriage or otherwise to place ...

Art and Mimesis in Plato’s ‘Republic’

M.F. Burnyeat: Plato, 21 May 1998

... of poetry – will be a pervasive presence in the society he describes. Yes, he did banish Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes – the greatest names of Greek literature. But not because they were poets. He banished them because they produced the wrong sort of poetry. To rebut Plato’s critique of poetry, what is needed is not a defence of ...

Looking for the loo

Mary Beard, 15 August 1991

You just don’t understand: Women and Men in Conversation 
by Deborah Tannen.
Virago, 330 pp., £14.99, May 1991, 1 85381 381 8
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... of course – by no means as ‘revolutionary’ as the dust-jacket tries to suggest. From Aeschylus (Choephori, 665-7) to Dale Spender, there have been numerous attempts to define the differences between male and female modes of language. But Tannen, in her popular, ‘Everything you wanted to know’, style does a good job in teasing out the details ...

A Word Like a Bullet

Michael Hofmann: Heinrich Böll, 18 July 2019

The Train Was on Time 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.
Penguin, 108 pp., £8.99, April 2019, 978 0 241 37038 4
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... In 1949, few people wanted to be reminded of the war, and the book hardly sold. (Whether it’s Aeschylus’ Persians or Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or Kevin Powers’s Yellow Birds, it rarely takes less than ten years for a public to build up an appetite, curiosity or tolerance for discussions of recent conflict.) All Böll’s early ...

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