Persians and Other Plays

ISBN-10: 014044999X

ISBN-13: 9780140449990

Edition: 2009

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Description: Aeschylus (525-456 BC) brought a new grandeur and epic sweep to the drama of classical Athens, raising it to the status of high art. The Persians, the only Greek tragedy to deal with events from recent Athenian history, depicts the final defeat of Persia in the battle of Salamis, through the eyes of the Persian court of King Xerxes, becoming a tragic lesson in tyranny. In Prometheus Bound, the defiant Titan Prometheus is brutally punished by Zeus for daring to improve the state of wretchedness and servitude in which mankind is kept. Seven Against Thebes shows the inexorable downfall of the last members of the cursed family of Oedipus, while The Suppliants relates the pursuit of the fifty daughters of Danaus by the fifty sons of Aegyptus, and their final rescue by a heroic king.

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Book details

List price: $20.00
Copyright year: 2009
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 2/23/2010
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 304
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.00" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.704
Language: English

Aeschylus was born at Eleusis of a noble family. He fought at the Battle of Marathon (490 b.c.), where a small Greek band heroically defeated the invading Persians. At the time of his death in Sicily, Athens was in its golden age. In all of his extant works, his intense love of Greece and Athens finds expression. Of the nearly 90 plays attributed to him, only 7 survive. These are The Persians (produced in 472 b.c.), Seven against Thebes (467 b.c.), The Oresteia (458 b.c.)---which includes Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides (or Furies) --- Suppliants (463 b.c.), and Prometheus Bound (c.460 b.c.). Six of the seven present mythological stories. The ornate language creates a mood of tragedy and reinforces the already stylized character of the Greek theater. Aeschylus called his prodigious output "dry scraps from Homer's banquet," because his plots and solemn language are derived from the epic poet. But a more accurate summation of Aeschylus would emphasize his grandeur of mind and spirit and the tragic dignity of his language. Because of his patriotism and belief in divine providence, there is a profound moral order to his plays. Characters such as Clytemnestra, Orestes, and Prometheus personify a great passion or principle. As individuals they conflict with divine will, but, ultimately, justice prevails. Aeschylus's introduction of the second actor made real theater possible, because the two could address each other and act several roles. His successors imitated his costumes, dances, spectacular effects, long descriptions, choral refrains, invocations, and dialogue. Swinburne's (see Vol. 1) enthusiasm for The Oresteia sums up all praises of Aeschylus; he called it simply "the greatest achievement of the human mind." Because of his great achievements, Aeschylus might be considered the "father of tragedy."

Alan H. Sommerstein is Professor of Greek, University of Nottingham.

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