Oresteia of Aeschylus A New Translation by Ted Hughes

ISBN-10: 0374527059

ISBN-13: 9780374527051

Edition: N/A

Authors: Aeschylus, Ted Hughes

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In the last year of his life, Ted Hughes completed translations of three major dramatic works: Racine's Phedre, Euripedes' Alcestis, and the trilogy of plays known as at The Oresteia, a family story of astonishing power and the background or inspiration for much subsequent drama, fiction, and poetry. The Oresteia--Agamemnon, Choephori, and the Eumenides--tell the story of the house of Atreus: After King Agamemnon is murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, their son, Orestes, is commanded by Apollo to avenge the crime by killing his mother, and he returns from exile to do so, bringing on himself the wrath of the Furies and the judgment of the court of Athens. Hughes's "acting version" of the trilogy is faithful to its nature as a dramatic work, and his translation is itself a great performance; while artfully inflected with the contemporary, it has a classical beauty and authority. Hughes's Oresteia is quickly becoming the standard edition for English-language readers and for the stage, too.
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Book details

List price: $14.00
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Publication date: 9/4/2000
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 208
Size: 5.50" wide x 9.25" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.638
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."

Ted Hughes was born on August 17, 1930 in England and attended Cambridge University, where he became interested in anthropology and folklore. These interests would have a profound effect on his poetry. In 1956, Hughes married famed poet Sylvia Plath. He taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 1957 until 1959, and he stopped writing altogether for several years after Plath's suicide in 1963. Hughes's poetry is highly marked by harsh and savage language and depictions, emphasizing the animal quality of life. He soon developed a creature called Crow who appeared in several volumes of poetry including A Crow Hymn and Crow Wakes. A creature of mythic proportions, Crow symbolizes the victim, the outcast, and a witness to life and destruction. Hughes's other works also created controversy because of their style, manner, and matter, but he has won numerous honors, including the Somerset Maugham Award in 1960, and the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 1974. His greatest honor came in 1984, when he was named Poet Laureate of England. Ted Hughes died in 1998.

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