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The Oresteia: Agamemnon; The Libation Bearers; The Eumenides Paperback – February 7, 1984

ISBN-13: 978-0140443332 ISBN-10: 0140443339 Edition: Reprint

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The Oresteia: Agamemnon; The Libation Bearers; The Eumenides + The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus + The Odyssey
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Product Details

  • Series: The Oresteia Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (February 7, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140443339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140443332
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Greek (translation)

About the Author

Aeschylus was born of a noble family near Athens in 525 BC. He took part in the Persian Wars and his epitaph, said to have been written by himself, represents him as fighting at Marathon. At some time in his life he appears to have been prosecuted for divulging the Eleusinian mysteries, but he apparently proved himself innocent. Aeschylus wrote more than seventy plays, of which seven have survived: The Suppliants, The Persians, Seven Against Thebes, Prometheus Bound, Agamemnon, The Choephori, and The Eumenides. (All are translated for Penguin Classics.) He visited Syracuse more than once at the invitation of Hieron I and he died at Gela in Sicily in 456 BC. Aeschylus was recognized as a classic writer soon after his death, and special privileges were decreed for his plays.

Robert Fagles (1933-2008) was Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Comparative Literature, Emeritus, at Princeton University. He was the recipient of the 1997 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His translations include Sophocles’s Three Theban Plays, Aeschylus’s Oresteia (nominated for a National Book Award), Homer’s Iliad (winner of the 1991 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award by The Academy of American Poets), Homer’s Odyssey, and Virgil's Aeneid.


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Customer Reviews

Mr. Fagles gives us a very powerful translation of this text.
If reading the Fagles translation it may be helpful to read the lengthy introduction "The Serpent and the Eagle" for a good guide to the work.
Bryan A. Pfleeger
Dedicated Greekless readers will of course want to read several, but neophytes should start here, the only version most will ever need.
Bill R. Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Bay Gibbons VINE VOICE on February 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
With his recent translations of Aeschylus, Sophocles and especially Homer, Robert Fagles assumes the status of the finest Greek translator of the age. The grandeur, excitement and triumph of this beautiful translation cannot be overstated. The Oresteia is truly one the most monumental and enduring legacies from the Golden Age. Here is a translation which befits the greatness of the subject.
Some additional random musings:
1. This is one of the many books I was "forced" to read in graded courses at the University, but only really first discovered when I was long graduated and freed from all compulsory studies. In the meantime I have also had the time and passion to study -- very slowly and with great delight -- the originals.
2. As with other "great" works of literature, my advice is to ignore what the "experts" have to say about the work and go straight to the work itself. Thus, skip the intimidating intro and dive right into the text, doubling back later only if the muse strikes you.
3. After reading and then rereading Fagles' new translation of the Agamemnon, Libation Bearers and Eumenides I am struck by the similarities of the Oresteia in both tone, theme and mien to the greatest Shakespearean tragedies, especially Hamlet. My dogeared copy of this Aeschylus is now bristling with notes and crossreferences to the Bard.
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74 of 79 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on April 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Oresteia (the only extant complete Greek trilogy) consists of three plays: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and the Eumenides. It begins with Agamemnon returning home triumphant from the Trojan war only to be struck down (together with the tragic Cassandra) by his wife Clytaemnestra. Her motives while just (he sacrificed their daughter Iphigeneia to calm the winds) are impure because of her adultery with Aegisthus.
The second play is the vehicle for Clytaemnestra's punishment, as her son Orestes returns to kill both her and Aegisthus with the help of his sister Electra.
Finally, the Eumenides has the trial of Orestes by Athena, as she stops the furies from taking him in return for the blood-guilt he incurred for killing his mother. The Eumenides provides the way to end the cycle of revenge by banishing the furies from active participation in the world of men.
The cycle can be read in any number of ways. The introduction to the Penguin/Fagles translation contains a summary of the various readings. I kept wondering what Proteus, the missing fourth satyr-play would have provided. We read it so clearly as a trilogy and the Eumenides has such a harmonious ending that I can't help but wonder if the circle closed in the third play reopens in the fourth or if it was something else entirely.
My only complaint about the book is that in the Fagles translation the notes are at the back of the book rather than assigned per page, and I find that a cumbersome style to read.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Adam Rubinson (rubinson@usia.gov) on January 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
Professor Fagles' translation of the Oresteia trilogy is the most powerful, moving, intense, bloody, achingly sad and beautiful drama I have ever read. As a typical member of the late Baby Boomer/early Gen X generation, I was never assigned such texts in school, and had the misconception that anything written by an ancient Greek must be boring, stale, and irrelevant. Fagles' Oresteia translation shows how misguided we are, and (along with his Illiad, Odyssey, and Three Theban Plays) opens up an incredible world to so many of us who have been in the dark.
Do not read this simply for your intellectual, moral, and spiritual improvement -- experience this because it is so enjoyable. "Pulp Fiction," "The Terminator," "The Titanic," Stephen King, or the latest Martin Scorcese film cannot compare for plot, intrigue, sex, violence, gore, intensity, entertainment, or cutting edge creativity.
From the plays' depiction of horrendous and unspeakable crimes to its climactic courtroom drama, you'll see why so many ancient playgoers fainted in the audience -- some women even having spontaneous miscarriages -- and why modern readers are so shocked and on the edge of their armchairs. Even if you've never read a "classic" or a "great book," read this.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By F. P. Barbieri on December 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
What is the definition of a pedant? Someone who claims that Vellacott's translation of the Oresteia is "better" than Fagles' and complains about Fagles' supposed imprecision. That is seriously missing the forest for the knots in the lower branches of some of the smaller trees.

Translation is necessary; nobody can know all the classical languages of the world, and few people who want to familiarize themselves with the great works of literature outside their own language have the time to master even a few of the languages required. And sound translation is a blessing. But it is very rare that one gets a translation that is itself a masterpiece of literature, that embeds itself into the language as a classic. I think we can all think of a few: Schelling's German versions of Shakespeare, which have been acted and reprinted for more than two centuries, Monti's Italian Iliad, the English Authorized Version of the Bible, Pope's and Chapman's Iliad - both beautiful, both unfaithful - and Fitzgerald's Rubayyat.

Now as far as I am concerned this translation is that of that rare quality: something that will be read with pleasure and admiration as English verse, two hundred years from now. Those who whine about its being imprecise ought to remember that Italy's premier Iliad translator, Monti, knew no Greek and worked from Latin and earlier Italian versions; yet, being a great poet, he produced an account that has established itself at the heights of the Italian literary heritage. I first read Fagles' Oresteia at 18, in a Penguin paperback dotted with admiring reviews from everyone from Mary Renault to Bernard Levin; and I was so blown away that for a couple of days I could do nothing but bend the ear of all my friends and repeat - "And I thought Shakespeare was something!
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