- Paperback: 90 pages
- Publisher: Duckworth Pub (March 1979)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0715613693
- ISBN-13: 978-0715613696
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,004,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Text: English, Greek (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Orestes (Agamemnon's son) comes out of exile with plans to avenge his father's death (under the orders of Apollo). An interesting side note is that the great and glorious King Edward III had a similar experience. His father (Edward II) was killed by his mother, so she could be with her lover Mortimer. And at the age of 17, Edward III flipped the tables. He was to reign for 47 more years. But I am digressing.
In this 2nd chapter, the chorus is some Trojan women who don't have a problem with Orestes plotting against his mother and her lover. Well, Orestes goes to his mother's house, and Clytemnestra does not recognize him. The nurse gives Orestes up for dead and has abandoned all hope that Agamemnon will be avenged. In a comical moment, the chorus tells the nurse that she need not abandon hope. Aegisthus suspects that Orestes may still be alive, and it isn't long before Orestes accomplishes the 1st part of his task and kills Aegisthus. (The lover was the easy part.)
Orestes does not find phase 2 of his revenge so easy. He does hesitate to kill his mother, and it is only with his friend Pylades's prompting that he can do so: "Better men should hate you than the gods." But of course, this makes for better writing. Rather than portraying Orestes as a simple killer, the next phase of his revenge is difficult. After killing his mother, all is not so well. he is tormented by the furies. Only he can see them. The chorus can not. The furies bear a striking resemblance to the ghost of Banquo in "Macbeth." Banquo's ghost puts Macbeth into a psychological turmoil, and the fact that only he can see the ghost makes it worse. (The other characters in "Macbeth" can not understand why Macbeth falls into a psychological frenzy.)
It is even possible to wonder if this 2nd chapter of Aeschylus's masterpiece inspired that scene Shakespeare wrote in "Macbeth." Why not? Shortly before Shakespeare wrote his plays, there was a reactivation of Greek and Roman classics. So, what of Orestes now? Well, that will be answered in Part 3. ("The Eumenides") And worry not! Part 3 maintains the power of parts 1 and 2!
The story of the murder of Clytemnestra by Orestes is a unique tale from ancient mythology because it is the one story which serves as the subject for plays by all three of the great Greek tragic poets; both Sophocles and Euripides called their versions of the tale "Electra." All three have their own perspectives on the tale and what makes the Aeschylus version stand out, besides being the middle part of the only extant trilogy from these ancient dramatic competition, is the confrontation between mother and son. After hearing that Aegisthus has been slain, Clytemnestra knows that Orestes has returned and sends her servants to get the ax with which she slew his father. But when they confront each other she reminds him that she gave him birth and nursed him through infancy. Then she argues that she was justified in killing Agamemnon. Finally she threatens him, saying Orestes will be tormented forever if he kills his mother. Orestes replied he would be tormented by his father's curse if he spares her.
This scene in the play's fourth episode is arguably the most powerful ever written by Aeschylus. Notice that neither Sophocles nor Euripides try to compete with this scene and pretty much avoid the fatal confrontation in their "Electra"s. But ironically "The Choephoroe" is the one play in the Orestia that gets the least attention (for example, it is reduced to a synopsis in Moses Hadas's "Greek Drama" collection while the other two plays are presented complete). There might be a tendency to seeing the play as the flip side of "Agamemnon," setting up the stage for the climax of "The Eumenides." Obviously I want to make an argument that this play stands on its own, even when separated from the Orestia. Note: Several years ago the Guthrie Theater did a fascinating version of the curse on the house of Atreus by doing Euripides's "Iphigenia at Aulis," Aeschylus's "Agamemnon," and Sophocles's "Electra."