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The Oresteia (Ορέστεια #1-3)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  28,770 Ratings  ·  752 Reviews
Alternate cover edition can be found here, here, here, here

In the Oresteia—the only trilogy in Greek drama which survives from antiquity—Aeschylus took as his subject the bloody chain of murder and revenge within the royal family of Argos.

Moving from darkness to light, from rage to self-governance, from primitive ritual to civilized institution, their spirit of struggle an
Paperback, 335 pages
Published February 7th 1984 by Penguin Books USA Inc. (first published -458)
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Apr 06, 2015 added it
Shelves: greek, poetry, theatre

Let good prevail ! So be it ! Yet what is good ? And who is God?

As many deeply conservative societies have discovered time and time again - societies in which there is only one right order and this order is warranted by the highest authorities recognized by the society - when change comes, and come it always must,(*) not only do those in power tumble, but the authority of the gods/priests, ancestors, laws, whatever the highest authorities happen to be in that society, comes into question. New
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is pretty fantastic. I'm surprised. I think I like this old Greek trilogy of plays better than all the others that I've read. That's including Oedipus. :P

The translation is pretty awesome, the tragedy is beautiful, and the underlying theme of justice and the balance of power between men and women is stark and heavy.

But isn't it about murder and eye-for-an-eye taken to extremes? Yeah, but it's still more than that.

It's mainly about honoring your children and honoring your parents. It's not a
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
Murder, betrayal, revenge, torment . . . you might wonder, “Why would I bother reading three Greek plays when I could see the same sort of lurid problems on an episode of Jerry Springer? And fold laundry at the same time??” Two possible answers: First, you’re not going to get patricide, matricide, human sacrifice and unintentional cannibalism on daytime TV because we still draw the line somewhere, and you have to admit those are pretty dramatic. More importantly, though, along with the dysfuncti ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
I can only vouch for this Robert Fagles' translation, but yes, astonishingly gripping after more than 2,400 years.
Luís C.
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1st Part. Agamémnon
"Agamemnon" is based on the victorious return of the hero to Argos after winning the Trojan War and avenged the honor of his brother Menelaus, husband of Helen, who had fled to Paris. The wife of Agamemnon, Climnestra, in turn, also betrays him, and architect husband's murder with her lover.

2nd Part. Coephori
In "Choephori" Orestes and Electra, children of Agamemnon, avenges his death by killing his mother and her lover. The Climnestra's anger is materialized in the Furies.

Jul 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing

....Just passed the Libation Bearers. Aeschylus has a way with ironic, monumental dialogues which portend tremendous climaxes. The language is so deep and seeps into the interaction- apparantly he suggests that there are no good options in life, merely the best of the worst, and that one must take their place amid the roil. Wisdom. This resonates with me, in the way that a drama read on the page will, as I imagine the perfect language and staging to bear witness to it....bigger review to follow,
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Reading of 'The Oresteia': The Serpent and the Eagle

--The Libation Bearers
--The Eumenides

The Genealogy of Orestes
Select Bibliography
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Oresteia is the only surviving trilogy of Greek tragedy plays, performed in 458 BCE - two years before Aeschylus's death in 456 BCE. This review summarises all three plays as a trilogy, and because I think that it's easier to read them if you know what to expect, I do give away all the relevant plot points.

The first play, "Agamemnon", is about betrayal: King Agamemnon returns home to Argos after the successful sacking of Troy (in modern-day Turkey), only to be killed by his wife Clytemnestra and
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: play, poetry
মহৎ সাহিতয করতে হেন করতে হবে তেন করতে হবে এইটা মনে হয় খুব বেশি সতয না, এখন, বা অযাসকাইলাসের আমলেও। মানে, এই লোক আর কী করছে, নিজেদের চারদিকে ছড়ানো কাহিনীরে ইচছামত পালটাইছেন, নিজের সময়ের সমসযাগুলি ধরে রাখতে, বযস, হয়ে গেলো -

আমি খুবই অবাক হইলাম বইয়ের শেষের উচচারণের লিষটি থেকে জানতে পেরে যে অযাসকাইলাসের নাম নাকী অযাসকাইলাস না, ঈসকিলাস বা আয়সকিলাস। এদদিন ধরে ভুলভাল ডেকে আসছি এই লোকেরে - অবশয নামসংহারে কীই বা উলটে যায়। গলপে আসি -
পরথম নাটক আগে একবার পড়া ছিলো, গেলো বছর সমভবত। এই তিনের সেরাটা পরথমটাই আমার
Even compared to other Greek tragedies, the Oresteia stands out. It's not just about the family drama or the bloody cycle of revenge. It's more than that. It's about peering deeply into the darkness of the human soul, stripping any semblance of control over one's destiny, and seeing what would result--madness.

Orestes was driven by forces more ancient and far bloodier than his mere judgment. In a society divinely centered on the family, Orestes was ordained to avenge his father's death, even if i
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Robert Fagles' translation is excellent.

The Oresteia was written as a trilogy, and according to the scholars is the only Greek drama that survives as such. I would definitely recommend reading all 3 parts together, as they build one after the other. This trilogy is deceptively simple, in some ways, but the excellent introductory essay by W.B. Stanford, titled "The Serpent and the Eagle", helped me to see the much deeper issues that are explored in the play. I don't want to put any spoilers in th
Alexander Santiago
Mar 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Yes
This is perhaps ancient Greece's most famous tragic trilogy that has survived antiquity. "Agamemnon" deals with the treacherous murder of King Agamemnon, just returned from the Trojan war, at the hands of his wife, Clytemnestra, and his brother (who had an affair with his wife and coveted the throne). "The Libation Bearers" brings karmic and bloody retribution upon Clytemnestra at the hands of her only son, Orestes, avenging the death of his father. "The Eumenides" deals with Orestes flight from ...more
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: u-of-c
Q: How many great authors were inspired by the characters in these plays?
A: Bazillions, give or take.
The Furies-- wrathful, smelly, wraith-like she-beasts-- are among the most fascinating creatures ever spawned by our collective unconscious. (Delivered by Dr. Aeschylus, no doubt via one putrid and grizzly c-section) these girls predate the Olympian pantheon and specialize in erasing people who murder their own family members.
Every time I experience a taste for revenge (and it happens more freque
Connie (Ava Catherine)
At the beginning of the fifth century, it was customary for each of the tragedians competing at the festival of Dionysus to present a trilogy of three plays on a related theme, followed by a satyr-play. The Oresteia is the only surviving example of a Greek tragic trilogy, so it has immense importance in the history of drama.

Each of the plays is self-contained; however, the endings of the first two plays transition naturally into the following plays. Each play has its own chorus and an almost se
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
I actually read this twice. Back-to-back in the style of Mortimer Adler. The first time through I read it with only some of the initial commentary of the translator. Additionally, I had some background provided by a Great Courses lecture. The second time through I read along with the translator's entire commentary. I would have enjoyed the trilogy very much without the second reading but it was with the second reading that I developed a real appreciation for the work.

Mind you, I'm a skeptic when
Justin Evans
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-and-drama
I tried to read 'Prometheus Bound' years ago, and couldn't finish it. Clearly I should have waited a while- The Oresteia, in the Fagles translation, is one of the most remarkable books I've ever read. Darker and more violent than anything the 20th century could come up with, it's also brighter and more hopeful than anything from the 19th century. It's as if someone had written both Schiller's 'Ode to Joy' and Eliot's 'Waste Land', and it was one book, only there was far deeper social, political ...more
May 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Like so many other things that I've been reading lately, Aeschylus's trilogy is concerned with human beings thrown into the crucible of extremest intensity, pressured from every direction my conflicting obligations, driven to violent action and violent remorse. Few poets are as willing as Aeschylus to stare into the profound darkness of human suffering and name the curse that seems to hold us to the wheel of our own violence. Yet, even fewer are ultimately as hopeful about the possibility of our ...more
May 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
“I have suffered into truth.” Orestes makes that declaration in The Eumenides, the third of the trilogy of plays dealing with the House of Atreus’s tendency to take empassioned revenge as their only acceptable call to action in a crisis. You expect excellence from Robert Fagles. His translations of Homer are superb. And you also expect it from Aeschylus, whose surviving plays endure and thrive in the hands of translators of craft and imagination across the centuries.

Aeschylus presents a generati
Fenomenal, a Oresteia: Agamémnon e Euménides em primeiro, em mérito equiparáveis; Coéforas em segundo, não por isso menos notável.

Surpreendi-me ao pensar que o final da primeira peça pudesse ser o ponto alto da trilogia, pois revejo nas Euménides o expoente máximo da perícia lírica de Ésquilo. Embora a primeira seja, de facto, a peça que mais explora o «carácter trágico da tragédia», é nesta última que o poeta revela toda a sua mestria e irreverência, no bom sentido do termo, a ponto de adulter
Jun 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un antico proverbio è diffuso tra gli uomini, che la felicità dei mortali, raggiunto il suo culmine, partorisce, non muore sterile: dalla fortuna germoglia alla stirpe dolore insaziabile.


Chiunque è incline a piangere con l'infelice; ma il morso del dolore non gli penetra fino nell'infinito; così, per mostrare di gioire con chi è felice, sforza il suo volto che fa resistenza al sorriso.

Daniel Chaikin
38. The Oresteian Trilogy: Agamemnon; The Choephori; The Eumenides by Aeschylus, translated by Philip Vellacott
first performed: 458 bce
format: 197 page paperback - 1965 Penguin classics
acquired: 2006, from my neighbor
read: June 9-10, 17-22
rating: 3 stars

The story of Orestes is told in The Odyssey, where he comes across as a hero of a tragedy, and a role model for young princes. Agamemnon, a valiant warrior but also somewhat incompetent as leader of the Greeks, or Achaens, returns home from Tr
Oct 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
I had in my mind that the these plays were full of mythology of the pantheon of Greek gods.

There are gods, yes, and other mythological creatures like the Furies, but there is so much more there, themes of duty, of humility, hubris, sin and forgiveness, the weight and fullness of history (the Trojan War) and family.

Out of these three plays Aeschylus sharply defined characters that still are echoed today. Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Iphigenia are still used as descriptions and figures today.

I lik
Η μόνη τριλογία αρχαίου δράματος που σώθηκε. Αν και υπάρχει τεράστια απόσταση από την εποχή που γράφτηκε και παίχτηκε και ως εκ τούτου το χάσμα είναι σχεδόν αγεφύρωτο, μπορεί κανείς να νιώσει, ακόμα και μέσα από την ανάγνωση, την ανησυχία των γερόντων και την πανουργία της Κλυταιμνήστρας στον Ἀγαμέμνονα, τα σχέδια του Ορέστη στις Χοηφόρους και, φυσικά, την αγωνία και το ηθικό δίλημμα στις Εὐμενίδες όπου ο θεατής αντιμετωπίζει τις τρομερές Ερινύες με με τα μάτια τους που στάζουν αηδιαστικά υγρά.. ...more
Oct 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
A dramatic trilogy for both Gods and men. Aeschylus' ability to weave and connect his tragedies seems second nature in today's world of sequels, trilogies, and Star Wars prequels, but Aescheylus' genius existed both in the original form and the brilliant substance of his surviving plays. I can understand how Swinburne could call the Oresteia trilogy the "greatest spiritual work of man." The Oresteia is at once brilliant, creepy, and infinitely tragic (only family dramas can be so damn full of pa ...more
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is more like it! I read Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers in the Grene translation, and Agamemnon was great, but The Libation Bearers was a bit "meh." So I got another copy, this one translated by Fagles, and What a Difference! Going by reviews, Grene seems to be regarded as more "literal," which sounds like a good thing, but I'll take "vigorous and engaging" over "literal and (a bit) dry" any day. Fagles' introductory essay was fascinating, if sometimes a little abstruse, and both The Lib ...more
Nidhi Mahajan
Highly recommend it if you enjoy Ancient Greek Literature. The trilogy presents the development of early democratic elements in the Greek city-states within the larger narrative of a chain of murders. The character of Clytemnestra, Aeschylus' giving a voice to minor characters in society, and the debate surrounding Zeus' Will, Fate, and Justice are interesting aspects in the plays. Looking forward to studying it for class and writing about it.
Ana Sofia
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Mais um livro com fins universitários! No entanto, tenho que admitir que fiquei surpreendida com estas tragédias gregas. De facto, cada personagem possui uma forte carga emocional, que nos permite simpatizar com a situação, mesmo que seja completamente fora deste mundo e absolutamente ultrajante! Aprecio a complexidade de cada um dos dramas, porque até parece impossível que naquela altura tivessem ideias tão mirabolantes como estas! Sinceramente, aconselho a leitura!
Erika Schoeps
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

It's easy to let yourself drift off while trying to read the archaic/foreign text of this play-resist the urge. Every sentence is full of meaning, implication, and hints towards the author's thoughts on themes of justice and the role of the Gods in human life.
Karl H.
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
The Oresteia is a series of plays about the war of the sexes, law and order, and vengeance. It is tough to read in the modern day, because a lot of it is predicated on a very sexist view of women, and I think that view is inextricably tied to how the play is written.

Probably my favorite of the plays is Agamemnon, the first of the Oresteia. I think this play is the greatest out of the set- certainly it seemed the strongest to my modern sensibilities. Agamemnon, I am convinced, actually questions
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  • Euripides V: Electra / The Phoenician Women / The Bacchae
  • Sophocles II: Ajax/Women of Trachis/Electra/Philoctetes (Complete Greek Tragedies 4)
  • Frogs and Other Plays
Aeschylus (525 BC – 456 BC) [Ésquilo in Portuguese, Esquilo in Spanish] was an ancient Greek playwright. He is often recognized as the father or the founder of tragedy, and is the earliest of the three Greek tragedians whose plays survive extant, the others being Sophocles and Euripides. According to Aristotle, he expanded the number of characters in plays to allow for conflict among them; previou ...more
More about Aeschylus...

Other Books in the Series

Ορέστεια (4 books)
  • Agamemnon (Oresteia, #1)
  • The Libation Bearers (Ορέστεια, #2)
  • Eumenides (Ορέστεια, #3)
“Nothing forces us to know
What we do not want to know
Except pain”
“Oh, the torment bred in the race,
the grinding scream of death
and the stroke that hits the vein,
the hemorrhage none can staunch, the grief,
the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house, and not outside it, no,
not from others but from them,
their bloody strife. We sing to you,
dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear, you blissful powers underground --
answer the call, send help.
Bless the children, give them triumph now.”
More quotes…