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The Oresteian Trilogy

(Oresteia #1-3)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  33,750 ratings  ·  1,059 reviews
The most renowned of Aeschylus’ tragedies and one of the foundational texts of Western literature, the Oresteia trilogy is about cycles of deception and brutality within the ruling family of Argos.

In Agamemnon, afflicted queen Clytemnestra awaits her husband’s return from war to commit a terrible act of retribution for the murder of her daughter. The next two plays, radic
Mass Market Paperback, Penguin Classics, 203 pages
Published 1964 by Penguin Books (first published -458)
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Vilhelm Schmidt Less accessible than Macbeth ehh? Guess it’ll be getting bumped down on my list. I don’t consider myself a total dunce, but Macbeth has always been a…moreLess accessible than Macbeth ehh? Guess it’ll be getting bumped down on my list. I don’t consider myself a total dunce, but Macbeth has always been a bit too Shakespearean for my taste, and I love Shakespeare. The “walking shadow” soliloquy is immortally epic, but the play itself is pretty dry. It’s no Titus Andronicus, at any rate.(less)
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Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Seeing the Oresteia on stage is an overwhelming experience to say the least.

Reading and discussing the drama at university felt like going through the Disney version of it by comparison. Hearing the screams, seeing the blood and madness, following real people on their anxious road down to hellish destruction while they stare at you - the audience - with blind eyes - that is almost more than one can bear, even if one is familiar with the intertwined plays beforehand.

Violence leads to more violen

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. N
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
"I have suffered into truth"

"You know the rules, now turn them into justice."

"The outrage stands as it stands, you burn to know the end..."

"Never try to cut my power with your logic."

"We spoil ourselves with scruples, long as things go well."

"Old men are children once again, a dream that sways and wavers into the hard light of day."

...Which is all to say that this trilogy is bananas and savage and graceful, and that Aeschylus was doing Shakespeare things about two thousand years before Shakespea
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can only vouch for this Robert Fagles' translation, but yes, astonishingly gripping after more than 2,400 years.
Roy Lotz
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Greeks had an intoxicating culture, or at least it seems to us. All of the iniquities and superstitions of the ancient people have been buried or lost, leaving only the perfect skeletons of buildings and the greatest of their literary productions. As a result, they strike us as a race of superpeople. This trilogy certainly furthers this impression, for it is a perfect poetic representation of the birth of justice and ethics out of the primordial law of retaliation.

The most basic ethical prin
Luís C.
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.

Feb 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
It's been about ten years since I last read the more traditional translations of these plays so I'm not really in a position to compare and contrast. I also don't know what the original Greek is like, or what the original language was like in relation to the quality of everyday speech at the time. I mean were the original plays written in a highly polished 'intellectual' style, did they sound like how people on the street talked? When Helen is called a weapon of mass destruction in Carson's tran ...more

....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,
A Reading of 'The Oresteia': The Serpent and the Eagle

--The Libation Bearers
--The Eumenides

The Genealogy of Orestes
Select Bibliography
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The penguin classics version is to be particularly recommended - The translation works very well and the 90 page introduction is just brilliant.

As for the plays, well...they are essential reading obviously. And like all great works in translation, one should really read 2 or 3 different versions in order to get as close as possible to the “original”. The Fagles translation should certainly be one of those versions.
Maru Kun

According to the Wikpedia entry for Francis Bacon's Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

"...The canvasses are based on the Eumenides—or Furies—of Aeschylus's Oresteia...Bacon did not seek to illustrate the narrative of the tale, however. He told the French art critic Michel Leiris, "I could not paint Agamemnon, Clytemnestra or Cassandra, as that would have been merely another kind of historical painting ... Therefore I tried to create an image of the effect it produced inside m
Elie F
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aeschylus' prose certainly deserves five stars, so dense and moving. Even though his primary focus in Oresteia was ethics, justice, crime/punishment, and changes in social order, the subjective emotions and psychologies of characters are conveyed powerfully. Orestes is not really "heroic" in a Homeric sense, but he presents a less egoistic and more god-fearing type of man in a tormenting pursuit of righteousness. The Oresteia combines both tragic and comic elements, and presents both optimism an ...more
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
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
I intended to write about each of these plays individually, but the power of the famous stories and the language as rendered by Anne Carson's stunning translation job, meant that I devoured the whole volume in three sittings and never got the chance to sit down at my computer before the book was over. I've gushed about Carson's own work and her beautiful Sappho translation, and this alternate Oresteia lives up to all my high expectations of her offerings.

But first, a little background: the orig
Riku Sayuj

Agamemnon (Oresteia, #1):The First Strike

The Libation Bearers (Oresteia, #2): The Course of The Curse

Eumenides (Oresteia, #3): Pending

Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This trilogy is absolutely brilliant and a must read because it marks the origins of Western democracy and its patriarchal and patrilineal aspects and it is ever relevant. Especially today. Also, the prof who did this with us is also absolutely brilliant and attending her lectures on this text felt like receiving revelation, I'm not even exaggerating.
Justin Evans
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
I wish Anne Carson would translate every single Ancient Greek tragedy because every other translation now feels subpar.
When the Oresteia trilogy begins, Troy has been reduced to ashes and Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, returns home victorious. The Oresteia is just a small portion of the family history of the cursed House of Atreus. The trilogy begins with Agamemnon's murder and the rest deals with its consequences, but in truth the previous events of Greek mythology are very much simmering in the background. Beginning with Tantalus killing his own son and feeding him to the gods (who, apart from the distracted Deme ...more
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-metal
Overall, The Oresteia was a brutal work, savage and eloquent. I highly recommend you listen to Norwegian black metal while reading this, as it really adds to the experience. Then again, I find that listening to Norwegian black metal adds to the experience of such activities as driving to the grocery store, so I may be a tad bit biased there.

Some of my favorite excerpts:

“…we must suffer, suffer into truth.
We cannot sleep, and drop by drop at the heart
the pain of pain remembered comes again,
May 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
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See similar books…
Aeschylus (525 BC – 456 BC)
Greek Αισχύλος , Ésquilo in Portuguese; Esquilo in Spanish; Eschyle en français; Eschil in romanian; Эсхил in russian.

Aeschylus, an ancient Greek playwright, is often recognized as the father or the founder of tragedy. He is the earliest of the three Greek tragedians whose plays survive extant, the others being Sophocles and Euripides. According to Aristotle, he expande

Other books in the series

Oresteia (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…