Riku Sayuj's Reviews > Choephori

Choephori by Aeschylus
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The Course of The Curse

In The Choephori, the bloodshed begun in the first play is continued (see Agamemnon for details, and for a discussion on translations). The theme of revenge and blood-curse continues to haunt the House of Atreus. At first glance it might seem as if there is indeed no end to this recurring tragedy that has been playing itself out in these intrigue-filled halls, but despite all the mirroring Aeschylus effects between the first and second plays (both have legitimate avenging missions, both weave a web of deceit, both murders the unsuspecting, both murderers are accompanied by unidimensional accomplices, both murders leave everlasting stains, both think that the buck will stop with them) that is supposed to show the inevitability of this tragic course/curse with no scope for a resolution, there are significant differences:

1. Clytaemestra acted alone, under her own sense of right and wrong; Orestes acts under the express direction and protection of Apollo himself.
2. Clytaemestra makes a token gesture of atonement by promising to give up her wealth but instead establishes a tyranny; Orestes is racked by guilt and renounces his position and wealth to atone for his crime. (I wonder who ruled the kingdom in his absence...)
3. Clytaemestra defends her actions and takes no steps to alleviate them by rituals, etc. until a nasty dream shakes her up; Orestes accepts his guilt immediately and takes protection under Apollo and does all the ritual cleansing and prostrations required.
4. Clytaemestra is probably egged on by Aegisthus's greed and allows him to benefit by her actions. Orestes turns to Pylades just once who only repeats Apollo's words and has no personal stake in the business. (though could it be that he becomes the regent in Orestes absence?)
5. Clytaemestra never hesitates in her deed of revenge and as an add-on murders an innocent (?) Cassandra too; Orestes shows his reluctance till he very last moment and had to be driven to his deed. He murders only the expressly guilty. (One has to wonder if Apollo was in fact avenging Cassandra and not Agamemnon!)
6. Most importantly Clytaemestra thinks she can be the final arbiter while Orestes is willing to allow himself to be judged by greater powers, be it the Gods, or the Law.

All this allows for hope that the ending of this second installment, of Orestes' story, and the punishment for his crime need not be externally imposed but might in fact be sanctioned by this modern man himself.

How exactly this will play out Aeschylus leaves for his climactic play, but the Greeks of his time would have been in no doubt as to where it was all leading and would have been eagerly awaiting the mythical re-imagination/show-down it would entail. Society is progressing, and like in Hegel it was all going to culminate in the Perfection of the Present!
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Reading Progress

February 8, 2015 – Started Reading
April 21, 2015 – Shelved
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: plays
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: great-books-quest
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: great-dramatists
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: classics
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: democracy
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: dystopian
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: epic-related
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: favorite-writers
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: history-civilizations
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: inst
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: insti-crit
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: lit
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: myth-religion
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: often-cited
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: philosophy
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: poetry
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: politics
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: r-r-rs
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: sociology-institutions
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: transations-multiple-reads
April 21, 2015 – Shelved as: translated
April 22, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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message 1: by Seemita (new)

Seemita How do these plays pan out as a narrative? Any specific structure that you detect? And are you planning to read Sophocles too, to draw a kind of circle around the Greek playwrights of those times?


Riku Sayuj Seemita wrote: "How do these plays pan out as a narrative? Any specific structure that you detect? And are you planning to read Sophocles too, to draw a kind of circle around the Greek playwrights of those times?"

What do you mean by that Seemita? What sort of narrative structure are you looking for? As far as the story is concerned, it is pretty straightforward but the best part of reading Aeschylus is to enjoy the ever-shifting depth of imagery. All the key images are repeated ad-infinitum in the plays but they change every time they appear, themselves working towards a resolution just as the play's narrative itself is. It is fascinating and I can't get enough of it!

I do plan to move to the later playwrights once I am done with A.


David Sarkies Great comparison, though I thought Clytemnestra was in cahoots with Aegisthus?


Riku Sayuj David wrote: "Great comparison, though I thought Clytemnestra was in cahoots with Aegisthus?"

In A, the man-woman has no real role. Clytemnestra is shown to be the decisive actor. In fact I would even say that the role Aegisthus plays is no more significant that the role Pylades plays!! And that is the mirroring there! :)


message 5: by Seemita (new)

Seemita Riku wrote: "Seemita wrote: "How do these plays pan out as a narrative? Any specific structure that you detect? And are you planning to read Sophocles too, to draw a kind of circle around the Greek playwrights ..."

Oh you did give the answer for the question I asked! :) I was basically talking about the three broad acts that generally a play is woven around. Since you say all the key images are aspiring towards the resolution/the last act, I assume the complication/the second act is the longest. I just wanted to know the treatment of the three acts in Aeschylus' works. For eg: In Waiting for Godot, I felt there was hardly any first act/exposition and a very compressed last act/resolution; the author relied heavily on the second act/complication to convey whatever he wished to. But in The Importance Of Being Earnest, the first act/exposition is fleshy and draws out all characters well before moving to subsequent acts.


Riku Sayuj Seemita wrote: "Riku wrote: "Seemita wrote: "How do these plays pan out as a narrative? Any specific structure that you detect? And are you planning to read Sophocles too, to draw a kind of circle around the Greek..."

Yes, that is broadly correct, but the second play is not really a complication/second act in the technical sense. it is an extension, I guess. So it in fact turns out to be the shortest.


message 7: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala Riku wrote: "..but the best part of reading Aeschylus is to enjoy the ever-shifting depth of imagery..."

Sounds like you are really enjoying yourself with Aeschylus!


Riku Sayuj Fionnuala wrote: "Riku wrote: "..but the best part of reading Aeschylus is to enjoy the ever-shifting depth of imagery..."

Sounds like you are really enjoying yourself with Aeschylus!"


Yes, indeed! :) Do sample it, Fi.


message 9: by Praj (new)

Praj Brilliant! I have yet to dive into Aeschylus' works. Your reviews are surely a bonus. thanks!


message 10: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Praj wrote: "Brilliant! I have yet to dive into Aeschylus' works. Your reviews are surely a bonus. thanks!"

Thanks, Praj. Hope you try it out soon. They are quite wonderful.


message 11: by Tanuj (new)

Tanuj Solanki Regd drawn out revenge sagas, I can think of a movie recommendation (little known, so gives the thrill of exclusivity): 'The Place Beyond the Pines' *ing Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper. It is an EPIC, in the true sense, with all drawn out moral drama. Do check.


message 12: by Tanuj (new)

Tanuj Solanki How's this word pronounced?


message 13: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Tanuj wrote: "Regd drawn out revenge sagas, I can think of a movie recommendation (little known, so gives the thrill of exclusivity): 'The Place Beyond the Pines' *ing Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper. It is an EPIC..."

Sounds good!


message 14: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Tanuj wrote: "How's this word pronounced?"

close to Koefori... means Libations Bearers.


message 15: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Found this:

in ancient Greek the word “Choephoroi”, meaning "Libation Bearers’, is pronounced as follows:

-"Ch" like the CH in the Scottish “loch” i.e. a consonant with an aspirate.
-"o" like the O in ‘door’
-"e" like the E in ‘ness’
-"phor" like the preposition ‘for’. The stress mark stands on this syllable.
-"o" like the O in ‘door’
-"i" like the Y in ‘play’.

As for the “Oresteia”, here’s its pronunciation:

-“O” like the O in ‘door’
-“r” like the R in ‘for’
-“e” like the E in ‘ness’. The stress mark stands on this vowel.
-“s” like the S in ‘stand’
-“te” like the TE in ‘contest’
-“ia” like the YA in ‘yahoo’


message 16: by Wastrel (new)

Wastrel Not sure what you mean by 'a consonant with an aspirate'. Ch, ph, th were originally aspirates in Greek (that is, hard 'stops' like k, p, t, but with a puff of air or a devoicing of the following vowel - i.e. 'ch' would be the 'c' in English 'cant', but not like the 'c' in English 'scant' - English voiceless stops are aspirates, but are deaspirated after 's' in the same syllable).

However, later they all became fricatives - not aspirates at all.


At the time the play was written, presumably it would have been pronounced ko-ehh-po-roy. Where 'ehh' is the sound in British 'air', 'bear', and in some American dialects 'and', and is notably long, where 'ko' and 'po' rhyme with English 'go', and 'roy' is like the name 'Roy' but with the 'o' closer to the 'o' of 'go'.

By the time of the Bible and the Roman Empire, it would presumably have been more like khaw-ey-faw-roo... 'kh' being the 'loch'/'bach' sound, 'aw' being the vowel in 'law', 'caught' etc, 'ey' being the sound in 'play', 'weigh', and 'oo' being a Scottish 'u', very forward in the mouth, or like German u-umlaut.

In traditional English pronunciation I've never heard it spoken, but I'd suspect it should be "co-ee" to rhyme with "chloe" and "zoe", and then "faw-roy", with the vowels of "law" and "boy".

I don't speak Greek, but this is just going on wikipedia/general knowledge. Happy to be corrected by someone who knows better.


message 17: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj I don't know better :) so thanks.


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