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Books Read In 2019 > The Oresteia, A, TLB - Spoilers - Discussion Leader - Cleo

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message 1: by Loretta, Moderator (last edited Sep 01, 2019 12:28PM) (new)

Loretta | 5957 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the book freely!

Member Cleo has asked to lead the discussion!

Thank you Cleo! 😊


message 2: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Loretta, I'm happy to lead this discussion if you need someone to. I've read it before a couple of times and have notes so I can do it if you need someone.


message 3: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5957 comments Mod
Cleo wrote: "Loretta, I'm happy to lead this discussion if you need someone to. I've read it before a couple of times and have notes so I can do it if you need someone."

Oh Cleo! I humbly accept your kind offer. ☺️


message 4: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Ha, ha! Okay, here I go! I'm going to put some background information in this thread.


message 5: by Cleo (last edited Sep 01, 2019 01:07PM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments The Oresteia ~ Background Information

Agamemnon is the first of a trilogy of plays called The Oresteia, the next two plays being The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides, all performed in 458 B.C., only two years before the death of Aeschylus. This surviving unified trilogy allows the reader to experience the development of these three-part stories and to observe the common strands of information and enlightenment winding throughout. Each play would have built support and framework for the others. However, even though we have all three plays of this trilogy, the satyr play Proteus is lost, as it would have been a type of comic epilogue to finish The Oresteia.

There are two background stories important to the understanding of this play, the first being the history of the Trojan War, and the second the history of the House of Atreaus, Agamemnon’s family background.

The “fuse” of the war with Troy was the kidnapping of Helen, the wife of Agamemnon’s brother Menelaus, by Paris, prince of Troy. To get fair winds to sail for Troy, Agamemnon was forced to sacrifice his own daughter, Iphegenia. The war was fought for ten long years, and at the end, because of outrages committed against the gods, many of the heroes took years to find their way home (Odysseus’ journey in The Odyssey is the story of one of these heroes).

The curse of the House of Atreus, adds another element to the play, going back to the family’s founder, Tantalus. Offending the gods, either by attempting to deceive them into eating the flesh of his son, Pelops, or by endeavouring to plunder nectar and ambrosia from the gods, Tantalus was punished in the Underworld by being eternally inflicted with a raging hunger and thirst. Pelops was resurrected by the gods, but eventually incurred a curse by killing his desired bride’s father and fleeing with the girl, Hippodamia. An attempted rape of the girl by Myrtilus ensued, and when Pelops threw him from a cliff, he cursed Pelops. The hereditary nature of the curse resulted in the killing of children by their parents and vice versa, a destroying of the whole family from within.


message 6: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) Thanks for the information. Very informative.


message 7: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments You're so welcome, Tracey. I hope you'll be joining us! :-)


message 8: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1536 comments I have read these plays twice, so I won't be joining you since I am not ready for a third reading, but I highly recommend them.


message 9: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I have read these plays twice, so I won't be joining you since I am not ready for a third reading, but I highly recommend them."

I've read them three times but each time I'm amazed by Aeschylus' crafting of the stories. Will you jump in on the discussion?


message 10: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5957 comments Mod
Cleo wrote: "The Oresteia ~ Background Information

Agamemnon is the first of a trilogy of plays called The Oresteia, the next two plays being The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides, all performed in 458 B.C.,..."


Cleo I'm very grateful for your post. I've always wanted to read this play but have shied away for fear that I wouldn't understand it. Your post has alleviated my fears. 😊


message 11: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5957 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "I have read these plays twice, so I won't be joining you since I am not ready for a third reading, but I highly recommend them."

Would love for you to join us Rosemarie! 😊


message 12: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) I am reading them and even though I am only part way through the first I feel already amazed by it. I can see why people say Drama begin with the Greeks. Aeschylus knew how to put on a good show. Lots of action and exclamations, woes and curses. The gods are demanding and life seems very precarious. Heady stuff. I would love to see this play.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments Started reading the Penguin Classics edition of the Robert Fagles translation. There is a long introductory essay (nearly a hundred pages) before the plays--since I've read Agamemnon already, I read through the intro that covered that section--to anyone who has this edition: if you haven't read the plays yet, you might consider skipping the introduction until afterwards. It's not so much that there are spoilers involved, but I think it steers the reader into a certain way of looking at the play, and I think I'd rather form my own impressions first, and then look for commentary. I also thought the introduction was pretty overwrought, so there's that too.

Anyway--I'm starting this translation of Agamemnon tonight.


message 14: by Nidhi (new)

Nidhi Kumari | 207 comments Hi Bryan

Thanks. I have same edition and was going through the introduction.


message 15: by Cleo (last edited Sep 04, 2019 05:55PM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Bryan "goes on a bit too long" wrote: "I also thought the introduction was pretty overwrought, so there's that too. ..."

Lol! Some who write introductions try to outdo the book itself. 🙄 I do generally avoid reading introductions, as you say, until you've read the book and experienced it without someone else's opinion overriding your own observations.

That said, with the Greek plays, keep in mind the audience would have already been intimately familiar with these stories. So the plot and the enjoyment of a new story would not have been present in their minds. It would have been about something else: the crafting of the story, the suspense, the angst, the life lessons, etc. It's interesting to think about given that from a modern perspective, the plot itself (and our first experience with it) is usually viewed as the most important element.


message 16: by Tracey (last edited Sep 04, 2019 07:49PM) (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) Cleo wrote: "Bryan "goes on a bit too long" wrote: "I also thought the introduction was pretty overwrought, so there's that too. ..."

Lol! Some who write introductions try to outdo the book itself. 🙄 I do gene..."


I must be unusual then because I like to know the story generally before I read, which I consider the bones, and I read to get to the meat; what is the author trying to show us? What do I learn about others, myself and my place in the whole? I am not so interested in what happens but why it happens.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments Cleo wrote: "Lol! Some who write introductions try to outdo the book itself..."

That's kind of what I got from this edition's introduction.

I agree with what you say about the Greeks already knowing the plot--I do think that it's helpful to know the outlines of the story before tackling this play--I just finished reading this translation of Agamemnon, and I think it would be difficult to pick it up without knowing the story and get much out of it.

The play itself, is, I think, hard to separate from the time it was written, though the introduction doesn't really go into this at all. Aeschylus, a veteran of the wars against the Persians, is writing when the First Peloponnesian War has been going on for two years, and it seems to me that most of the comments from the chorus pertaining to the Trojan War have a contemporary meaning.

There is also the overriding sense of revenge giving way to Justice, which the introduction does mention. This is also the same period when democracy is being born--Pericles is just coming on the scene, and the idea of equality before the law (rather than suffering under the arbitrariness of aristocratic rule) is seeping into the consciousness of Athenians.

So far, in my memory, the Louis MacNeice translation seems a little easier to understand than the Fagles. Before I go on to The Libation Bearers, I'm going to read the Richard Lattimore translation of Agamemnon and compare it as well.


message 18: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) Bryan "goes on a bit too long" wrote: "Cleo wrote: "Lol! Some who write introductions try to outdo the book itself..."

That's kind of what I got from this edition's introduction.

I agree with what you say about the Greeks already kno..."


Thanks for that. It certainly adds to understanding what is happening and the reason the author is bringing these things to our attention.


message 19: by Cleo (last edited Sep 04, 2019 09:03PM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Bryan "goes on a bit too long" wrote: "I just finished reading this translation of Agamemnon, and I think it would be difficult to pick it up without knowing the story and get much out of it.
..."


Absolutely. Having a framework of the story is very important (which is why I'm doing more explanation than I normally would in the other thread); what I don't like is having someone else's "take" on it before I start. HOWEVER, there are some commentators/authors whom I respect and I will read what they have to say sometimes before I read.

Bryan "goes on a bit too long" wrote: "I think, hard to separate from the time it was written..."

Great point; thanks for bringing that up. Same with Plato and his Republic. I guess it would be fair to say that most authors can be affected by circumstances during their time and their works reflect, in specific and/or more general ways, their experiences and then their philosophy born out of those experiences. It's certainly helpful to find out historical background to understand some of these works better.

Bryan " I'm going to read the Richard Lattimore translation of Agamemnon and compare it as well.
..."


Please let me know what you think. I love Lattimore as I think he has respect for the original and tries to produce them in a way that's balanced, within the limitations of translation, of course!


message 20: by Cleo (last edited Sep 04, 2019 09:08PM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Tracey the Bookworm wrote: "I am not so interested in what happens but why it happens. ..."

I think that's a great way to approach classics! They are so multi-levelled, so much more than just plot itself. By having that outlook you probably gain greater insights from what you read.

My objection is not about knowing the plot beforehand, but more being given someone else's thoughts on various aspects of the book before I've formed my own. A simplified example is if someone said, "oh I just hated that book. The characters were all wooden and I think the doctor should have been thrown in jail." No matter how much I try not to, pre-opinion will affect my read. It's not that I don't like opinions or think they're valuable, I'd just like to save them until I've read the book.


message 21: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) Cleo wrote: "Tracey the Bookworm wrote: "I am not so interested in what happens but why it happens. ..."

I think that's a great way to approach classics! They are so multi-levelled, so much more than just plot..."


I understand your point. I am working my way through the story and look forward to thoughts at each 10 day point. Not having read this before I will do a first read of all 3 by day 10 but will go back and reread each to discuss at the relevant time.


message 22: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Sounds good, Tracey! These all are such great plays. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on them!


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments I started Lattimore's translation of Agamemnon. I compared the opening dialogue by the watchman with the Fagles translation, and there is quite a difference between the two. Since I don't know any Greek, it's very difficult to know which is 'better', but it probably depends on what one thinks is better--a close approximation of the original's rhythm and word usage, or something that flows better in English. Of the two, I'd say Fagles is easier to understand in English, but I don't know how well he adheres to the Greek.

I'd hate to be a translator--what a thankless task!


message 24: by Cleo (last edited Sep 09, 2019 08:14PM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Thanks for the update, Bryan, that's very interesting. I believe that Lattimore is considered the more scholarly translator and adheres more to the original text, or at least as much as a translator can. It makes the text more difficult but generally more faithful. I have a friend who reads ancient Greek and she loves Lattimore but says (at least for Homer) that Fagles version is almost like a re-telling. I like Fagles for high school students or for those who have difficulty with the translated verse (after all, it's better to have read these classics than not at all, right?) but I'd recommend Lattimore hands down every time. At least, so far .....

Again, thanks for taking the time to do the comparison!


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments Cleo wrote: "Fagles version is almost like a re-telling..."

I think I can believe that. That would explain some of the choices Lattimore makes.


message 26: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) Cleo wrote: "Thanks for the update, Bryan, that's very interesting. I believe that Lattimore is considered the more scholarly translator and adheres more to the original text, or at least as much as a translato..."

I’ve got the Fagles version. I am enjoying it.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments Just in case anyone was curious, I thought I'd post the opening lines for both the Fagles and the Lattimore translations.

Fagles:

Dear gods, set me free from all the pain,
the long watch I keep, one whole year awake..
propped on my arms, crouched on the roofs of Atreus
like a dog.
I know the stars by heart,
the armies of the night, and there in the lead
the ones that bring us snow or the crops of summer,
bring us all we have-
our great blazing kings of the sky,
I know them, when they rise and when they fall...
and now I watch for the light, the signal-fire
breaking out of Troy, shouting Troy is taken.
So she commands, full of her high hopes
That woman--she maneuvers like a man.

and Lattimore:

I ask the gods some respite from the weariness
of this watchtime measured by years I like awake
elbowed upon the Atreidae's roof dogwise to mark
the grand processionals of all the stars of night
burdened with winter and again with heat for men,
dynasties in their shining blazoned on the air,
these stars, upon their wane and when the rest arise.

I wait; to read the meaning in that beacon light,
a blaze of fire to carry out of Troy the rumor
and outcry of its capture; to such end a lady's
male strength of heart in its high confidence ordains.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments Almost finished with Lattimore's Agamemnon.

A couple things that stood out to me this time--

When the Herald tells the chorus about the storm that scattered the Greek fleet, the chorus says

"Who is he that named you so
fatally in every way?
Could it be some mind unseen
in divination of your destiny
shaping to the lips that name
for the bride of spears and blood,
Helen, which is death? Appropriately
death of ships, death of men, and cities..."

In the introduction to the Penguin edition, I remembered reading about Helen's name--"The old men sing of Helen who has 'realized' the meaning of her name, fatal to the Greeks (Helena from hele, implying 'to destroy', -na, implying ships) but far more fatal to the Trojans."

This was the first time I'd ever heard that.

Another thing that I noticed was just a few lines further (still speaking of Helen):

And on Illium in truth
in the likeness of the name
the sure purpose of the Wrath drove
marriage with death: for the guest board
shamed
, and Zeus kindly to strangers,
the vengeance wrought on those men
who graced in too loud voice the bride-song
fallen to their lot to sing,
the kinsman and the brothers."

When another group was reading The Odyssey, we talked a lot about guest-friendship, and how important it was at this time--long story short, you didn't mess with your guests, and they didn't disrespect you, no matter what. This was so sacred that Zeus himself would have his vengeance on those who broke the bonds of guest-friendship. So when Paris took off with Menelaus' wife, it wasn't just Helen the Greeks were avenging, but the violation of the guest-friendship bonds.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments One last thing for the night:

Another thing that struck me, taking some of the themes into consideration that Aeschylus may have been working toward with the entire trilogy, were the comments by the chorus when Agamemnon is killed:

"Anyone can see it, by these first steps they have taken,
they purpose to be tyrants here upon our city."

"No, we can never endure that; better to billed.
Death is a softer thing by far than tyranny."

I thought it interesting that their first thoughts are that someone has killed Agamemnon in order to take power. They aren't far wrong, as that is what Aegisthus had in mind, though Clytemnestra was looking for revenge. I think if you place this within the entire trilogy, though, Aeschylus is leading us not only from Revenge to Justice but also from Tyranny (Usurpation) to Democracy.


message 30: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Thanks for posting the comparison, Bryan. Lattimore's version certainly has a more majestic sound to it and the sentence structure is definitely more complex which probably mirrors the Greek more closely.

As for the guest-host relationship, I learned about it when I read The Odyssey too! I made this note about it:

"The guest-host relationship, or in Greek, xenia, is another aspect of Greek culture unfamiliar to modern readers. If a guest visits your house, you are required by the tenets of hospitality to give him food and shelter. These acts are even more important than discovering his name and peoples, as we often see this information offered after the initial formalities are served. The concept of xenia is emphasized because one never knows if one is hosting a man or a god.

In The Iliad you notice warriors on opposing sides being polite and respectful to each other because their grandfathers had experienced a guest-host relationship (I'm thinking of Diomedes and Glaucus, I believe)


message 31: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Bryan "goes on a bit too long" wrote: " I think if you place this within the entire trilogy, though, Aeschylus is leading us not only from Revenge to Justice but also from Tyranny (Usurpation) to Democracy. ..."

Excellent observation and we'll really begin to see this change or evolution as we move on to the Eumenides


message 32: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments A quick note ...... my computer is acting up and so it's going in for repairs. I'll try to keep up posting by phone though and hopefully be back fully functional in the next couple of days!


message 33: by Tracey (last edited Sep 11, 2019 08:42PM) (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) I think taking in Aeschylus’ life and times is a great way to understanding the purpose and full meaning of the plays. Near the beginning of the Fagles version there is a good section called ‘Reading of The Oresteia’ which describes him and his life. Basically after many wars Athens was at peace when Aeschylus wrote the trilogy. He wanted to convey light after darkness, and a spirit of optimism, but was warning about the need for a guard the people’s latent barbarism, their hubris and how this could lead to their downfall.


message 34: by Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (last edited Sep 12, 2019 05:13AM) (new)

Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments I finished the Fagles version of The Libation Bearers yesterday--this play seems much less powerful to me than Agamemnon, but that probably is because it feels anticlimactic. Both Clytemnestra and Aegisthus are dispatched without the build up I felt when Agamemnon was killed in the earlier play. Plus there is the double talk of Clytemnestra as she receives Agamemnon home that sets up an irony that The Libation Bearers doesn't have.

Of course, having said that, I also realize the LB is a different play than Agamemnon, and has a different purpose. I should be finished with Lattimore's version sometime later today.


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments I did finish tonight: one correction I wanted to make to my post above--Clytemnestra's dialogue may not have all the irony in LB that the earlier play did, but there's a whopper of one when she greets Orestes before she knows it's him:

"Friends, tell me only what you would have, and it is yours.
We have all the comforts that go with a house like ours,
hot baths, and beds to charm away your weariness
with rest, and the regard of temperate eyes."

I was also thinking about the parallels between this play and some of what I remember about The Odyssey--mostly in this case of the nurse--Odysseus' nurse recognizes him when he comes home because of the old scar. Orestes' nurse does not. Cilissa plays a crucial role, but anyone could have done so--I wonder how much Aeschylus was trying to match up Odysseus' homecoming with that of Agamemnon's in the first play, and Orestes' in the second. It's almost like the Oresteia is the anti-Odyssey


message 36: by Renate (new)

Renate If not objectionable, I'll make comments as I go along.
How justified is The Trojan War in these plays?
There are references to Helen voluntarily leaving, her "daring," and "lust," are referred to, though that wouldn't have meant much to the men of the time. The Chorus describes the war in negative terms "Ares makes exchange for gold..," and the returning soldiers "growl through gritted teeth." Yet, strangely, it seems they were eager to go in the first place.
The "sacrifice" of the king's daughter, I was interested to see, was described very sympathetically in the daughter's favor.
{Who's being referred to toward the end of Scene Two, "Those who preen with too much praise catch the lightning bolt from Zeus." It appears to be Agamemnon.}
After Clytemnestra kills her husband, the tone of the Chorus seems to change somewhat. They don't respond to her charge that he killed their daughter. They extol his virtues and condemn her and Helen, making misogynistic remarks about both of them.


message 37: by Loretta, Moderator (last edited Sep 17, 2019 12:16PM) (new)

Loretta | 5957 comments Mod
Renate wrote: "If not objectionable, I'll make comments as I go along.
How justified is The Trojan War in these plays?
There are references to Helen voluntarily leaving, her "daring," and "lust," are referred t..."


Not at all Renate. Commenting as you read is fine! 🤗


message 38: by Connie (new)

Connie Paradowski | 50 comments I have finished The Libation and am thoroughly enjoying my first reading of these plays. One thing did strike me. There was no mention at all of the sacrifice of Iphigenia. I can see Orestes not considering it but the sister doesn't either. Was this that common then?


message 39: by Renate (last edited Sep 17, 2019 04:11PM) (new)

Renate My negative impression of Agamemnon is coming back to me from previous reading setting forth his demand to Ajax for Ajax's woman, where he, Agamemnon, acted very disreputably. This action led to some very unfortunate consequences for the Greeks, as I recall. Perhaps Cleo, you could elaborate on this, and how it might have impacted the Oresteia plays. or anyone, not just Cleo. please comment.


message 40: by Renate (last edited Sep 17, 2019 07:10PM) (new)

Renate In "Women at the Graveside" the second play, we see Electra asking the Gods for vengeance against her mother and Aegisthus. I was surprised to learn that she's totally on her father's side. She mentions her "cruellly sacrified" sister only briefly, in passing, but makes nothing of this and doesn't seem to hold it against her father. But in this patriarchal society perhaps that's not too surprising.
It seems that the queen has thrown her two children out of the house. So far, this has not been explained but perhaps it's because she's learned they are against her.


message 41: by Tracey (last edited Sep 17, 2019 07:15PM) (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) I was under the impression that Agamemnon had to sacrifice his daughter to save his men. In their beliefs of the time wouldn’t this be justifiable? As king wasn’t he responsible for his men and surely the greatest sacrifice he could offer would be his daughter?
It seems to me that some of the gods accepted this and thus Clytemnestra killing Agamemnon was not only against social justice it was also against the gods.

What came across to me was that there was discord amongst the gods which is reflected on earth in the family of the king. Are the gods making mischief?


message 42: by Pillsonista (last edited Sep 21, 2019 10:14PM) (new)

Pillsonista | 261 comments The Gods are always making mischief.

One thing to keep in mind about Trojan War: it wasn't simply that Helen eloped with Paris. It's that in doing so, both violated and abused the laws of hospitality and the respect a guest owes to his host. This was an inviolable tenet that was fundamental to the social fabric of acceptable behavior.

Helen was the queen of Sparta, a city-state. This means that she was one of any dozens of queens throughout Greece. The Greek city-states were in a constant state of conflict and perpetual warfare with one another. As beautiful as Helen was, they would not have united against the Trojans for the sake of one wife. But they would have unified if the laws of hospitality were abused at the court of a king, because that would have been perceived as a desecration of the Gods.

This, incidentally, is the same sin committed by the suitors in The Odyssey. By abusing Odysseus's hospitality while he is away at sea, they seal their own fate.

EDIT: It's also helpful to understand the history of the House of Atreus. For the Ancient Greeks, it epitomized the generational savagery of the tribal blood feud. It contextualizes not only the sacrifice of Iphigenia, but also the roles of Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, and Orestes's own vengeance and torment.


message 43: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Yes, exactly, Pillsonista! There was also an oath sworn by all her suitors (when Menelaus emerged as victorious as the man she would marry) that they would assist Menelaus if she was ever captured. That was another oath that needed to be fulfilled.


message 44: by Cleo (last edited Sep 17, 2019 10:01PM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Renate wrote: "If not objectionable, I'll make comments as I go along.
How justified is The Trojan War in these plays?
There are references to Helen voluntarily leaving, her "daring," and "lust," are referred t..."


The war had to happen because of an oath taken by her original suitors to protect her (see my comment above). And if Agamemnon did not sacrific Iphigenia he was not only breaking that oath but he was going against the gods. Part of the tension in the play is this inescapable choice and you can feel his agony. In essence, it is NOT his choice. But he MUST do it.

The difference between Agamemnon and Clytemnestra is that while Agamemnon's action was filled with terrible consequences, it would have still been seen as an honourable decision. With Clytemnestra all her actions are reprehensible. While Greek society certainly wasn't "equal," women were in charge of the household. What would have been expected of her would have been loyalty and honour and a safe-keeping of that household. Nothing she does is honourable; she clearly leaves every responsibility of hers not only unfulfilled, but damages everything around her. And to top it off, she steps into the domain of a man, crossing that barrier that should not be crossed. She is definitely the one the Greeks would have been horrified by.

(refering to your comment #40 as well! )


message 45: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments Renate wrote: "My negative impression of Agamemnon is coming back to me from previous reading setting forth his demand to Ajax for Ajax's woman, where he, Agamemnon, acted very disreputably. This action led to so..."

I think you mean when Agamemnon demanded Briseis of Achilles (not Ajax) in the Iliad? Is that right, Renate?


message 46: by Renate (new)

Renate Cleo wrote: "Renate wrote: "My negative impression of Agamemnon is coming back to me from previous reading setting forth his demand to Ajax for Ajax's woman, where he, Agamemnon, acted very disreputably. This a..."

yes, I think you're right.


message 47: by Renate (new)

Renate The discussion between Cly. and Orestes as he's about to kill her is heartrending. How can a son kill his mother?


message 48: by Pillsonista (new)

Pillsonista | 261 comments Because as the history of his family has demonstrated, it is something he must do. He must avenge his father, he must fulfill the obligatory blood feud. Whether he wants to or not is irrelevant.

That is the story of the Oresteia. It is the story of human evolution; from darkness to light, from chaos to order, from tribe to civilization, from vendetta to adjudication.


message 49: by Renate (new)

Renate I've finished the three plays. A few comments.
According to Ceo. Agamemnon took an oath to support Menalausus' right to retain Helen as his wife. Apparently this meant committing all of Athens and Greece to war. (By the way, did Helen have any voice in this?) This seems like a selfish and ignoble oath. So, while this may accord with Athenian values, it doesn't really persuade me of the worth of the Trojan War or of Agameemon's worth as an individual.
On another point, Cleo says that Clytemnestra "damages everything around her." But a great writer doesn't paint her or her characters as totally good or bad.Is Clytemnestra totally bad?


message 50: by Cleo (last edited Sep 18, 2019 08:36PM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 362 comments I think there are few things to consider to put the play in context. First of all, while we seem to be reading a "story", the Greek audience would be watching a drama. Definitely I think the playwright would have license to hyperbolize certain aspects of the story for effect. Also it might be helpful to remember Greece wasn't technically "Greece" at this point. They were a number of city states that each had kings and often didn't get along (thinking of Athens and Sparta particularly). The fact that they united over the protection of Helen is quite effective and again shows that honour and keeping of promises is crucial. Shouldn't that be a good thing?

These plays, while they use stories from the Trojan War and it's effect for a basis, are more about the development of from an old system (blood feud) to a new system or order (as Pillsonista mentioned above).

Renate wrote: "But a great writer doesn't paint her or her characters as totally good or bad.Is Clytemnestra totally bad? ..."

I don't know about this ..... I can think of a number of classics with completely bad characters. I'm thinking from The Picture of Dorian Gray to some characters in Jane Austen novels. Perhaps it mirrors life where most people have goodness and badness within them but there are those that can be completely bad .... sadly. A good question to ask yourself would be, do you feel Clytemnestra truly wanted to get revenge on Agamemnon for the sacrifice of Iphigenia based on motherly love, or was it an excuse in a grasp for power? How much evidence backs up the former theory and how much the later?

When reading classic literature, especially as old as this, it can be difficult for a modern reader to step out of their modern mindset and into a Greek one. When I first read The Iliad, I thought Achilles was such a baby for refusing to fight just because Agamemnon had taken his woman. But Briseis, while a woman, did not represent just that. The spoils won in war represented a warrior's honour, so Agamemnon didn't just take a woman, he took Achilles honour. And, as Pillsonista has mentioned a number of times, honour is such an intrinsic part of Greek philosophy and life. Understood this way, Achilles' refusal makes complete sense and the actions of others in the poem back it up; the other Greek warriors support Achilles behaviour and not Agamemnon's. (hopefully I answered your question from #39??)


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