The Agamemnon of Aeschylus: A Commentary for Students
David Raeburn, Oliver Thomas
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
This commentary discusses Aeschylus' play Agamemnon (458 BC), which is one of the most popular of the surviving ancient Greek tragedies, and is the first to be published in English since 1958. It is designed particularly to help students who are tackling Aeschylus in the original Greek for the first time, and includes a reprint of D. L. Page's Oxford Classical Text of the play.
The introduction defines the place of Agamemnon within the Oresteia trilogy as a whole, and the historical context in which the plays were produced. It discusses Aeschylus' handling of the traditional myth and the main ideas which underpin his overall design: such as the development of justice and the nature of human responsibility; and it emphasizes how the power of words, seen as ominous speech-acts which can determine future events, makes a central contribution to the play's dramatic momentum. Separate sections explore Aeschylus' use of theatrical resources, the role of the chorus, and the solo characters. Finally there is an analysis of Aeschylus' distinctive poetic style and use of imagery, and an outline of the transmission of the play from 458 BC to the first printed editions.
chorus), as well as its social history. 67 Sophocles was supposedly the ﬁrst tragedian not to act: TrGF iv test. 1 ll. 20–5. Introduction xlvii character is engaged with the Chorus on his or her own, as in tragedy’s earliest, one-actor form. This makes the unique and crucial passage of conversation between actors, centred on the thirteen lines of stichomythia when Clytemnestra tempts Agamemnon to walk over crimson garments into the palace (931–43), all the more telling.68 Also, Aeschylus
important than a function of representing ‘ideal spectators’ or ‘the common man’, or conversely that the chorus has as full a character as the solo roles.83 Often, however, the communal nature of the chorus, its physical proximity to the audience, and its tendency to observe and survive the tragic crisis, suggest a role of mediating between the audience and the characters who are fully caught in the action, a role of guiding our responses and sympathies.84 All in all, the chorus was 82 This is
reference, and even Seneca’s Agamemnon rarely overlaps with Aeschylus (see Tarrant 1976, 8–23; Lavery 2004c); Quintilian 10. 1. 67 declares that Sophocles and Euripides ‘far outshone’ Aeschylus in writing tragedy. If we jump forwards momentarily, the only texts after the third century ad to preserve a signiﬁcant number of citations of Aeschylus are Stobaeus’ Anthology (derived mostly from previous anthologies rather than his own reading), and the Christus Patiens—a tragedy on the Passion, much of
97–103. The ﬁrst clause means ‘consent in saying [i.e. ‘please say’] whatever of these things is both possible and right’. The aorist participle λ ξασα is aspectual, rather than marking a prior action. Clytemnestra is to heal the Chorus’s concern with comforting words: λ ξασα and παι ν correspond to the preceding images of παρηγορ αι and φαρμασσομ νη respectively. The Chorus’s concern is for the fate of the Trojan expedition (cf. 40 n.), and ‘currently at one moment grows malignant [i.e. deeply
615b. For the third libation see further on 1387. 248–9. The narrative breaks oﬀ in appropriate reticence (cf. 36 with n.), and perhaps in mid-sentence (see 242–3 n.). The elders dare not actually say ‘Then Agamemnon took a knife and slit his daughter’s throat’. Rather, they sum up the event in a euphemistic litotes: ‘The crafts of Calchas were not without fulﬁlment.’ These τ χναι are his acts of presaging at 144–51. This raises foreboding that his prediction of Μ νι waiting at home was also