Download PDF by Simon Goldhill: Aeschylus: The Oresteia (Landmarks of World Literature

By Simon Goldhill

Simon Goldhill makes a speciality of the play's themes--justice, sexual politics, violence, and the position of guy in old Greek culture--in this common advent to Aeschylus' Oresteia, probably the most very important and influential of all Greek dramas. After exploring how Aeschylus constructs a fable for town during which he lived, a last bankruptcy considers the impact of the Oresteia on extra modern theater. The volume's prepared constitution and consultant to extra interpreting will make it a useful reference for college kids and lecturers. First variation Hb (1992): 0-521-40293-X First version Pb (1992): 0-521-40853-9

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8 Homer and Aeschylus: rewriting the past for the present Homer held a privileged place in Greek and Athenian culture. The great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, were written down in a canonical form in the time of Peisistratus. In the fifth century, they 42 THE ORESTEIA played an integral role in the education, institutions and ideology of Athens, and indeed in the culture of all Greece as panhellenic epics (Nagy). Homer was the text first learnt and most studied at all levels of Greek education, and any educated Athenian could be expected to have a knowledge of it.

The logic of the double bind, of revenge and reversal, is starkly exposed. To punish wrong leads to doing wrong: not to punish wrong is also doing wrong. The doer suffers . . Indeed, when he, like his mother before him, appears above the corpses of his victims, Orestes in his turn moves from victor and punisher to victim and transgressor. The very instantiations of revenge and punishment, the Furies, appear and hound him off stage. The hunter is now hunted. In the Eumenides, the Furies in their bloodthirsty pursuit of Orestes from Delphi to Athens seem set to continue this pattern of revenge and reversal to the point of the destruction of the male line of the house of Agamemnon.

Helen’s ‘daring the undareable’ is not only the background to Agamemnon’s absence; it is also a model to illumine her sister Clytemnestra’s behaviour. The common ideological association of the woman with the inside of the house (which I mentioned 36 THE ORESTEIA in the previous paragraph) is represented repeatedly in Greek writing as a necessary response to the threat of women’s desires leading to adultery; and this adultery is represented as a threat to the secure pattern of male inheritance within a patriarchal social system.

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