Aeschylus: The Oresteia by Simon Goldhill

By Simon Goldhill

Simon Goldhill specializes in the play's themes--justice, sexual politics, violence, and the position of guy in historic Greek culture--in this normal creation to Aeschylus' Oresteia, some of the most vital and influential of all Greek dramas. After exploring how Aeschylus constructs a fable for the town within which he lived, a last bankruptcy considers the impact of the Oresteia on extra modern theater. The volume's geared up constitution and advisor to additional examining will make it a useful reference for college students and teachers.

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Indeed, the association of women with the inside of the house, private and unseen, is pervasive in Greek writing. For a woman to appear in public as a speaker, except within a closely controlled religious context, is in itself a sign of a woman out of place (Foley; Gould 1980). Clytemnestra takes this to an extreme. Not only does she dominate the stage as the play’s main and most impressive speaker, but also deception, persuasion, guile – the manipulation of language – is the route to her domination.

There are two particular ways that the figure of Clytemnestra is constructed as transgressive, her use of language and her sexual behaviour. Let us look at both in turn. Now in democratic Athens, as we have seen, there was little public role for women. Despite the function of women in certain religious ceremonies, neither Assembly nor law-court allowed women any speaking role. Indeed, the association of women with the inside of the house, private and unseen, is pervasive in Greek writing. For a woman to appear in public as a speaker, except within a closely controlled religious context, is in itself a sign of a woman out of place (Foley; Gould 1980).

The 24 THE ORESTEIA trilogy that starts with a lowly watchman of one house asking the gods for release from toil and waiting for a beacon light ends with a massive torch-lit procession in the centre of the polis itself, led by divinities. The following three sections of this chapter offer different routes of exploring this narrative. First, I will look at three major structuring devices of the narrative; secondly, I will discuss some ways in which man’s place in a social and political frame is articulated; finally I will consider some passages in detail to demonstrate how Aeschylean poetry functions.

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