Manual The Works: Aeschylus

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This development presaged the shift towards character and individual actors that would become the hallmark of modern theater. His plays are striking because they so closely resemble the modern conception of drama. The "Father of Tragedy," as he has been called, Aeschylus is also the father of character-driven drama as a whole. Aeschylus provides an important example of how closely art participates in human development.

Greek Lyric Poetry: Works of Sappho, Pindar, and Aeschylus

In the case of Aeschylus his plays engage the full range of human transformation from the nature divine human relations, through political, juridical, and social transformation. This foreshadows the enormous responsibility of artists, as their work not only reflects but influences human directions for better or for ill.

Born in B.

In B. Salamis was the subject of The Persians , written eight years later; it is now generally accepted that The Suppliants , once thought to be Aeschylus's earliest surviving tragedy and therefore the earliest complete Attic tragedy to survive was written in the last decade of his life, making The Persians his earliest. Aeschylus frequently traveled to Sicily, where the tyrant of Gela was a patron.

According to legend, Aeschylus was killed in B. The inscription on his gravestone may have been written by himself, but makes no mention of his theatrical renown, commemorating only his military achievements. It read:. Aeschylus' work has a strong moral and religious emphasis, concentrating on the human position in the cosmos in relation to the gods, divine law, and divine punishment—especially in the Oresteia trilogy. In addition to the literary merit of his work, Aeschylus' greatest contribution to the theater was the addition of a second actor to his scenes.

Previously, the action took place between a single actor and the Greek chorus. This invention—the creation of a dialogue partner—was attributed to him by Aristotle.


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The existing canon of Aeschylus' plays includes a seventh, Prometheus Bound. Attributed to Aeschylus in antiquity, it is generally considered by modern scholars to be the work of an unknown playwright. One theory is that it was written by Euphorion, one of Aeschylus' sons, and produced as his father's work. Its language is much simpler than that which Aeschylus generally used, without the complexity of metaphor and imagery.

Life and career

It is closer to Sophocles ' style though it is not suggested that Sophocles is its author ; its hostility to the figure of Zeus is completely at odds with the religious views of the other six plays. Most scholars of Greek literature currently agree that the attribution of the play to Aeschylus is tenuous at best. The Oresteia is a trilogy of plays whose action centers on the curse of the House of Atreus, a cycle of stories closely linked to the Trojan epic tradition of Homer.

The trilogy is the only extant trilogy of the ancient Greek tragedies remaining, perhaps reflecting it popularity due to its profound story arc and powerful drama. The Oresteia is one of the most important texts of all Greek literature due to its subject matter; the development of Greek society beyond its primitive origins rooted in tribalism and family vengeance into a society based on justice and democracy.

The trilogy is easily Aeschylus' crowning achievement, and is often ranked as the finest of all the ancient Greek tragedies ever composed. Agamemnon details the return of Agamemnon, King of Argos, from the Trojan War and his subsequent murder.

Aeschylus - Ancient History Encyclopedia

Agamemnon, in his pursuit of Paris and Helen, was forced to sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia, for favorable sailing winds. His wife, Clytemnestra, in the ten years of Agamemnon's absence, plans her revenge. She enters into an adulterous relationship with Aegisthus, Agamemnon's cousin and the scion of a dispossessed branch of the family, who is determined to regain the throne he believes should rightfully belong to him. The play opens with Clytemnestra awaiting the return of her husband, having received the signal from the mountaintop beacons that Troy had fallen.

Though she pretends to love her husband, she is furious that he sacrificed their daughter, Iphigenia. While the text does not make this clear, the audience would have already been aware of this. A servant stands on top of the roof, reporting that he has been crouching there "like a dog" kunothen for years, "under the instruction of a man-hearted woman.

This, of course, serves to anger Clytemnestra further. The main action of the play is the agon , or struggle, between Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. She attempts to persuade Agamemnon to step on a purple sometimes red tapestry or carpet to walk into their home. The problem is that this would indicate hubris on Agamemnon's part, and he does not wish to do this.

From B. From then on, the two poets frequently competed against each other. Near the end of his life and following the production of his Oresteia in B. He died there at Gela two years later. The people of Gela buried him with many honors. If the story is correct that Aeschylus composed the inscription for his own gravestone, he chose to be remembered as a soldier rather than a poet. The Plays of Aeschylus. Early Greek plays were written in the form of a tetralogy—a group of four plays designed to be performed one after another.

Sophocles discontinued the format, and among existing Greek tragedies the trilogy is unique to Aeschylus. Log in to Wiley Online Library. Purchase Instant Access. View Preview.

Author:Aeschylus

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