Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Aeschylus' Masterpiece

The Oresteia of Aeschylus: A New Translation by Ted Hughes
The Oresteia of Aeschylus: 
A New Translation by Ted Hughes 

"And God gave Apollo
The mind and the tongue 
To speak the truth of God to mankind."
- Aeschylus (The Eumenides)

This is a modern (circa 1999) translation of one of the greatest of the Greek Tragedies that has survived. It is even rarer in that it is a complete trilogy which was common in the age of the great Greek tragedians but few have survived in tact.
   In the last year of his life, Ted Hughes completed translations of three major dramatic works: Racine's Phedre, Euripedes' Alcestis, and the trilogy of plays known as at The Oresteia, a family story of astonishing power and the background or inspiration for much subsequent drama, fiction, and poetry.
    The Oresteia--Agamemnon, Choephori, and the Eumenides--tell the story of the house of Atreus: After King Agamemnon is murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, their son, Orestes, is commanded by Apollo to avenge the crime by killing his mother, and he returns from exile to do so, bringing on himself the wrath of the Furies and the judgment of the court of Athens. The culmination of the tragedy addressed the question of the nature and origin of justice and the civil state.
    Hughes's "acting version" of the trilogy is faithful to its nature as a dramatic work, and his translation is itself a great performance; while artfully inflected with the contemporary, it has a classical beauty and authority. It is a good choice among modern translations.

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