This month my online book club went back to the classics and read Agamemnon. I got Oliver Taplin’s translation from the book above that had the entire Oresteia trilogy. Taplin’s translation was smooth poetry that was quite easy to understand but I wanted some footnotes so I wouldn’t have to look up all the specifically Greek terms like threnody and such.
Aeschylus takes the audience and readers on a fierce journey with powerful people betraying each other, killing their daughters, and getting revenge as they story examines whether people have free will or not. It’s a swift read that still has power today. The play is stark with few extras. Whereas contemporary stories have lots of walk on parts, the Greeks had the chorus do most of the exposition, analysis and commentary on the characters. Aeschylus wisely knows that he’ll cause the audience to become involved by creating complicated characters who do terrible or foolish things and deserve punishment, but since those inflicting the punishment are even worse people, who articulate their side well, that your mind will spend days turning the story over in their minds.
I’m glad I read this powerful play because it showed me that paring down a story to its essentials and making characters bold makes a story stronger. Even though Clytemnestra gives Lady Macbeth a run for her money, the story’s so absorbing that I stayed with it.
There’s a reason people still read the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare. I liked this translation so much that I will read the other two plays.
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