Review: The Oresteia by Aeschylus

Aeschylus’s The Oresteia my not contain the landmark Greek play Oedipus Rex within its cycle but it also doesn’t contain the less impressive Antigone. Instead you get three plays that act as three acts, a beginning, a heightened middle, and a denouement. Agamemnon has little of the title character taking up its breadth of lines and none of Orestes, for which the cycle is named. It does set up the action of events, however, as Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra conspire together and kill Agamemnon. The Libation Bearers is set a few years later and features the son of Clytaemnestra and Agamemnon exacting revenge under the guidance of Apollo. The Eumenides is then the tale of the furies’ attempt to get revenge on Orestes following his mother’s curse in a short but literally divine trial. I do have my complaints about the amount of filler featured at the very beginning of these three plays but that quickly evaporates once the action sets moving at full bore over a course perhaps even shorter than the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays. The crown jewel of Greek Tragedy will always be Oedipus Rex (or Oedipus The King) but it’s doubtful these three plays would let any but the most stringent auditors down.

Grade: A

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