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ISBN: 9780195135923

Published: 1 Nov 04

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The Oresteia

Greek Tragedy in New Translations

Aeschylus .

Aeschylus' Oresteia, the only ancient tragic trilogy to survive, is one of the great foundational texts of Western culture. It begins with Agamemnon, which describes Agamemnon's return from the Trojan War and his murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra, continues with her murder by their son Orestes in Libation Bearers, and concludes with Orestes' acquittal at a court founded by Athena in Eumenides. The trilogy thus traces the evolution of justice in human society from blood vengeance to the rule of law, Aeschylus' contribution to a Greek legend steeped in murder, adultery, human sacrifice, cannibalism, and endless intrigue.

This new translation is faithful to the strangeness of the original Greek and to its enduring human truth, expressed in language remarkable for poetic intensity, rich metaphorical texture, and a verbal density that modulates at times into powerful simplicity. The translation's precise but complicated rhythms honor the music of the Greek, bringing into unforgettable English the Aeschylean vision of a world fraught with spiritual and political tensions.


Alan Shapiro is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, including The Dead Alive and Busy, winner of the 2001 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Peter Burian is Professor of Classical Studies at Duke University. A critic and translator, he has published widely on Greek drama and its reception.

"A wonderful collaboration of scholar and poet...vividly responsive to the variety and power of Aeschylus' writing.... A great achievement."--David Ferry, poet and translator, and author of Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations

"Enthusiastically recommended...produces a language that is easy to read and easy to speak."--Library Journal [starred review]

"These two new additions to Oxford's 'Greek Tragedy in New Translations' series only add to the luster of the previous releases. Each is firmly packed with insightful introductions, comprehensive and numbered notes, glossaries, and up-to-date bibliographies (the plays' texts take up about half of each volume). The collaboration of poet and scholar in each volume produces a language that is easy to read and easy to speak (compare, for instance, the Watchman's first lines in Shapiro and Burian's Agamemnon with those in Lattimore's 1947 translation). Each volume's introduction presents the play's action and themes with some detail. The translators' notes describe the linguistic twists and turns involved in rendering the text into a modern poetic language. Both volumes are enthusiastically recommended for academic libraries, theatre groups, and theatre departments."--Library Journal [starred review of Oresteia and Antigone&R]

"A wonderful collaboration of scholar and poet: the verse of the English translation vividly responsive to the variety and power of Aeschylus' writing; the brilliant introduction and notes richly and imaginatively guiding, and participating in, the reader's excited experience of this great trilogy. A great achievement."--David Ferry, author of Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations