THE ORESTEIA

A summary and analysis of the dramatic trilogy by Aeschylus

This document was originally published in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 1. ed. Alfred Bates. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. pp. 78-104.

Introduction · Agamemnon · Libation Bearers · Eumenides · Overview

Introduction

CLYTEMNESTRA SLAYING HER HUSBAND
An original painting by A. Russell

Of all the works of Aeschylus the strongest in dramatic force is the Oresteia, a series consisting of the Agamemnon, the Choëphoræ (or Libation Bearers) and the Eumenides, the only one of his trilogies that has come down to us. It was probably the last that he exhibited at Athens, and upon it he seems to have lavished all the splendors of his genius, that he might leave to his fellow citizens something worthy of his country and himself. Says William von Humboldt of the Agamemnon, and his remarks might be applied to the entire trilogy: "Among all the products of the Greek stage none can compare with it in tragic power; no other play shows the same intensity and pureness of belief in the divine and good; none can surpass the lessons it teaches, and the wisdom of which it is the mouthpiece."

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