Aeschylus: The Oresteia by Simon Goldhill

By Simon Goldhill

Simon Goldhill specializes in the play's themes--justice, sexual politics, violence, and the position of guy in historic Greek culture--in this basic creation to Aeschylus' Oresteia, probably the most vital and influential of all Greek dramas. After exploring how Aeschylus constructs a fantasy for the town within which he lived, a last bankruptcy considers the effect of the Oresteia on extra modern theater. The volume's equipped constitution and consultant to extra interpreting will make it a useful reference for college students and teachers.

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Extra resources for Aeschylus: The Oresteia

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This reading of the trilogy has been opposed mainly by Marxist and feminist critics, who have seen the ‘justice’ at the end of the work not as a triumph of reasoned civilization but as an evolution towards the apparatus of state authority on the one hand, and towards the enforcement of patriarchal authority on the other (Goldhill 1984, 1986). For these readings too the Oresteia depicts a transition towards the order of legal justice – but the order of legal justice is itself seen as a difficult ideological projection rather than as a simply laudable ‘social order’.

The entrance to the palace is blocked by Clytemnestra, who in a famous and brilliantly dramatic scene spreads blood-red tapestries in front of the door; the king, who initially refuses to trample such finery, is persuaded by Clytemnestra to enter his palace across the tapestries. Clytemnestra fails to persuade Cassandra, a Trojan princess, who is part of the king’s booty, to come in immediately, and she is left on stage with the chorus. Cassandra is an inspired prophetess and she begins to describe in an extraordinarily intricate and powerful set of images both the past history of the family and its future violences.

Athene supports Orestes because of the unchallengeable role of the man as head of the household, with all the implications of such authority for the position of ‘the father’ and for the status of ‘the male’. On the other hand, the vote is delivered by someone who fits uneasily into such categorizations: a virgin warrior goddess, a female without links to the mother, a female who does not enter marriage. As the narrative has been structured around the polarized oppositions of the genders, so the narrative’s ending depends on a figure who does not fit easily into such an opposition.

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