In An Oresteia, the classicist Anne Carson combines three different versions of the tragedy of the house of Atreus — A iskhylos' Agamemnon, Sophokles' Elektra and Euripides' Orestes. After the murder of her daughter Iphigeneia by her husband, Agamemnon, Klytaimestra exacts a mother's revenge, murdering Agamemnon and his mistress, Kassandra. Displeased with Klytaimestra's actions, Apollo calls on her son, Orestes, to avenge his father's death with the help of his sister Elektra. In the end, Orestes is driven mad by the Furies for his bloody betrayal of family. Condemned to death by the people of Argos, he and Elektra must justify their actions — or flout society, justice and the gods.
Carson's translation combines contemporary language with the traditional structures and rhetoric of Greek tragedy, opening up this ancient tale of vengeance to a modern audience and revealing the essential wit and morbidity of the original plays.
About the Author
Anne Carson is a professor of Classics at the University of Toronto, Canada, as well as a poet, essayist, and translator. She was a Guggenheim Fellow and a MacArthur Fellow, and has won a Pushcart Prize, a Lannan Literary Award, and a PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. Carson's first book, Eros the Bittersweet, was named one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time by the Modern Library. Her other works include Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse, The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos, and Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera.
Aeschylus (est. 525-456 B.C.E.) was the father of Greek tragedy, whose innovations in theater included conflict directly between characters, rather than through the intermediary of the chorus. Though a highly prolific playwright of an estimated seventy to ninety plays, only seven of Aeschylus' works survive. Among the most famous are The Persians and the Oresteia trilogy: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides.
Sophocles (est. 497-406 B.C.E.) was a celebrated Greek playwright who won more drama competitions than Aeschylus and Euripides combined. He is known for his advancements in character development and for adding a third character to his plays, relying less on the chorus. Though he wrote over 120 plays, only seven remain today, the most famous of which are Oedipus Rex and Antigone.
Euripides (est. 480-406 B.C.E.) was a tragedian who revolutionized theater by presenting mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and by examining inner lives and motives as well as recounting action. He was also unique in displaying sympathy toward women and other marginalized people. Eighteen of Euripides' estimated 92 to 95 plays have survived, the best known of which are Medea, Electra, and Bacchae.