Though it's tempting to imagine the late English poet laureate's
long tortured relationship with the image of (his wife) feminist
heroine Sylvia Plath as its subtext, this vivid free-verse
translation of Aeschylus' dark and bloody tragic trilogy
(comprising Agamemnon, Choephori, and Eumenides) more properly
evinces Hughes's wide range of interests and mastery of classic
literatures. His nearly conversational rhythms produce an arresting
mixture of colloquialism and formality, enlivened by strong imagery
(as in the matricidal Orestes' declaration that "This house has
been the goblet / That the demon of homicide, unquenchable, / Has
loved to drain"), and only infrequently weakened by astonishing
woodenness - as in Clytemnestra's cool reply to the Chorus who
lament her murder of her husband: "You think I'm an irresponsible
woman? / You are making a mistake"). Perhaps not the ultimate
"acting edition" it claims to be, but, still, an essential further
installment in the always interesting oeuvre of a gifted poet who
was also a diligent scholar. (Kirkus Reviews)
In the Oresteia - the only trilogy in Greek drama which survives from antiquity - Aeschylus took as his subject the bloody chain of murder and revenge within the royal family of Argos.
Moving from darkness to light, from rage to self-governance, from primitive ritual to civilized institution, its spirit of struggle and regeneration is eternal.
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