Western Literature to Dante

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2018-19: Mondays, 1:00 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time


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Unit III: Greek Tragedy, ca. 480-400 B.C.

Week 10: Aeschylus (ca. 525-456/5 B.C.)

The Athenian theater of Dionysus

Now we leap ahead several centuries, through the Greek Dark Age (ca. 1100-800 B.C.), to the heyday of Athenian culture and the rise of democracy. One of the peculiar institutions of Athens is its drama, which was originally written for religious festivals in the Theater of Dionysus.

Please read before you begin:

Then please read:

For this week, I am assigning the first and last plays of the only surviving trilogy in the whole Greek dramatic corpus — that is, the Oresteia (“The Orestes Story”) of Aeschylus. (The Theban plays of Sophocles, which we’ll be looking at next time, are sometimes erroneously referred to as a trilogy, but the salient feature of a Greek tragic trilogy is that all three plays be produced in the same year and presented together. The Theban plays were not.) The first play is called the “Agamemnon”, and the last is called the “Eumenides”. You may wish to read the middle play (The “Choephoroi” or “Libation Bearers”) as well, if you have time. If you want to read the “Choephoroi” or any other pieces of Greek drama, you can of course look them up in a library; or you can read them online on a website or download a public domain version of the text from a suitable FTP location.

In stores and libraries:


On the web:

Above center: The Athenian Theater of Dionysus; © Copyright, Mary McMenomy, 1999;
Lower right: Orestes and Pylades, First-century Greco-Roman, Paris, Musée du Louvre; © Copyright, Bruce McMenomy, 2010.