Western Literature to Dante

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2019-20: Mondays, 1:00 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time
2019

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October

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November

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December

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2020

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March

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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
The Athenian theater of Dionysus. Photograph © Copyright, Mary McMenomy, 1999

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 by class this week:

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 distinguishing 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 (Choephoroi or The 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.

Orestes and Pylades
Orestes and Pylades, First-century Greco-Roman, Paris, Musée du Louvre; © Copyright, Bruce McMenomy, 2010.

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