Apr 8: Aeschylus's difficult-to-spell telenovela

Today's reading is from Aeschylus's The Libation Bearers, but, far from being "Cheers" from the waitresses' point of view, as the title would suggest, it's actually super-intense, for in our passage Orestes comes to kill his mother (Clytemnestra, the name I think will be the next "Dakota" in popularity).

And he's not going to kill her just by not calling, either. (That was actually the subject of one of the Wordsworth poems I didn't make fun of yesterday. Hi, Mom!) He's going to kill-kill her.


Fate bore a share in these things, O my child!

Fate also doth provide this doom for thee.

Kids these days, am I right? This is not adequately explained in the DRG, but thanks to Wikipedia I learned that this is all part of the crazy Atreus family. Previously on the Oresteia, Clytemnestra had kilt Agamemnon and taken up with Ægisthus. (Aside: I hate naming characters myself, but this is too much. Can't somebody here be named "Dave" or "Coop"?) So Orestes, who's been long-lost, gets psyched up and kills Mom. Immediately (even though he's been promised by Apollo, Mafiosi-like, that it will all be taken care of) he starts to freak out:

...for what the end shall be
For me I know not: breaking from the curb,
My spirit whirls me off, a conquered prey,
Borne as a charioteer by steeds distraught
Far from the course, and madness in my breast
Burneth to chant its song, and leap, and rave—

The translation doesn't give the full effect of how crazy and telenovela-esque the whole thing is.

The funny thing is that, while I was totally gripped by the over-the-top situation while reading it, I can't imagine staging it in a way that would communicate the intensity, because I have trouble imagining an audience who would come to see ancient Greek tragedy also being irony-free enough to give themselves up to the story. The original audience had the advantage of knowing this story already, so to them it's a particularly intense variation on a familar theme, like Jimi Hendrix doing "The Star Spangled Banner". Now it's too foreign, an acquired taste, etc. You might be able to do it in the movies, but you'd have to translate everything -- it'd have to be like "Kill Bill."

Or maybe just a super-violent version of "Casey At The Bat". There's an idea...

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