The Choephoroe (Libation-Bearers) of Aeschylus

The Choephoroe (Libation-Bearers) of Aeschylus

The Choephoroe (Libation-Bearers) of Aeschylus

The Choephoroe (Libation-Bearers) of Aeschylus

Excerpt

The Choëphoroe, or Libation-Bearers, is the second play in the only trilogy preserved to us from the Athenian stage: Agamemnon, Choëphoroe, Eumenides. The first gives the murder of Agamemnon by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aigisthos; the second the vengeance of Orestes, helped by his sister Electra; the third deals with the ultimate solution of the problem of Sin and Punishment, the purification of Orestes from the murder of his mother and the conversion of the spirits of Punishment from Furies to Beneficent Beings, from "Erinyes" to "Eumenides."

The vengeance of Orestes was made the subject of plays by all three tragedians. All the plays are in their ways masterpieces, and each highly characteristic of its writer. Euripides realizes and psychologizes the horror of the story; Sophocles, apparently from a deliberate adoption of the "Homeric" tone, suppresses the religious problem and concentrates on the elements of direct passion. Aeschylus, as I have said elsewhere, "though steeped in the glory of the world of legend, would not lightly accept its judgment upon religious and moral questions, and above all would not, in that region, play at make-believe. He would not elude the horror of this story by simply not mentioning it, like Homer, or by pretending that an evil act was a good . . .

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