on 27 May 2003
This book is a rare thing. It is a syllabus book that is actually entertaining! The three plays featured form a triology, that chart the murder of king Agamemnon by his wife, and the the revnge taken by his son and its consequences. Although it is quite a daunting read for someone who doesn't know much about Classics, it is well worth the effort. There are even notes in the back to help you understand the references. Apart from the references to ancient culture, the plays are easy to follow and entertaining, full of suspense, intrigue and horror. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to start learning about Classical culture or people who want a good read without having to resort to a "airport" novel!
on 10 November 2012
The two stars are for the very readable translation. I've taken off the rest because the publisher did not bother to check the kindle edition for numerous errors. How they justify the cost of the kindle book with so many typos and irritating formatting issues is beyond me. Furthermore, I would have appreciated links from the relevant lines to the few notes there are, as I currently have to go to the table of contents each time. I'm very disappointed!
Four stars is because of the translation. While Vellacott, whose translations of Euripides I love, captures the mood, his rhythmical verse somehow obscures the meaning, at least in the less didactic passages.
Having said that what comes across is a story whose drama to me can only be rivalled by the great stories of the Old Testament, or by Hamlet, whose dilemma is in some ways a mirror of that of Orestes.
Orestes' father Agamemnon has been murdered on his return from victory in the Trojan war by Orestes' mother Clytemnestra, who has shacked up with Aegisthus and who grieves the sacrifice of her daughter Iphigenia made by Agamemnon to ensure a wind for his fleet on its way to Troy.
This family, the house of Atreus, was under a curse anyway, following the cruel murder by Agamemnon's father of his brother's children.
Orestes murders Clytemnestra and Aegisthus and is then pursued by the Furies. The whole drama of the plays is about his decision to do this and the agonies he is likely to incur whether he does it or not.