14 July 2007
I recently read The Orestia by
Aeschylus (in English translation) and was happy to encounter so many familar old friends. Cassandra's unheeded prophesies... Agamemnon's incautious homecoming... Orestes' heroic obedience to Apollo... All these were familiar to me, yet musty and not easily recalled in my memory. The refresher was well worth the short time investment. So much of our literature today has at its underpinnings the classic conflicts and accomplishments of the heroes and villans in the pages of the ancient masters. For example, it was interesting for me to ponder House Atredies' struggles in the Dune series by Frank Herbert in light of my fresh reading of the tetralogy and understanding of the struggles of House Atreus, or to consider Athena and Apollo's courtroom demeanor in the trial of Orestes vs. what you might see on the show Law and Order. For more deep questions, check out the Penguin reading guide.
Wikipedia's Aeschylus article has great info on the author. Got a few hours? Take a read from Questia's ebook . My recommendation: read the play first, not the author's/translators notes and foreword. Read those supplementary materials later, and don't let them get in your way en route to getting to the story itself.