Prometheus Bound and Other Plays: Prometheus Bound, The Suppliants, Seven Against Thebes, The Persians
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Aeschylus (525–456 BC) brought a new grandeur and epic sweep to the drama of classical Athens, raising it to the status of high art. In Prometheus Bound the defiant Titan Prometheus is brutally punished by Zeus for daring to improve the state of wretchedness and servitude in which mankind is kept. The Suppliants tells the story of the fifty daughters of Danaus who must flee to escape enforced marriages, while Seven Against Thebes shows the inexorable downfall of the last members of the cursed family of Oedipus. And The Persians, the only Greek tragedy to deal with events from recent Athenian history, depicts the aftermath of the defeat of Persia in the battle of Salamis, with a sympathetic portrayal of its disgraced King Xerxes.
Philip Vellacott’s evocative translation is accompanied by an introduction, with individual discussions of the plays, and their sources in history and mythology.
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CHORUSscatter in all directions. THE SUPPLIANTS THE SUPPLIANTS * CHARACTERS: CHORUS of the fifty daughters of Danaus DANAUS, a descendant of Zeus and Io PELASGUS, King of Argos HERALD of the Egyptians SECOND CHORUS of Maids attending the Danaids Other Soldiers and Attendants * Near the coast of the Peloponnese; a meadow with a grassy mound on which stand a number of altars and images of gods, including Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon and Hermes. In the distant background the walls and
and valour of our choice nobility, First in unmoved devotion to the king himself, Are sunk into the mire of ignominious death. ATOSSA: My friends, this evil news is more than I can bear. – How do you say they died? MESSENGER: Opposite Salamis There is an island – small, useless for anchorage – Where Pan the Dancer treads along the briny shore. There Xerxes sent them, so that, when the enemy, Flung from their ships, were struggling to the island beach, The Persian force might without
Returns while I am absent, comfort him, and bring him Safe to the house, lest his despair heap grief on grief. Exit ATOSSA with her attendants, and the MESSENGER. CHORUS: Thy hand, O Zeus our king, has swept from sight The boastful pride of Persia’s vast array, And veiled the streets of Susa* In gloomy mists of mourning. Now countless women, partners in one grief, With soft white hands tearing their veils in two, Bedew their folded bosoms With tears like rivers flowing; And new-made
presence speak; Now as before we dread your majesty. DARIUS: Yet, since your supplications called me up from earth, Put by your dread of majesty, make no long tale, But in brief words deliver what you have to say. CHORUS: For reverence we dare not do your pleasure; For reverence we dare not speak before you; For loyalty we would not speak to grieve you. DARIUS: Then, since remembered fear restrains my councillors, Speak, Queen Atossa, royal partner of my bed; Cease these laments and
heart and voice are sore, With tears and groans that echo A mother-country mourning Her sons who went to war. XERXES: Ionia despoiled us, Strong in her metalled warships; But Ares helped her more To reap the bloody harvest Of that ill-feted shore. CHORUS: Come, ask for the whole story. Where are the stalwart fighters Who stood at your right hand? Susas and Pharandaces, Agdabatas and Psammis, Dotames, Susiscanes, Lords of our own dear land? XERXES: There by the shore of Salamis I