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Intro lecture to the Oresteia by Aeschylus

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Torsten Kehler

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English 103 lecture 6
September 28, 2011
The Oresteia
All kinds of events have subsequent events, with the highly charged concept of revenge or
vengeance. An action will resolve in violence, and that violence will in turn cause more violence, and
so on.
We are not sure what the main theme is, there is too many themes and ideas.
*Different between setting and set:
setting is internal to the story, where it takes place
set is props, arrangement of the stage
*Agamemnon becomes the first tragedian to be re-played later. His innovations:
1. Details, spectacular sets. (Red cloth for Agamemnon, the net)
2. The chorus as we know it.
*Difference between character and protagonist:
The protagonist is the person the audience is rooting for, the central character to
whom the action happens. The good guys (not always ones with most lines).
Characters can be minor, may not even have a name (The watchman, the herald).
They may also be major, ones the audience comes to learn a lot about.
The chorus is like a character, but it's not really involved in the action. It
does not experience anything happening to it. Interpreter, addresses what
happens on stage but does not participate. Kind of like the audience, but
also gives information, sort of like the narrator.
Agamemnon: kill a daughter or no?
Clytemnestra: daughter killed. Does she kill husband or obey? How does she do justice to the
horror she feel and the crime that's so horrible? The only thing is to kill.
Orestes: how can he go against nature and also act with accordance with nature? It's natural for
Orestes to want something done to Clytemnestra, because she killed Agamemnon. But she is his
mother. He wants to kill the person who nurtured him, and it's not an easy undertaking.
*The play is a series of cycles where characters face heart-rending dilemmas about what to do. A great
philosopher Hegel once said: “It is the clash of right versus right”. Right vs. Wrong is easy. What
happens when two rights collide?
Ex: Agamemnon knows it's wrong to kill his daughter, but it's also wrong to
disobey the gods. It's wrong to let his people starve and let other people
down, but it's also wrong to kill someone innocent to move the ships.
*Theme: Point, idea or subject that's treated in the story. Can be many.
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