Euripides, Orestes 1-3
“There is nothing so terrible, as the saying goes,
No suffering or affliction sent by the gods
No burden that a human cannot naturally endure.”
Οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδὲν δεινόν, ὧδ᾿ εἰπεῖν ἔπος,
οὐδὲ πάθος οὐδὲ ξυμφορὰ θεήλατος,
ἧς οὐκ ἂν ἄραιτ᾿ ἄχθος ἀνθρώπου φύσις.
Representatives from the Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre have been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy in our shared time of isolation to explore how the context of the ‘small screen’ changes the way we understand the genre and its performance, how the themes and concerns of ancient tragedy communicate to us today, especially in a time of crisis, and, most importantly, to stay occupied and engaged with one another. Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen.
This week, we turn to Euripides’ Orestes, a play that revisits Orestes’ fate after he kills his mother Klytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus to avenge the murder of his father, Agamemnon. If the story sounds familiar, well, it is: the Homeric Odyssey presents Orestes as a model for Telemachus repeatedly. Aeschylus makes his story the topic of our only surviving Greek trilogy, ending in Athens with an aetiology for the trial by jury
But, in typical Eurpidean style, this Orestes is surprising and unsettling. If Aeschylus’ Oresteia is optimistic, projecting a belief in the redemptive or at least balancing powers of human institutions, Euripides’ Orestes is the opposite, showing that human institutions fail to distribute justice when needed most and that individuals give in to the worst excesses of human nature.
1-71 – Electra’s speech
153-315 – Chorus, Electra, Orestes
730-806 – Orestes, Pylades
1018-1203 – Electra, Orestes, Pylades, Chorus
1554-1691 – Menelaus, Orestes, Chorus, Apollo
Euripides, Orestes 288-293
“I think that my father, if I had gazed in is eyes
And asked him if I should kill my mother,
Would have touched my chin over and over
Not to plunge my sword into my mother’s neck,
Because he was not about return to life
And I would be miserable suffering tortures like these.”
οἶμαι δὲ πατέρα τὸν ἐμόν, εἰ κατ᾿ ὄμματα
ἐξιστόρουν νιν μητέρ᾿ εἰ κτεῖναί με χρή,
πολλὰς γενείου τοῦδ᾿ ἂν ἐκτεῖναι λιτὰς
μήποτε τεκούσης ἐς σφαγὰς ὦσαι ξίφος,
εἰ μήτ᾿ ἐκεῖνος ἀναλαβεῖν ἔμελλε φῶς
ἐγώ θ᾿ ὁ τλήμων τοιάδ᾿ ἐκπλήσειν κακά.
Scene Selection and dramaturgy: Emma Pauly
Special Guest: Claire Catenaccio
Aeschylus, The Persians May 13th
Euripides, Trojan Women, May 20th
Sophocles, Ajax, May 29th
Euripides, Andromache, June 3rd
Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th
Euripides, Ion, June 17th[10 AM EDT/3PM GMT]
Euripides, Hecuba, June 24th
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, July 1st
Euripides, Orestes 200-207
“We are ruined, like corpses, we are dead.
This one goes among the dead and the greater share
Of my life goes there too
In weeping and mourning
And tears in the night
Unmarried without children I drag out
An unlivable life for the rest of my time.”
ὀλόμεθ᾿ ἰσονέκυες ὀλόμεθα.
ὅδε γὰρ ἐν νεκροῖς τό τ᾿ ἐμὸν οἴχεται
βίου τὸ πλέον μέρος· ἐν
στοναχαῖσι δὲ καὶ γόοισι
δάκρυσί τ᾿ ἐννυχίοις
ἄγαμος ἄτεκνος ἔτι <βίον ἀ>βίοτον ἁ
μέλεος ἐς τὸν αἰὲν ἕλκω χρόνον.
“Peoples of much suffering: look how fate
Tramples on your hopes.
Different pains visit different people
Over the span of time:
The whole expanse of mortal lives cannot be measured”
ἔθνη πολύπονα, λεύσσεθ᾿ ὡς παρ᾿ ἐλπίδας
ἕτερα δ᾿ ἕτερον ἀμείβεται
πήματ᾿ ἐν χρόνῳ μακρῷ,
βροτῶν δ᾿ ὁ πᾶς ἀστάθμητος αἰών.