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The Strangeness of Tragedy$
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Paul Hammond

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572601.001.0001

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(p.40) 2 Aeschylus
The Strangeness of Tragedy

Paul Hammond

Oxford University Press

Aeschylus' Oresteia is a trilogy comprised of Agamemnon, Choephori (Libation Bearers), and Eumenides. Agamemnon presents the return of the king to Argos after the fall of Troy. For the Greeks the nostos or return home was a familiar literary motif. At a literal level, home is Argos – the city ruled by Agamemnon and his father Atreus before him – and his house, the oikos. Contained within the idea of the oikos is an implicit narrative, for the present is defined by the past history of the family. A special kind of fear attaches to this past because we know that it haunts the time and space which we can actually see. The second play of the trilogy, Choephori, repeats and reverses some of the principal actions of the Agamemnon, and things take on forms of agency through Aeschylean metaphor. In the third and final play, Eumenides, there is a dramatic movement away from the house of Atreus and its embodied bloodshed, which had haunted the first two plays of the trilogy.

Keywords:   Aeschylus, Oresteia, Agamemnon, Choephori, Eumenides, Argos, home, time, space, agency

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