Thursday, June 03, 2004

Speaking of Troy....

In part because not long ago I was reading Paul Roche's translations of Euripides (I had already his translations of Sophocles), I have been thinking of eventually, far down the road, writing a verse novel on the story of the Curse on the House of Atreus. I've been thinking it would go something like this:

1. Iphigenia at Aulis: Agamemnon sacrifices his oldest daughter to appease Artemis, in order to make it possible for the fleet to set out for Troy. Artemis shows her acceptance by (apparently) turning the girl into a white deer as she is slain.
2. Trojan Women: Lots of Cassandra; and this is a great place to lay out the general 'gods'-eye-view'.
3. Agamemnon: Agamemnon returns home with Cassandra as his slave-girl; Clytemnestra kills him 1) because she has been having an affair the ten years he was gone; 2) because she is jealous of Cassandra.
4. The Libation Bearers: Electra and Orestes, children of Clytemnestra, kill their mother to avenge their father. The emphasis will be on Electra, though.
5. Orestes: Pursued by the Furies, Orestes is brought before the tribunal of the gods at the Areopagus and (narrowly) is acquitted, on the condition that he visit a particular country and return from there to his homeland with a statue of Artemis.
6. Iphigenia among the Taurians: Performing his task, Orestes comes among the Taurians, who sacrifice all foreigners to Artemis. As it happens, when Artemis accepted the sacrifice of Iphigenia, she did not turn the girl into a white deer, but replaced her with a white deer before she was actually sacrificed, and whisked her off to this barbarian land to be her priestess. Iphigenia and Orestes find out about each other, and she helps him escape with the image.

The basic idea in the cycle would be that the curse on the line, started by Tantalus, continued by such eminent wrongdoers as Pelops, Thyestes, Niobe, and Atreus, can only be broken by a Sacred Victim (Iphigenia) who must (as it were) die to break the curse on herself and (as it were) come back to life to break the curse on the surviving members of the House, Orestes and Electra. My one hangup in all this preliminary stuff is Menelaus, who needs to come to a bad end somewhere, and I'm not sure how. Euripides has him still surviving in his Iphigenia among the Taurians, but the Curse has to get him somewhere along the line, and I can't make him fit into the Redemption at all. Orestes has to stand trial, perform penance, and be saved by Iphigenia to be redeemed, and Electra's fate rises and falls with his. But Menelaus does nothing, and must be destroyed by the curse....

I've decided that my favorite translation of Greek tragedy is Browning's The Agamemnon of Aeschylus. Absolutely unreadable, unless you already know what it's saying; but the language is ravishing. Such is my amateur opinion, anyway....

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