chapter  1
14 Pages

The 'Agamemnon'

To the modern reader the Oresteia is not easy of access. Its great amplitude, the dramatic power of many of its scenes, the bold character-drawing, the splendour of the poetry - these and other such qualities declare themselves at once, but time after time Aeschylus fails to do things that we expect, or does things that we do not expect, so that for the moment we lose imaginative touch with him. He will quite clearly say or imply things that are so strange, so startling, that instinctively we resist them and try to explain them away. The result can be that although we feel the grandeur of the whole, it remains a remote grandeur, remote both in style and thought; we think it archaic, and make allowances. What we should allow for is not so much Aeschylus' archaism but our own modernity; we so easily assume that the methods and aims of our own epoch are immutable parts of drama itself!