Orestiada Esquilo Analysis Essay

The Oresteia (Ancient Greek: Ὀρέστεια) is a trilogy of Greektragedies written by Aeschylus concerning the murder of Agamemnon by Clytaemnestra, the murder of Clytaemnestra by Orestes, the trial of Orestes, the end of the curse on the House of Atreus and pacification of the Erinyes. The trilogy—consisting of Agamemnon (Ἀγαμέμνων), The Libation Bearers (Χοηφóρoι), and The Eumenides (Εὐμενίδες)—also shows how the Greek gods interacted with the characters and influenced their decisions pertaining to events and disputes.[1] The only extant example of an ancient Greek theatre trilogy, the Oresteia won first prize at the Dionysia festival in 458 BC. Many consider the Oresteia to be Aeschylus' finest work. The principal themes of the trilogy include the contrast between revenge and justice, as well as the transition from personal vendetta to organized litigation.[2]Orestia originally included a satyr play, Proteus (Πρωτεύς), following the tragic trilogy, but all except a single line of Proteus has been lost.



The murder of Agamemnon, from an 1879 illustration from Stories from the Greek Tragedians by Alfred Church

Written byAeschylus
ChorusElders of Argos
SettingArgos, before the royal palace

Agamemnon (Ἀγαμέμνων, Agamémnōn) is the first of the three plays within the Oresteia trilogy. It details the homecoming of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, from the Trojan War. After ten years of warfare, Troy had fallen and all of Greece could lay claim to victory. Waiting at home for Agamemnon is his wife, Queen Clytemnestra, who has been planning his murder. She desires his death to avenge the sacrifice of her daughter Iphigenia, to exterminate the only thing hindering her from commandeering the crown, and finally be able to publicly embrace her long-time-lover Aegisthus.[3]

The play opens to a watchman looking down and over the sea, reporting that he has been lying restless "like a dog" for a year, waiting to see some sort of signal confirming a Greek victory in Troy. He laments the fortunes of the house, but promises to keep silent: "A huge ox has stepped onto my tongue." The watchman sees a light far off in the distance—a bonfire signaling Troy's fall—and is overjoyed at the victory and hopes for the hasty return of his King, as the house has "wallowed" in his absence. Clytaemnestra is introduced to the audience and she declares that there will be celebrations and sacrifices throughout the city as Agamemnon and his army return.

Upon the return of Agamemnon, his wife laments in full view of Argos how horrible the wait for her husband, and King, has been. After her soliloquy, Clytaemnestra pleads with and convinces Agamemnon to walk on the robes laid out for him. This is a very ominous moment in the play as loyalties and motives are questioned. The King's new concubine, Cassandra, is now introduced and this immediately spawns hatred from the queen, Clytaemnestra. Cassandra is ordered out of her chariot and to the altar where, once she is alone, is heard crying out insane prophecies to Apollo about the death of Agamemnon and her own shared fate.

Inside the house a cry is heard; Agamemnon has been stabbed in the bathtub. The chorus separate from one another and ramble to themselves, proving their cowardice, when another final cry is heard. When the doors are finally opened, Clytaemnestra is seen standing over the dead bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra. Clytaemnestra describes the murder in detail to the chorus, showing no sign of remorse or regret. Suddenly the exiled lover of Clytaemnestra, Aegisthus, bursts into the palace to take his place next to her. Aegisthus proudly states that he devised the plan to murder Agamemnon and claim revenge for his father (the father of Aegisthus, Thyestes, was tricked into eating two of his sons by his brother Atreus, the father of Agamemnon). Clytaemnestra claims that she and Aegisthus now have all the power and they re-enter the palace with the doors closing behind them.[4]

The Libation Bearers[edit]

In The Libation Bearers (Χοηφóρoι, Choēphóroi)—the second play of Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy—many years after the murder of Agamemnon, his son Orestes returns to Argos with his cousin Pylades to exact vengeance on Clytaemnestra, as an order from Apollo, for killing Agamemnon.[5] Upon arriving, Orestes reunites with his sister Electra at Agamemnon's grave, while she was there bringing libations to Agamemnon in an attempt to stop Clytaemnestra's bad dreams.[6] Shortly after the reunion, both Orestes and Electra, influenced by the Chorus, come up with a plan to kill both Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus.[7]

Orestes then heads to the palace door where he is unexpectedly greeted by Clytaemnestra. In his response to her he pretends he is a stranger and tells Clytaemnestra that he (Orestes) is dead, causing her to send for Aegisthus. Unrecognized, Orestes is then able to enter the palace where he then kills Aegisthus, who was without a guard due to the intervention of the chorus in relaying Clytaemnestra's message.[8] Clytaemnestra then enters the room. Orestes hesitates to kill her, but Pylades reminds him of Apollo's orders, and he eventually follows through.[6] Consequently, after committing the matricide, Orestes is now the target of the Furies' merciless wrath and has no choice but to flee from the palace.[8]

The Eumenides[edit]

The final play of the Oresteia, called The Eumenides (Εὐμενίδες, Eumenídes), illustrates how the sequence of events in the trilogy end up in the development of social order or a proper judicial system in Athenian society.[1] In this play, Orestes is hunted down and tormented by the Furies, a trio of goddesses known to be the instruments of justice, who are also euphemistically referred to as the "Gracious Ones" (Eumenides). They relentlessly pursue Orestes for the killing of his mother.[9] However, through the intervention of Apollo, Orestes is able to escape them for a brief moment while they are asleep and head to Athens under the protection of Hermes. Seeing the Furies asleep, Clytaemnestra's ghost comes to wake them up to obtain justice on her son Orestes for killing her.[10]

After waking up, the Furies hunt down Orestes again and when they find him, Orestes pleads to the goddess Athena for help and she responds by setting up a trial for him in Athens on the Areopagus. This trial is made up of a group of twelve Athenian citizens and is supervised by none other than Athena herself. Here Orestes is used as a trial dummy by Athena to set-up the first courtroom trial. He is also the object of central focus between the Furies, Apollo, and Athena.[1] After the trial comes to an end, the votes are tied. Athena casts the deciding vote and determines that Orestes will not be killed.[11] This ultimately does not sit well with the Furies, but Athena eventually persuades them to accept the decision and, instead of violently retaliating against wrongdoers, become a constructive force of vigilance in Athens. She then changes their names from the Furies to "the Eumenides" which means "the Kindly Ones".[12] Athena then ultimately rules that all trials must henceforth be settled in court rather than being carried out personally.[12]


Proteus (Πρωτεύς, Prōteus), the satyr play which originally followed the first three plays of The Oresteia, is lost except for a two-line fragment preserved by Athenaeus. However, it is widely believed to have been based on the story told in Book IV of Homer's Odyssey, where Menelaus, Agamemnon's brother, attempts to return home from Troy and finds himself on an island off Egypt, "whither he seems to have been carried by the storm described in Agam.674.[13] The title character, "the deathless Egyptian Proteus", the Old Man of the Sea, is described in Homer as having been visited by Menelaus seeking to learn his future. In the process, Proteus tells Menelaus of the death of Agamemnon at the hands of Aegisthus as well as the fates of Ajax the Lesser and Odysseus at sea; and is compelled to tell Menelaus how to reach home from the island of Pharos. "The satyrs who may have found themselves on the island as a result of shipwreck . . . perhaps gave assistance to Menelaus and escaped with him, though he may have had difficulty in ensuring that they keep their hands off Helen"[14] The only extant fragment that has been definitively attributed to Proteus was translated by Herbert Weir Smyth as "A wretched piteous dove, in quest of food, dashed amid the winnowing-fans, its breast broken in twain."[15] In 2002, Theatre Kingston mounted a production of The Oresteia and included a new reconstruction of Proteus based on the episode in The Odyssey and loosely arranged according to the structure of extant satyr plays.

Analysis of themes[edit]

In this trilogy there are multiple themes carried through all three plays. Other themes can be found and in one, or two, of the three plays, but are not applicable to the Trilogy as a whole and thus are not considered themes of the trilogy.

Justice through retaliation[edit]

Retaliation is seen in the Oresteia in a slippery slope form, occurring subsequently after the actions of one character to another. In the first play Agamemnon, it is mentioned how in order to shift the wind for his voyage to Troy, Agamemnon had to sacrifice his innocent daughter Iphigenia.[16] This then caused Clytaemnestra pain and eventually anger which resulted in her plotting revenge on Agamemnon. Therefore, she found a new lover Aegisthus. And when Agamemnon returned to Argos from the Trojan War, Clytaemnestra killed him by stabbing him in the bathtub and would eventually inherit his throne.[2] The death of Agamemnon thus sparks anger in Orestes and Electra and this causes them to now plot the death of their mother Clytaemnestra in the next play Libation Bearers, which would be considered matricide. Through much pressure from Electra and his cousin Pylades Orestes eventually kills his mother Clytaemnestra and her lover Aegisthus in "The Libation Bearers".[16] Now after committing the matricide, Orestes is being hunted down by the Furies in the third play "The Eumenides", who wish to exact vengeance on him for this crime. And even after he gets away from them Clytaemnestra's spirit comes back to rally them again so that they can kill Orestes and obtain vengeance for her.[16] However this cycle of non-stop retaliation comes to a stop near the end of The Eumenides when Athena decides to introduce a new legal system for dealing out justice.[2]

Justice through the law[edit]

This part of the theme of 'justice' in The Oresteia is seen really only in The Eumenides, however its presence still marks the shift in themes. After Orestes begged Athena for deliverance from 'the Erinyes,' she granted him his request in the form of a trial.[1] It is important that Athena did not just forgive Orestes and forbid the Furies from chasing him, she intended to put him to a trial and find a just answer to the question regarding his innocence. This is the first example of proper litigation in the trilogy and illuminates the change from emotional retaliation to civilized decisions regarding alleged crimes.[17] Instead of allowing the Furies to torture Orestes, she decided that she would have both the Furies and Orestes plead their case before she decided on the verdict. In addition, Athena set up the ground rules for how the verdict would be decided so that everything would be dealt with fairly. By Athena creating this blueprint the future of revenge-killings and the merciless hunting of the Furies would be eliminated from Greece. Once the trial concluded, Athena proclaimed the innocence of Orestes and he was set free from the Furies. The cycle of murder and revenge had come to an end while the foundation for future litigation had been laid.[11] Aeschylus, through his jury trial, was able to create and maintain a social commentary about the limitations of revenge crimes and reiterate the importance of trials.[18]The Oresteia, as a whole, stands as a representation of the evolution of justice in Ancient Greece.[19]

Moral responsibility[edit]

There are many didactic motives in the Oresteia, one of them being the matter of moral responsibility. The characters in the play often face difficulty when it comes to accepting the blame for their actions. Two main characters that are prime examples of this are Orestes and Agamemnon. Moral responsibility is "the status of morally deserving praise, blame, reward, or punishment for an act or omission, in accordance with one's moral obligations." This concept, however, is not exactly equivalent with legal responsibility and so it should be viewed and treated differently. It can be argued that Agamemnon did not accept moral responsibility for sacrificing his daughter, Iphigenia, in order to be able to sail to Troy without the wind interfering. This does not mean that Agamemnon was not morally responsible. Both sides of the argument stand; that because of the circumstances surrounding his actions, Agamemnon cannot be seen as morally responsible, or, no matter the circumstances, he was morally responsible for killing his daughter. Orestes’ moral responsibility can also be argued, as it can be said that he took moral responsibility for his act of matricide. However, with Apollo stepping in to tell the truth about what had occurred, that he had in fact pushed Orestes to kill his own mother, Orestes can be seen to hold no moral responsibility over the death of Clytaemnestra. Clytaemnestra is another character that is able to be analyzed in terms of moral responsibility, her premeditated killing of Agamemnon was an act of revenge and allows for us to see her as morally responsible for her husband's death.


The theme of revenge plays a large role in the Oresteia. It is easily seen as a principal motivator of the actions of almost all of the characters. It all starts in Agamemnon with Clytaemnestra, who murders her husband, Agamemnon, in order to obtain vengeance for his sacrificing of their daughter, Iphigenia. The death of Cassandra, the princess of Troy, taken captive by Agamemnon in order to fill a place as a concubine, can also be seen as an act of revenge for taking another woman as well as the life of Iphigenia. Later on, in The Libation Bearers, Orestes and Electra, siblings as well as the other children of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra, plot to kill their mother and succeed in doing so due to their desire to avenge their father's death. The Eumenides is the last book in which the Furies, who are in fact the goddesses of vengeance, seek to take revenge on Orestes for the murder of his mother. It is also in this part of the novel that it is discovered that the god Apollo played a part in the act of vengeance toward Clytaemnestra through Orestes. The cycle of revenge seems to be broken when Orestes is not killed by the Furies, but is instead allowed to be set free and deemed innocent by the goddess Athena. The entirety of the play's plot is dependent upon the theme of revenge, as it is the cause of almost all of the effects within the play.

Relation to the Curse of the House of Atreus[edit]

The House of Atreus began with Tantalus, son of Zeus, who murdered his son, Pelops, and attempted to feed him to the gods. The gods, however, were not easily tricked and so banished Tantalus to the Underworld and brought his son back to life. Later in life Pelops and his family line were cursed by Myrtilus, a son of Hermes, catalyzing the curse of House Atreus. Pelops had two children, Atreus and Thyestes, who are said to have killed their half-brother Chrysippus, and were therefore banished. Thyestes and Aerope, Atreus’ wife, were found out to be having an affair, and in an act of vengeance, Atreus murdered his brother's sons, cooked them, and then fed them to Thyestes. Thyestes had a son with his daughter and named him Aegisthus, who went on to kill Atreus. Atreus’ children were Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Anaxibia. Leading up to here, we can see that the curse of the House of Atreus was one forged from murder and deceit, and continued in this way for generations through the family line. To put it simply, the curse demands blood for blood, a never ending cycle of murder within the family. Those who join the family seem to play a part in the curse as well, as is seen with Clytaemnestra when she murders her husband Agamemnon, as an act of revenge for him sacrificing their daughter, Iphigenia.[20] Orestes, goaded by his sister Electra, murders Clytaemnestra in order to exact revenge for her killing his father. Orestes is said to be the end of the curse of the House of Atreus. The curse holds a major part in the Oresteia and is mentioned in it multiple times, making it obvious that many of the characters are very aware of the curse's existence. Aeschylus was able to use the curse in his play as an ideal formulation of tragedy in his writing.

Contemporary background[edit]

Some scholars believe that the trilogy is influenced by contemporary political developments in Athens. A few years previously, legislation sponsored by the democratic reformer Ephialtes had stripped the court of the Areopagus, hitherto one of the most powerful vehicles of upper-class political power, of all of its functions except some minor religious duties and the authority to try homicide cases; by having his story being resolved by a judgement of the Areopagus, Aeschylus may be expressing his approval of this reform. It may also be significant that Aeschylus makes Agamemnon lord of Argos, not, as Homer did, of nearby Mycenae, since about this time Athens had entered into an alliance with Argos.[21]


In 1887–1894 Sergei Taneyev adapted the trilogy into his own operatic trilogy of the same name, which was premiered in 1895.
In 1967 composer Felix Werder adapted the first play of the trilogy into an opera entitled Agamemnon.[22] In 2014 BBC Radio 3 broadcast the entire Oresteia over the course of three weeks as part of their Drama on 3 series:[23]

  • Agamemnon (12 January 2014) adapted by Simon Scardifield, directed by Sasha Yevtushenko
  • The Libation Bearers (19 January 2014) adapted by Ed Hines, directed by Marc Beeby
  • The Furies (26 January 2014) adapted by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, directed by Sasha Yevtushenko. The casts included Lesley Sharp as Clytemnestra, Will Howard as Orestes, Joanne Froggatt as Electra, Sean Murray as Aegisthus/Judge, Georgie Fuller as Iphigenia, Joel MacCormack as Pylades/Apollo, Hugo Spear as Agamemnon, Anamaria Marinca as Cassandra, Karl Johnson as Calchas and Chipo Chung as Athena.

The Spaghetti WesternThe Forgotten Pistolero, is based on the myth and set in Mexico following the Second Mexican Empire. Ferdinando Baldi, who directed the film, was also a professor of classical literature who specialized in Greek tragedy.[24][25][26][27]

In 2004 Yaël Farber produced her adaptation Molora, the story of Electra and her children set in South Africa.

In 2014 MacMillan Films staged the entire Oresteia for camera as part of its Greek drama series

  • Agamemnon (11 September 2014) using the Peter Arnott line-by-line translation, released by MacMillan Films. The cast included Tanya Rodina as Clytemnestra, James Thomas as Agamemnon, and Morgan Marcum as Cassandra.
  • Libation Bearers (11 September 2014) translation by Peter Arnott, The cast included Tanya Rodina as Electra and James Thomas as Orestes.
  • Eumenides (11 September 2014) translation by Peter Arnott, The cast included Tanya Rodina as Athena and James Thomas as Apollo.
  • This Restless House, a trilogy of plays by Zinnie Harris, produced by the Citizens Theatre in association with the National Theatre of Scotland in 2016.


  • Thomas Medwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1832–1834 – verse (Pagan Press reprint 2011)
  • Anna Swanwick, 1886 - verse: full text
  • Robert Browning, 1889 – verse: Agamemnon
  • Arthur S. Way, 1906 – verse
  • John Stuart Blackie, 1906 – verse
  • Edmund Doidge Anderson Morshead, 1909 – verse: full text
  • Herbert Weir Smyth, Aeschylus, Loeb Classical Library, 2 vols. Greek text with facing translations, 1922 – prose AgamemnonLibation BearersEumenides
  • Gilbert Murray, 1925 – verse Agamemnon, Libation Bearers
  • Louis MacNeice, 1936 – verse Agamemnon
  • Richmond Lattimore, 1953 – verse
  • F. L. Lucas, 1954 – verse Agamemnon
  • Robert A. Johnston, 1955 – verse, an "acting version"
  • Philip Vellacott, 1956 – verse
  • Paul Roche, 1963 – verse
  • Peter Arnott, 1964 – verse
  • George Thomson, 1965 – verse
  • Howard Rubenstein, 1965 – verse Agamemnon
  • Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 1970 – verse
  • Rush Rehm, 1978 – verse, for the stage
  • Robert Fagles, 1975 – verse
  • Robert Lowell, 1977 – verse
  • Tony Harrison, 1981 – verse
  • David Grene and Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, 1989 – verse
  • Peter Meineck, 1998 – verse
  • Ted Hughes, 1999 – verse
  • Ian C. Johnston, 2002 – verse: full text
  • George Theodoridis, Agamemnon, Choephori, Eumenides 2003–2007 – prose
  • Ethan Sinnott. Director/Set Designer/Translator, 2008 Spring Production Gallaudet University Theatre arts Department
  • Alan Sommerstein, Aeschylus, Loeb Classical Library, 3 vols. Greek text with facing translations,2008
  • Dominic J Allen and James Wilkes, 2009 for Belt Up Theatre Companyhttp://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/cgi/events/events.cgi?t=template&a=440
  • Anne Carson, 2009, An Oresteia – A translation featuring episodes from the Oresteia from three different playwrights: Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Sophocles' Electra, and Euripides' Orestes
  • Yael Farber, 2009 Molora, South African adaptation of the Oresteia
  • Peter Arcese, 2010 – Agamemnon, in syllabic verse
  • Alexandra Spencer-Jones, 2010 – Agamemnon, 1945 context for Action To The Word Theatre
  • Alexandra Spencer-Jones, 2011 – Choephori, 1953 context for Action To The Word Theatre
  • Andy Hinds, with Martine Cuypers, 2017[28]

See also[edit]



  • Collard, Christopher (2002). Introduction to and translation of Oresteia. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-283281-6. 
  • Widzisz, Marcel (2012). Chronos on the Threshold: Time, Ritual, and Agency in the Oresteia. Lexington Press. ISBN 0-7391-7045-7. 
  • MacLeod, C. W. "Politics and the Oresteia." The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 102, 1982, pp. 124–144.

External links[edit]


  • Oresteia (458 BC, Aeschylus)
  • Electra (c. 413 BC, Euripides)
  • Orestes (c. 408 BC, Euripides)
  • Electra (c. 405 BC, Sophocles)
  • Electra (1937, Giraudoux)
  • The Flies (1943, Sartre)
  • Elektra (1971, Wijesinha)
  • Mourning Becomes Electra (1931, O'Neill)
  • Elektra (1981, Marvel)
Agamemnon walks on the carpet of sacred peplos garments
  1. ^ abcdPorter, David (2005). "Aeschylus' "Eumenides": Some Contrapuntal Lines". The American Journal of Philology. 126: 301–331. JSTOR 3804934. 
  2. ^ abcEuben, J. Peter (March 1982). "Justice and the Oresteia". The American Political Science Review. 76 (1): 22–33. doi:10.2307/1960439. JSTOR 1960439. 
  3. ^Burke, Kenneth (July–September 1952). "Form and Persecution in the Oresteia". The Sewanee Review. 60 (3): 377–396. JSTOR 27538150. 
  4. ^Aeschylus (1975). The Oresteia. New York, New York: Penguin Group. pp. 103–172. ISBN 978-0-14-044333-2. 
  5. ^Vellacot, Philip. "Aeschylus' Orestes". The Johns Hopkins University Press on behalf of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States. Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  6. ^ abO'Neill, K. "Aeschylus, Homer, and the Serpent at the Breast". Classical Association of Canada. Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  7. ^Kells, J. H. "More Notes on Euripides' Electra". Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association. Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  8. ^ abH., R. "Orestes Sarcophagus and Greek Accessions". Cleveland Museum of Art. Retrieved 2016-12-06. 
  9. ^Henrichs, Albert. "Anonymity and Polarity: Unknown Gods and Nameless Altars at the Areopagos". University of Illinois Press. JSTOR 23065418. 
  10. ^Trousdell, Richard. "Tragedy and Transformation: The Oresteia of Aeschylus". C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. Retrieved 2016-12-03. 
  11. ^ abHester, D. A. "The Casting Vote". The Johns Hopkins University Press. JSTOR 294130. 
  12. ^ abMace, Sarah. "Why the Oresteia's Sleeping Dead Won't Lie, Part II: "Choephoroi" and "Eumenides"". The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc. (CAMWS). JSTOR 4133005. 
  13. ^Smyth, H.W. (1930). Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, Eumenides, Fragments. Harvard University Press. p. 455. ISBN 0-674-99161-3.
  14. ^Alan Sommerstein: Aeschylus Fragments, Loeb Classical Library, 2008
  15. ^Smyth, H. W. (1930). Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, Eumenides, Fragments. Harvard University Press. p. 455. ISBN 0-674-99161-3. 
  16. ^ abcScott, William. "Wind Imagery in the Oresteia". The Johns Hopkins University Press. JSTOR 2936026. 
  17. ^Burke, Kenneth (1952). "Form and Persecution in the Oresteia". The Sewanee Review. 20: 377–396. 
  18. ^Raaflaub, Kurt (1974). "Conceptualizing and Theorizing Peace in Ancient Greece". Transactions of the American Philosophical Association. 129: 225–250. JSTOR 40651971. 
  19. ^Trousdell, Richard (2008). "Tragedy and Transformation: The Oresteia of Aeschylus". Jung Jornal: Culture and Psyche. 2: 5–38. 
  20. ^Zeitlin, Froma I. (1966-01-01). "Postscript to Sacrificial Imagery in the Oresteia (Ag. 1235-37)". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. 97: 645–653. doi:10.2307/2936034. 
  21. ^Bury, J. B.; Meiggs, Russell (1956). A history of Greece to the death of Alexander the Great, 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 347–348, 352. 
  22. ^*Thérèse Radic. "Agamemnon", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed October 15, 2015), (subscription access)
  23. ^"The Oresteia, Drama on 3". BBC Radio 3. 
  24. ^Silvia Dionisio. "Terror Express". 
  25. ^"Fistful of Pasta: Texas Adios". 
  26. ^"The Forgotten Pistolero Review". The Spaghetti Western Database. 
  27. ^"The Forgotten Pistolero Review by Korano". The Spaghetti Western Database. 
  28. ^here

Para otros usos de este término, véase Orestiada.

La Orestíada, Orestea u Orestía (Ορέστεια) es una trilogía de obras dramáticas de la Grecia Antigua escrita por Esquilo, la única que se conserva del teatro griego antiguo. Trata del final de la maldición de la casa de Atreo.

Las tres obras que la forman son: Agamenón, Las coéforas y Las euménides. Una cuarta obra, Proteo, un drama satírico que se representaría junto a ellas, no ha sobrevivido. La trilogía se representó originariamente en las fiestas Dionisias de Atenas en el año 458 a. C., donde ganó el primer premio.


  1. Agamenón. En la primera obra de la trilogía, se relata el regreso de Agamenón, rey de Argos, de la Guerra de Troya para encontrar la muerte. En su hogar se encuentra su esposa, Clitemnestra, que ha planeado su muerte como venganza por el sacrificio de su hija, Ifigenia. Más aún, dado que la ausencia de su esposo ha durado diez años, Clitemnestra ha sucumbido a una relación adúltera con Egisto, primo de Agamenón y el descendiente de una rama desheredada de la familia, que está determinado por recuperar el trono que cree que en justicia le pertenece.
  2. Las coéforas. La segunda parte de la trilogía cuenta el proceso de venganza planeado por Electra. Trata de la reunión de los dos hijos de Agamenón, Electra y Orestes, y su venganza. Electra reconoce a Orestes por una marca en la cara durante los funerales de Agamenón. Acto seguido, Orestes mata a Egisto y a su madre Clitemnestra. Ésta convoca a las furias, que perseguirán a Orestes.
  3. Las euménides. Esta tercera y última pieza muestra cómo Orestes es llevado a juicio ante el tribunal divino. Las Euménides narra cómo Orestes, Apolo y las Furias comparecen ante un jurado de atenienses conocido como Areópago (‘roca de Ares’, una colina rocosa plana junto al ágora ateniense donde el tribunal de homicidios de Atenas celebraba sus sesiones), para decidir si el asesinato de Clitemnestra por parte de su hijo, Orestes, le hace merecedor del tormento que le infligen. Orestes es encontrado inocente gracias a la ayuda de Apolo y Atenea.


Aunque Proteo, el drama satírico que originalmente seguía a las tres primeras obras de la Orestíada, se ha perdido, se considera en general que se basaba en la historia narrada en el Libro IV de la Odisea de Homero. En 2002, el Teatro Kingston montó una producción de la Orestíada en una traducción de Ted Hughes e incluyó una reconstrucción libre de Proteo basada en el episodio de la Odisea y arreglado libremente según la estructura de los dramas satíricos que se conservan.


Todas ellas rondan en torno a los conceptos de justicia y venganza. Avanza por fuertes personajes femeninos, como Electra y Atenea.

Particularmente interesante resulta leer el tratamiento que da Esquilo a la tragedia que protagoniza Electra, así como compararlo con el que dan al tema Sófocles y, por último, Eurípides. Este personaje es retomado, también, muchos siglos después, por Carl Jung, para ilustrar la tendencia de la mujer a enamorarse (inconscientemente) del padre y eliminar simbólicamente a la madre, considerada como rival.


Que la obra acabe con final feliz puede sorprender a los lectores modernos, para quienes la palabra «tragedia» denota un drama que acaba en desgracia. La palabra no tenía este significado en la antigua Atenas, y muchas de las tragedias griegas que se conservan tienen un final feliz.

Merece la pena destacarse el aspecto metafórico de todo este drama. Esquilo conocía perfectamente las reformas que Efialtes y Pericles habían impuesto al Tribunal del Areópago.[1]​ El cambio, desde una justicia arcaica de autodefensa mediante una venganza personal, a la administración de justicia a través de un juicio, simboliza el paso de una sociedad primitiva gobernada por los instintos a una sociedad moderna regida por la razón: la justicia se decide por un tribunal de iguales, representando al cuerpo ciudadano y sus valores, y los propios dioses sancionan esta transición interviniendo en el proceso judicial, argumentando y votando en pie de igualdad con los mortales. Esquilo compartía la creencia en que el orden depende de las leyes y las leyes provienen de los dioses.[2]​ Este tema de la polis autogobernada por el consenso a través de instituciones jurídicas, en oposición al tribalismo y la superstición, se repite en el arte y el pensamiento griegos.

La dramatización de una transformación social en este mito (la transición a un gobierno de las leyes) es tanto un alarde como una justificación del entonces relativamente nuevo sistema judicial. El concepto de una intervención objetiva por una entidad imparcial contra la que ninguna venganza podía tomarse (el estado) marcaba el final de continuos ciclos de derramamiento de sangre, de matanzas que engendraban ulteriores venganzas, una transición en la sociedad griega reflejada por la transición en su mitología, pues las Furias eran una parte mayor de los viejos mitos griegos que otros comparativamente más recientes. El reflejo de las luchas sociales y las normas sociales en la mitología hace que obras como estas revistan especial interés hoy en día, ofreciendo perspicaces perspectivas culturales e históricas.

Recuerda Rodríguez Adrados que «Se ha dicho muchas veces que el problema de la Orestíada no tiene solución humana o que, por mejor decir, Orestes habría sido condenado por un tribunal ateniense; que las razones alegadas en su defensa —pretendida prevalencía biológica del padre sobre la madre; interés de Atenea por la absolución— son o ridículas o fuera de tema; que prácticamente Esquilo abandona su historia, añadiéndole un final convencional, y su interés se dirige ahora a un tema en gran parte distinto, el de la organización ideal de la ciudad».[3]

La Orestíada en las artes y la cultura popular[editar]

  • Varios compositores han escrito tratamientos musicales de toda esta trilogía o de parte de ella.
    • De finales del siglo XIX procede la ópera de Sergéi Tanéyev titulada Orestíada.
    • El compositor español Manuel Manrique de Lara compuso una trilogía de poemas sinfónicos basada en la Orestíada que fue estrenada en 1894.
    • Richard Strauss, educado como los alemanes de su generación en los clásicos grecorromanos, compuso en 1908 Elektra, una sorprendente y provocadora ópera en un acto que inmediatamente entró a formar parte del repertorio estándar.
    • En el siglo XX, el compositor soviéticoYury Alexandrovich Falik compuso el ballet en un acto titulado Orestíada.
    • Darius Milhaud compuso música incidental para las obras.
    • Iannis Xenakis escribió al menos tres obras para voz e instrumentos basadas en la trilogía.
    • Il furore di Oreste, ópera en un acto de Flavio Testi basada en Las Coéforas.
    • Prólogo para tenor y conjunto de cámara, obra de Harrison Birtwistle basada en Agamenón.
    • Los cantantes populares Monica Richards y Maynard James Keenan, de Faith and the Muse y A Perfect Circle respectivamente, se han basado igualmente en esta obra. «El Coro de las Furias» aparece en el álbum Evidence of Heaven de Faith and the Muse, y el álbum de debut de A Perfect Circle titulado Mer de Noms incluye un corte titulado "Orestes".
    • 1999 - 2000: El grupo estadounidense Virgin Steele dedicó una obra musical en dos volúmenes titulada "The House of Atreus" a la Orestíada que sigue de una forma fidedigna el desarrollo de la trilogía.
  • La obra The Family Reunion del poeta T. S. Eliot se basa en Las Euménides.
  • El dramaturgo y filósofo francés Jean-Paul Sartre basó su obra Las moscas en La Orestíada. De una manera elocuente recrea la intensa persecución de Orestes por las Furias, pero las reacciones de Orestes están transformadas por la filosofía existencialista de Sartre.
  • The Tower Beyond Tragedy, del poeta Robinson Jeffers, es una versión moderna, en verso, de la Orestíada incluyendo referencias a las guerras mundiales.
  • Años 60 y 70: En Buenos Aires, la Orestiada fue una de las puestas en escena realizadas por la notable vanguardia teatral que se albergó durante fines de la década de 1960 y hasta comienzos de la del '70 en el Instituto Di Tella.[4]
  • El poeta y cineasta italiano Pier Paolo Pasolini planeaba realizar una versión de la trilogía, ambientada en una colonia africana cuyo nombre no se concretaba. Su propósito era usar la Orestíada para comentar la emergencia de la democracia en África. No obstante, durante una expedición de investigación retratada en el documental Appunti per un'Orestiade africana (estrenada en Francia en 1970, en Argentina para televisión, se llamó Apuntes para una Orestíada africana), un grupo de estudiantes africanos objetaron que un antiguo texto europeo poco tenía que decir sobre la historia del África moderna y que Pasolini estaba tratando a África como una entidad singular, y no como un continente de culturas complejas y diversas. Pasolini abandonó el proyecto.
  • O Θίασος (El viaje de los comediantes), película de Theo Angelopoulos de 1975 es una versión de la Orestíada ambientada en la Grecia moderna.
  • En la serie de novelas de Dune obra de Frank Herbert, la Casa de Atreo continúa existiendo en el futuro lejano de la humanidad (aquí llamado Casa Atreides), y ellos también sufren indignidades, pero con el tiempo triunfan.
  • En el 2000, el mexicano Miguel Ángel Canto estrenaría Orestes, o Dios no es máquina, de su autoría; en ella, el mito será revisitado a modo de una "maldita comedia musical" en el que el crimen real del protagonista es matar a sus propias voces, representadas por el Coro de Erinias.
  • La dramaturga irlandesa Marina Carr toma libremente la trama de las dos primeras partes de la Orestíada en su obra de 2002 titulada Ariel, que se ambienta en el interior irlandés contemporáneo.
  • El dramaturgo y director Robert O'Hara escribió y dirigió el estreno mundial de Good Breeding, una adaptación de la Orestíada griega inspirada por las obras de Esquilo y Eurípides. La Maldición sobre la Casa de Átreo es dada la vuelta en esta exploración erótica del amor, la lujuria y la venganza. Se interpretó por primera vez en la Universidad de California en San Diego, UCSD, el 16 de febrero de 2007.


  1. ↑Bowra, C.M. La Atenas de Pericles, Alianza Editorial, 1974, p. 132
  2. ↑Bowra, p. 132
  3. ↑Rodríguez Adrados, F. La Democracia ateniense, Alianza Universidad, 1975, p. 149
  4. ↑Rabey, Mario La Orestiada en el Di Tella 1968[1]

Traducciones recientes[editar]

Según el ISBN, traducciones recientes de esta obra al español en España son:

  • Esquilo. La Orestea, Introducción, Traducción poética y Notas, J.L. Calvo Martínez, Madrid. Editora Nacional, 1984
  • Tragedias completas, tr. J. Alsina, Madrid. Ediciones Cátedra, S.A., 1987
  • La Orestía, tr. M. García Valdés, Barcelona. PPU, S.A., 1988
  • La orestiada, tr. Á. del Amo, Madrid. Instituto Nacional de Artes Escénicas y de la Música (Ministerio de Cultura), 1990
  • Esquilo: Tragedias, tr. B. Perea Morales, Madrid. Editorial Gredos, S.A., 1993
  • La orestíada, tr. V. López Soto, Barcelona. Editorial Juventud, S.A., 1994
  • Tragedias completas, tr. J. Alsina Clota, Barcelona. Ediciones Altaya, S.A., 1995
  • Agamenón; Las coéforas; Las euménides, tr. B. Perea Morales, Barcelona. Planeta-De Agostini, 1995
  • Orestea; Prometeo encadenado, tr. B. Perea Morales, Barcelona. Círculo de Lectores, S.A., 1996
  • La Orestea: Agamenón, coéforos, euménides, J. L. Miguel Jover, Tres Cantos. Ediciones Akal, S.A., 1998

Lean también[editar]

Enlaces externos[editar]

Clitemnestra titubeante antes de matar a Agamenon (óleo de P.N.Guérin, 1819).

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