DIDASKALIA

BOOK P/REVIEWS

The Everyman edition of Aeschylus, Oresteia
Edited and translated by Michael Ewans
Paper; pp. xl + 240, ISBN 0 460 87548 5
UK 5.99 USA $7.50

Previewed by Michael Ewans
Department of Drama
University of Newcastle
NSW 2308
Australia

This edition is designed for performers, for students of Drama, Classics, and English courses, and for the general reader. It is the first to appear in a sequence of four volumes for the Everyman Classics: Aeschylus, The Suppliants and other Dramas will appear in 1996, and a two-volume Sophocles, with translations by Michael Ewans, Graham Ley, and Greg McCart, is contracted for provisional publication in 1998 and 1999.

Richmond Lattimore's classic, monumental version of the Oresteia is now 45 years old, and Robert Fagles' free poetic translation has been issued and reissued in paperback since 1977. New editions of the Greek have been published since then, and substantial advances have been made in the study of the text. Our understanding of Greek tragedy has been advanced by major new studies from a number of different critical perspectives. A new English translation, responding as accurately as possible to the textual advances, and available to performers and students in an affordable paperback edition, was overdue.

This translation takes account of the latest scholarship, and the introduction offers a new interpretation of the trilogy. However, all literary and social perspectives are placed firmly in the context of how the Oresteia unfolds in performance. The fundamental aim of the series is to encourage readers to approach Greek tragedies not as literary texts but as scripts which were originally part of a performance including movement, dance, and song, designed for one single presentation at the Festival of Dionysos in Athens.

The translations themselves were developed during the rehearsal process for productions in a half-size replica of the Greek theatre shape, so as to make them completely actable. They are now presented in an edition which is designed even in its layout to encourage appreciation of the dynamics of the original performance. (For example, all movement directions are for the Theatre of Dionysos; all proper names are presented in transliterated Greek form rather than in Roman adaptation.)

The Notes present a scene-by-scene commentary on the ways in which the action of the dramas unfolds; the subject-matter is discussed in the context of an analysis of ways in which Aeschylus used his performance resources to stage each scene and choral ode in the orchestra. The information which has traditionally been presented in notes appears instead in two full glossaries, one of all proper names and the other of Greek technical terms, and an extensive bibliography.

It is hoped that the Everyman Aeschylus will be felt to live up to the publisher's claim that it is 'the most comprehensive paperback edition available.'

Michael Ewans
University of Newcastle

(Michael Ewans teaches Drama and Classics at the University of Newcastle.)

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