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Aeschylus

The Founder of Greek Tragedy

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Born: Approx. 525 B.C. (Location: Attica)

Died: Approx. 456 B.C. (Location: Sicily)

Known as the “Father of Tragedy,” Aeschylus wrote over 90 plays. Only seven of his dramas survive intact. Here’s a quick overview of his work:

The Persians:
Have you seen the movie 300? You know, the one with all those blood-thirsty, abs-of-steel Spartans. Well, think of this play as a thoughtful supplement to that violent comic book-turned-movie.

This play teaches the concept of hubris. King Xerxes of Persia loses the war due to his excessive pride.

Seven Against Thebes:
If you have ever tossed and turned unable to sleep because you’ve been wondering how the two brother characters wind up dead at the beginning of Antigone, then this Greek tragedy has all the answers.

(Spoiler: Eteocles and Polynices kill each other. There, now you can rest easy, my friend!)

The Supplicants:
Looking for a show with a large cast? This play involves the fifty daughters of Danaus, founder of Argos. They’re all about to be married to fifty Greek hunks when the Dad hears a disturbing prophesy. It seems one of his son-in-laws is destined to kill the old man!

So, like any reasonable father-of-fifty-brides, he tells his daughters to murder their new husbands on the wedding night. Typical romantic comedy stuff.

The Orestia:
This trilogy contains three plays: Agamemmon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides. Together they compose a sweeping epic of powerful families, betrayal, and guilt. Think of it like the Godfather movies, but set in Ancient Greece.

Prometheus Bound:
Scholars still debate whether or not Aeschylus wrote Prometheus Bound. The play isn’t the most exciting in terms of stage direction. Prometheus is chained to a rock the entire time.

But it does deal with an age-old conflict: Man (or Titan) versus a Higher Power. I always admired Prometheus for defying Zeus and bringing fire to us lowly humans. However, since Aeschylus writes tragedies, the play ends Zeus tossing Prometheus into the dark pit. Apparently, things get better for him in the sequel, Prometheus Unbound – but that play has been lost to the ages!

Interested in learning more about the work of Aeschylus? Read the complete texts by the Father of Tragedy.

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