aeschylus defined in 1939 yearaeschylus - Aeschylus (525-456 b.c.);
aeschylus - Greek tragic poet. He was born at Eleusis, a town of Attica. The prime of his life embraced the period when Greece was struggling for independence against Persia. He fought with distinction in the battles of Marathon (490) and Salamis (480). In 499 he first entered for the prize offered for the best tragedy, but it was not until 484 that he obtained first place. The later years of his life were spent largely away from Athens, two, perhaps three, visits being made to Sicily, where he died at Gela.
Seventy tragedies in all are credited to Aeschylus, of which only seven survive. Of these the best are The Persians, an expression of the sense of triumph felt by the Greeks after the Persian Wars; Prometheus Bound, a majestic portrayal of the myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from heaven, and taught the arts to mankind; and the- great trilogy of the Agamemnon, Choephori, and Eumenides, which relates the return of Agamemnon from Troy, and his murder at the hands of Clytaemnestra, his unfaithful wife: the vengeance exacted by his son Orestes, who kills his mother and her paramour; the pursuit of Orestes by the Furies, and his absolution by the Areopagus at Athens. The Agamemnon is the greatest of all the plays of Aeschylus and one of the world's masterpieces of dramatic literature. Seeing the wicked often prosperous and the good unfortunate in a world ruled by supposedly beneficent deities, Aeschylus endeavoured to explain this anomaly by conceiving a force called Necessity, which underlay the actions of both gods and men, and in the end made for righteousness. The idea of a family curse operating from generation to generation is a dominant motive of more than one of his tragedies.
The characters of Aeschylus are cast in heroic mould; his lofty earnestness and magnificent imagery make him one of the most sublime of the world's poets. Before the time of Aeschylus the action of a play was evolved from the dialogue between the chorus and a single actor. Aeschylus introduced a second actor, thus rendering practicable dramatic possibilities hitherto unthought of. There are English verse translations of the plays by E. H. Plumptre, Lewis Campbell, and Gilbert Murray. Consult Aeschylus, Creator of Tragedy, Gilbert Murray, 1940.
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