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Suppliant Maidens and Other Plays

Suppliant Maidens and Other Plays

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Classic work from the earliest of the three greatest of the Ancient Greek tragedians.

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The Suppliant Maidens is full of charm, though the text of the part which describes the arrival of the pursuers at Argos is full of uncertainties. It remains a fine, though archaic, poem, with this special claim on our interest, that it is, probably, the earliest extant poetic drama. We see in it the tendency to grandiose language, not yet fully developed as in the Prometheus: the inclination of youth to simplicity, and even platitude, in religious and general speculation: and yet we recognize, as in the germ, the profound theology of the Agamemnon, and a touch of the political vein which appears more fully in the Furies. If the precedence in time here ascribed to it is correct, the play is perhaps worth more recognition than it has received from the countrymen of Shakespeare.
It is interesting to note that, in combination with the Laius and the Oedipus, this play won the dramatic crown in 467 B.C. On the other hand, so excellent a judge as Mr. Gilbert Murray thinks that it is "perhaps among Aeschylus' plays the one that bears least the stamp of commanding genius." Perhaps the daring, practically atheistic, character of Eteocles; the battle-fever that burns and thrills through the play; the pathetic terror of the Chorus—may have given it favour, in Athenian eyes, as the work of a poet who—though recently (468 B.C.) defeated in the dramatic contest by the young Sophocles—was yet present to tell, not by mere report, the tale of Marathon and Salamis. Or the preceding plays, the Laius and the Oedipus, may have been of such high merit as to make up for defects observable in the one that still survives. In any case, we can hardly err in accepting Dr. Verral's judgment that "the story of Aeschylus may be, and in the outlines probably is, the genuine epic legend of the Cadmean war."