I have just been reading Agamemnon in translation because I am thinking about going to see the Cambridge Greek Play in October. They do a Greek play every three years and this year it is Agamemnon. The first and last time I went to the Cambridge Greek Play was around 1970/71 when I was doing Greek at school.
When I was reading the play I was struck by how relevant it is to today. At the beginning of the play the announcement of the end of the Trojan War after 10 long years provokes some timeless comments on the wastefulness of war. The play is the first part of a trilogy and this part deals with Agamemnon’s return and his death at the hands of his wife in revenge for his sacrifice of their daughter in order to get a fair wind for the fleet to sail to Troy. That he returns with the daughter of the King of Troy as his concubine doesn not help his cause. In the intervening 10 years since the sacrifice of their daughter Agamemnon’s wife had plenty of time to plan her revenge and to take up with his brother. If this sounds like the stuff of soap operas there may be a reason for it. There was a radio programme recently called OedipusEnders which looked at the similarity between Greek Tragedy and Soaps. My son learned a little about Greek Tragedy when he studied A Level Film Studies. I am so glad that Greek has made it onto the curriculum somewhere. Film Studies should be given a bit more respect.
I also read a translation of Helen, in preparation for attempting to read it in Greek (but that’s another story). Interestingly the translations of both plays were written by poets. Since the originals were written in verse it makes perfect sense for a poet to do the translation. I have often thought that only a poet can really translate poetry.