ILLUSTRATIONS AND STUDY QUESTIONS
This course is a discussion seminar. Thus, the reading assignments for the course are relatively modest. Students are expected to spend a significant proportion of their class preparation time reviewing the assigned reading, thinking about it, checking out the material on the Web Sites for the assigned day, and pondering issues raised by the reading and the background material. The following illustrations and questions are designed to help you get started. Illustrations: Most of the illustrations present a slightly different version of the myth or story than the one that you will have encountered in the reading, and they are intended to help you think "beyond the text": What happened that we aren't told about? What are some of the questions left open by the reading? What kinds of things would you like to know that the text doesn't tell you? Study Questions: The questions, like the illustrations, are to help you get started. They raise a few of the issues that we will want to discuss in class, but are not intended to limit your thinking. Unlike the illustrations, the study questions are tied closely to the assigned texts. They are designed to help you think "inside the text" about issues that need analysis, explanation, or expansion; as you reflect on them, try to come up with ideas of your own about issues you would like to bring up in class for discussion.
This vase antedates Aeschylus' Oresteia: it shows Aegisthus striking down the helpless king, who is shrouded in a transparent robe, while Clytemnestra, wielding an axe, follows behind him. The female figure on the right with unbound hair is probably Agamemnon's daughter, Electra. Behind her, on the right side of the vase, Cassandra flees from the scene. The figure just barely visible on the left, behind Clytemnestra, is probably Chrysothemis. (To see an enlarged representation, click on the image.) How does this representation accord with the description of the murder of Agamemnon in the Oresteia (pages 160ff., lines 1391ff.)? What are the principal similarities and differences? The other side of the same vase is shown as the illustration for April 12. (From Boardman, Athenian Red Figure Vases of the Archaic Period [London and New York: Thames & Hudson, 1975], page, fig.274.1.)
Aeschylus, Libation Bearers
The other side of this vase is illustrated for April 10. On this side, Orestes strikes down Aegisthus, as Clytemnestra, wielding an axe, comes up behind him. Not shown here are the figures whose outstretched arms appear on either side of the representation: to the left is Cassandra, who is fleeeing from the scene of the other side of the vase; to the right is Electra, shown in the same pose as on the other side of the vase. Here, she must be attempting to come to Orestes' aid, perhaps warning him of Clytemnestra's approach. The sequence of figures on the vase as a whole is thus (starting far left from the April 10 view): Chrysothemis, Klytemnestra, Aegisthus, Agamemnon, Electra, Cassandra; Klytemnestra, Orestes, Aegisthus, Electra . (To see an enlarged representation, click on the image.) How does this representation differ from the murder of Aegisthus as it is presented in the Libation Bearers? Why do you think it is represented differently in the play? (From Boardman, Athenian Red Figure Vases of the Archaic Period [London and New York: Thames & Hudson, 1975], page, fig.274.2)
Many representations of Orestes at Delphi appear on South Italian vases of the fourth century and are influenced in their conception and execution by the reprentation of scenes on the tragic stage. (See the discussion of these in the background notes, under Furies.) Here are two vase paintings from the second half of the fifth century which are different. On the one above, Orestes, with his sword drawn, kneels on a pile of rocks. Apollo stands behind him, holding a laurel branch, and behind Apollo is a veiled woman holding a torch: she is usually identified as Artemis. On the right, a winged fury pursues Orestes. (To see a larger version, click on the image.) This representation does not correspond to any particular moment in the play. How do you read its message? (From Shapiro, Myth into Art: Poet and Painter in Classical Greece [London and New York: Routlege, 1994], fig. 102, p. 145)
On this vase, Orestes wears a cloak and traveling hat, and holds a sword and two spears. He is leaning on an altar of rough-hewn stones. To the right, Apollo holds up his right hand and extends a branch in his left. A winged fury with snakes in her hair approaches on the extreme right. (To see a larger version, click on the image.) Like the vase painting above, this representation does not correspond to any particular moment in the play. How do you read this image? (From Boardman, Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Classical Period [New York and London: Thames and Hudson, 1989], fig. 198.)