In the last year of his life, Ted Hughes completed translations of three major dramatic works: Racine's “Phedre,” Euripedes' “Alcestis,” and the trilogy of plays known as at “The” “Oresteia,” a family story of astonishing power and the background or inspiration for much subsequent drama, fiction, and poetry.
“The Oresteia”—Agamemnon, Choephori, and the Eumenides—tell the story of the house of Atreus: After King Agamemnon is murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, their son, Orestes, is commanded by Apollo to avenge the crime by killing his mother, and he returns from exile to do so, bringing on himself the wrath of the Furies and the judgment of the court of Athens.
Hughes's “acting version” of the trilogy is faithful to its nature as a dramatic work, and his translation is itself a great performance; while artfully inflected with the contemporary, it has a classical beauty and authority. Hughes's “Oresteia” is quickly becoming the standard edition for English-language readers and for the stage, too.
Janet Lembke, a poet, is the author of Bronze and Iron, and is co-translator of the forthcoming edition of Euripides's Suppliants, also in the Greek Tragedy in New Translations series.
C. John Herington is Professor of Classics and Talcott Professor of Greek at Yale University. He is the author of several books, including Poetry into Drama and Aeschylus.