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Athens: Its Rise and Fall, Complete by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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chastisement, since his fate is not calculated to excite our

[363] Electra, I. 250-300.

[364] When (line 614) Clytemnestra reproaches Electra for using
insulting epithets to a mother--and "Electra, too, at such a time of
life"--I am surprised that some of the critics should deem it doubtful
whether Clytemnestra meant to allude to her being too young or too
mature for such unfilial vehemence. Not only does the age of Orestes,
so much the junior to Electra, prove the latter signification to be
the indisputable one, but the very words of Electra herself to her
younger sister, Chrysothemis, when she tells her that she is "growing
old, unwedded."

Estos'onde tou chronou
alektra gaearskousan anumegaia te.

Brunck has a judicious note on Electra's age, line 614.

[365] Macbeth, act i., scene 5.

[366] See Note [376].

[367] Sophocles skilfully avoids treading the ground consecrated to
Aeschylus. He does not bring the murder before us with the struggles
and resolve of Orestes.

[368] This is very characteristic of Sophocles; he is especially fond
of employing what may be called "a crisis in life" as a source of
immediate interest to the audience. So in the "Oedipus at Coloneus,"
Oedipus no sooner finds he is in the grove of the Furies than he knows
his hour is approaching; so, also, in the "Ajax," the Nuncius
announces from the soothsayer, that if Ajax can survive the one day
which makes the crisis of his life, the anger of the goddess will
cease. This characteristic of the peculiar style of Sophocles might
be considered as one of the proofs (were any wanting) of the
authenticity of the "Trachiniae."

[369] M. Schlegel rather wantonly accuses Deianira of "levity"--all
her motives, on the contrary, are pure and high, though tender and

[370] Observe the violation of the unity which Sophocles, the most
artistical of all the Greek tragedians, does not hesitate to commit
whenever he thinks it necessary. Hyllus, at the beginning of the
play, went to Cenaeum; he has been already there and back--viz., a
distance from Mount Oeta to a promontory in Euboea, during the time
about seven hundred and thirty lines have taken up in recital! Nor is
this all: just before the last chorus--only about one hundred lines
back--Lichas set out to Cenaeum; and yet sufficient time is supposed
to have elapsed for him to have arrived there--been present at a
sacrifice--been killed by Hercules--and after all this, for Hyllus,
who tells the tale, to have performed the journey back to Trachin.

[371] Even Ulysses, the successful rival of Ajax, exhibits a
reluctance to face the madman which is not without humour.

[372] Potter says, in common with some other authorities, that "we
may be assured that the political enmity of the Athenians to the
Spartans and Argives was the cause of this odious representation of
Menelaus and Agamemnon." But the Athenians had, at that time, no
political enmity with the Argives, who were notoriously jealous of the
Spartans; and as for the Spartans, Agamemnon and Menelaus were not
their heroes and countrymen. On the contrary, it was the thrones of
Menelaus and Agamemnon which the Spartans overthrew. The royal
brothers were probably sacrificed by the poet, not the patriot. The
dramatic effects required that they should be made the foils to the
manly fervour of Teucer and the calm magnanimity of Ulysses.

[373] That the catastrophe should be unhappy!
Aristot., Poet., xiii.

In the same chapter Aristotle properly places in the second rank of
fable those tragedies which attempt the trite and puerile moral of
punishing the bad and rewarding the good.

[374] When Aristophanes (in the character of Aeschylus) ridicules
Euripides for the vulgarity of deriving pathos from the rags, etc., of
his heroes, he ought not to have omitted all censure of the rags and
sores of the favourite hero of Sophocles. And if the Telephus of the
first is represented as a beggar, so also is the Oedipus at Coloneus
of the latter. Euripides has great faults, but he has been unfairly
treated both by ancient and modern hypercriticism.

[375] The single effects, not the plots.

[376] "Polus, celebrated," says Gellius, "throughout all Greece, a
scientific actor of the noblest tragedies." Gellius relates of him an
anecdote, that when acting the Electra of Sophocles, in that scene
where she is represented with the urn supposed to contain her
brother's remains, he brought on the stage the urn and the relics of
his own son, so that his lamentations were those of real emotion.
Poles acted the hero in the plays of Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus at
Coloneus.--Arrian. ap. Stob., xcvii., 28. The actors were no less
important personages on the ancient than they are on the modern stage.
Aristotle laments that good poets were betrayed into episodes, or
unnecessarily prolonging and adorning parts not wanted in the plot, so
as to suit the rival performers.--Arist. de Poet., ix. Precisely what
is complained of in the present day. The Attic performers were the
best in Greece--all the other states were anxious to engage them, but
they were liable to severe penalties if they were absent at the time
of the Athenian festivals. (Plut. in Alex.) They were very highly
remunerated. Polus could earn no less than a talent in two days
(Plut. in Rhet. vit.), a much larger sum (considering the relative
values of money) than any English actor could now obtain for a
proportionate period of service. Though in the time of Aristotle
actors as a body were not highly respectable, there was nothing highly
derogatory in the profession itself. The high birth of Sophocles and
Aeschylus did not prevent their performing in their own plays. Actors
often took a prominent part in public affairs; and Aristodemus, the
player, was sent ambassador to King Philip. So great, indeed, was the
importance attached to this actor, that the state took on itself to
send ambassadors in his behalf to all the cities in which he had
engagements.--Aeschin. de Fals. Legat., p. 30-203, ed. Reiske.

[377] The Minerva Promachus. Hae megalae Athaena.

[378] Zosimus, v., p. 294.

[379] Oedip. Colon., 671, etc.

[380] Oedip. Colon., 691.

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