MSC "Curses!" Forum         Course texts are available here.

               Use your first name only, please - click "New Entry" to post.

               To add images to your post, use ImgBB (free) and paste the URL into your post; or you can click here for other options.

               To shorten a long URL, go to

[ New entry ]

famous poisoning scenes

December 04, 2021, 05:32

Here's one.

"No, no, the drink,—O my dear Hamlet—The drink, the drink! I am poison'd."

Beverly Woodcock

December 02, 2021, 21:06

I watched the recording of Monday's class and enjoyed the recording of the sea chanty. " Rolling river" has been going through my head since then.
I have also been enjoying the 1947 version of the play by the British Film Institute . It is in quite good shape and has closed captions.

"Lemnian" crime

December 01, 2021, 17:31

Aeschylus discusses the "Lemnian crime" in The Libation Bearers, in Lattimore, lines 630-640 or so. Someone asked a question about this during the class. [I've relistened to the 1st 3 classes to "catch up" with the group. I got behind because of the overlap with the Iphegenia ArtsEmerson group I participated in.] Anyway, the wiki entry for Hypsipyle is a good source to start with. When the women of Lemnos all killed all the males on the island, Hypsipyle saved her father King Thoas of Lemnos.

Jason of the Argonauts (the golden fleece, etc.) found his way to Lemnos. Hypsipyle and Jason had children together. The wiki entry for Jason also covers the story about the women of Lemnos.

Wayne Olson

Note: the story of the women of Lemnos is, of course, another tale of revenge, this time on a grand scale. The avenging female, as a type, fits into the two works we are reading. Compare, though, Aeschylus' Electra with O'Neill's Lavinia--or Clytemnestra with Christine Mannon. Interesting.
Thanks, Wayne.


November 30, 2021, 21:25

Here's Classics Summarized: Iphegenia, the "prequel" to Classics Summarized: Oresteia. As it happens, it uses frames from the movie Iphegenia, 1977, directed by Michael Cacoyannis, starring the one-and-only Irene Papas as Clytemnestra. Irene Papas is maybe the greatest female actor of her time? [My joke to myself was that she was the female version of Marlon Brando. However, the next day I read on Wikipedia that she probably had a long-term love affair with Marlon Brando, so there you go.]


November 29, 2021, 16:03

Here is a search page with lots of versions and lectures on Mourning Becomes Electra. Some of these are silly, some serious, but all show how attractive this play has been to actors and commentators.


November 24, 2021, 20:33

Film of Mourning Becomes Electra. It runs about 2 1/2 hours. This is the 1947 film with Rosalind Russell, Michael Redgrave, Raymond Massey, Kirk Douglas, Leo Genn, Nancy Coleman, Sara Allgood.

Note that this video is on a Russian site. Although I don't see a problem with it, you might wish to turn off some of the switches in the "OK" popup that appears on the right.

1977 Film Version of Iphigenia

November 19, 2021, 01:33

“Iphengenia” Irene Pappas, Greek with English Subtitles. Free at this link

The link (click on it or cut and paste it) to watch the movie is:

Summary from Wikipedia "Iphigenia is a 1977 Greek film directed by Michael Cacoyannis, based on the Greek myth of Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra who was ordered by the goddess Artemis to be sacrificed. Cacoyannis adapted the film, the third in his "Greek tragedy" trilogy (after the release of Electra in 1962 and The Trojan Women in 1971), from his stage production of Euripides' play Iphigenia at Aulis. The film stars [13-year old] Tatiana Papamoschou as Iphigenia, Kostas Kazakos as Agamemnon and the legendary actress Irene Papas as Clytemnestra."

ArtEmerson Lecture Related to Iphegenia

November 19, 2021, 01:27

Here's a better link the other one doesn't seem to work at this point.

Note that the dialogue isn't audible until about 26:20 into the video recording of the lecture. As a suggestion, I'd suggest checking out the discussion at the 40:35 mark to the 47:45 about the topic of Iphegenia as sacrificial victim, martyr, or someone that resists/refuses to sacrifice.

The opera version of Iphegenia doesn't attempt to follow Eurepides' play. Rather, it focuses on Iphigenia as she faces her plight.


November 17, 2021, 12:19

There are many version of the Oresteia on YouTube:

ArtsEmerson lecture related to Iphegenia

November 15, 2021, 21:31

Here is the link to stream the lecture organized by ArtsEmerson. The lecture is at 7:00 this evening, but will also be available for viewing at a later time.

Let me know if the link doesn't work!!!

Speakers include esperanza spalding (librettist for the jazz opera and highly successful jazz singer/bass player), Boston While Black Founder Sheena Collier, acclaimed musicologist Dr. Carolyn Abbate, and Boston artist and educator U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo, moderated by Emerson College assistant professor and Ancient Greek scholar Dr. Dana Edell.

Wayne (via Paul)

November 15, 2021, 17:16

Helen's name spells "death of ships, death of men, death of the city."

Here are my cryptic comments on this.

neologisms [newly coined words or expressions]

My guesstimate.
helenas or helenaus = ship-destroyer = hell-to-men
helandros death of men = man-destroyer = hell-to-men
heleptolis death of the city = Troy-destroyer = hell-to-cities

hel = take/conquer/destroy/death
ptolis = city [polis = city-state]
andros = men
naus = ship [something to do with ships or travel, somewhere far away, like the moon]

I just found this article, which backs me up!

"Her appearance in Aeschylus is perhaps the most interesting of all. In the Agamemnon (458 BC) we find word-games using her name in three famous neologisms: Helenaus (ἑλέναυς), Helandros (ἕλανδρος) and Helepolis (ἑλέπολις) (689–90).[4] All three are compounds: naus (ship), anēr (man) and polis (city) combine with the element Hel- from the name Helen, which conveys “grabbing”, “conquering”, or even “killing”. So Helenaus is ship-destroyer, Helandros man-destroyer, Helepolis city-, or rather Troy-destroyer. This sense can be well rendered in English translation as “Hell-to-ships”, “Hell-to-men”, “Hell-to-cities”. However, what Aeschylus meant by these neologisms is quite ambiguous: it is unclear whether they refer to the destruction of ships, cities and warriors wrought by the Greeks, on their journey back or as a result of war, or instead refer to the harm they suffered in the Trojan war she caused."

Wayne (via Paul)

November 15, 2021, 17:13

Link to streaming of lecture about Iphigenia at Aulis

Information on the lecture.

Information on the discussion group.

In the discussion group, we had time to read the entire play out loud as a group.


November 15, 2021, 16:13

I'm curious about the net that Clytaemestra uses to overcome Agamemnon before she stabs him. Was the net part of the original myth or a convention added by Aeschylus to provide a visual idea of how she could immobilize her husband and stab him? Are there other references to the symbolism of the net?

References to nets are plentiful through the play. And through Greek tragedy. For instance, when Oedipus learns that he has accidentally killed his father, he says, "Alas! What net has God been weaving for me?"(Fitts/Fitzgerald trans.) I believe the theme behind it is that the nets of the gods bind mortals and eliminate their free will. [Paul]


November 10, 2021, 15:02

If you don't have time to read Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis, or, like Wayne, to see it as a jazz opera, there's this:


November 09, 2021, 22:26

More on the curse on the House of Atreus:


November 09, 2021, 12:27

The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia (1653) by Sébastien Bourdon:


November 08, 2021, 20:29

Here is a source regarding Clytemnestra's first husband:

An alternate, and less often told, version of the Clytemnestra myth had the daughter of Tyndareus already married before meeting Agamemnon.

In this case, Clytemnestra was married to a man called Tantalus, son of Broteas, and therefore grandson of the more famous Tantalus; and Clytemnestra had born her husband a son. Agamemnon decided that he wanted Clytemnestra to be his wife, and so he killed Tantalus and Clytemnestra’s son.

Tyndareus would have killed the murderer of his son-in-law and grandson, but when the king of Sparta came upon Agamemnon, Agamemnon was on his knees praying to the gods, and taken by the piety, Tyndareus decided not to kill Agamemnon, and instead Agamemnon and Clytemnestra were wed.

Remember that Hamlet did not kill Claudius when he found the king praying. Hamlet Act III Scene III lines 36 to 101.

This is why I love literature!


November 08, 2021, 18:50

Next Monday, we'll pick up where we left off (entrance of Agamemnon) and cruise into "The Libation Bearers."

Keith Fleeman

November 08, 2021, 16:11

Calchas, the seer in "Agamemnon", also appears in the first scene of the Iliad. From Wikipedia:
In the Iliad, Calchas is cast as the apostle of divine truth. His most powerful skeptic is Agamemnon himself, who has had to give up his daughter to human sacrifice and his prize to ransoming, both because of the prophesying of Calchas. He calls Calchas "prophet of evil."

Calchas tells the Greeks that the captive Chryseis must be returned to her father Chryses in order to get Apollo to stop the plague he has sent as a punishment: this triggered the quarrel of the hero Achilles and Agamemnon, the main theme of the Iliad. As kings may do as they please, Calchas finds it necessary to lean on the support of a champion, Achilles, who opposes Agamemnon in assembly. Agamemnon refuses to accept the edict of Apollo that he should give up his prize, but bypasses it by taking Achilles’ prize. There follows "the wrath of Achilles," which is righteous anger on behalf of the divine will. With the help of the gods, Achilles struggles to restore righteousness.

Regrets for using Wikipedia as a source, but it is succinct and to the point.

Thanks, Keith. The problem with Wikipedia is that the quality of editors varies so much. But it is useful, for sure.

Keith Fleeman

November 08, 2021, 16:03

In a late variation, Euripides's Iphigenia at Aulis, Clytemnestra's first husband was Tantalus, King of Pisa; Agamemnon killed him and Clytemnestra's infant son, then made Clytemnestra his wife.

1 2 »

Admin-Login | powered by James Joyce's Ghost