“Of Everything He is the Theme”: Archetypal Criticism and the Phases of Myth

Essay completed 25 September 2017

Archetypal criticism identifies the symbolic elements in “pre-literary categories” such as “ritual, myth and folk tale” from humanity’s past that still make up narratives today (Frye 1308-1309). Literary critic Northrop Frye establishes a systematic foundation for archetypal criticism in his 1951 essay “The Archetypes of Literature.” Continue reading ““Of Everything He is the Theme”: Archetypal Criticism and the Phases of Myth”

Beyond the Veil: Staging and Violence in Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 26 October 2015

“Greek theatre was an exercise of the eye,” says Camille Paglia (Paglia 104). In the first two plays of the Oresteia, Aeschylus explores the dichotomy of the seen and the unseen in two climactic murder revelation scenes. Clytemnestra murders her husband and his concubine in Agamemnon, only to be murdered alongside her lover by her son in The Libation Bearers. When Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon and his concubine, the chorus and the audience can only hear the king’s dying cries (Agamemnon 1369). Aegisthus meets his end the same way, behind the skene where his murderer awaits (The Libation Bearers 857). Orestes then pulls his mother into the palace and kills her offstage (The Libation Bearers 918). All four murders occur behind the palace walls and out of the audience’s sight. Aeschylus’ decision not to depict any violence onstage makes his audience “imagine the horror of the killing… an effect more powerful than words alone…” (Wiles 140). Continue reading “Beyond the Veil: Staging and Violence in Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers”