Date

5-1-2020

Description

Classical scholars have long acknowledged that Aeschylus' plays the Persians and the Oresteia have many pro-democratic, anti-monarchical themes. Aeschylus lived during Athenian tyranny, fought against monarchy in the Persian Wars, and witnessed the shift from tyranny to democracy in Athens; his plays reflect his attitudes towards each of these forms of government. Scholars have not acknowledged, however, that Aeschylus used ghosts in his plays to express his aversion to monarchy and tyranny and his veneration of democracy. In this paper, I examine the ghosts of Darius in the Persians, Clytemnestra in the Eumenides, and Helen in the lost satyr play Proteus in order to demonstrate that the desires, characteristics, and presence of these ghosts reflect Aeschylus' opinion that problems in the monarchical family lead to the corruption of the state, while under democracy personal strife does not become political. Each of these ghosts appear only under tyranny or monarchy. In Aeschylean drama, the ghost does not exist in democratic Athens because democracy represents all things opposite to the ghost: rationality, safety, and fairness. Democracy dispels the unwanted ghosts.

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May 1st, 12:00 AM

Democratic Ghosts in Aeschylean Drama

Classical scholars have long acknowledged that Aeschylus' plays the Persians and the Oresteia have many pro-democratic, anti-monarchical themes. Aeschylus lived during Athenian tyranny, fought against monarchy in the Persian Wars, and witnessed the shift from tyranny to democracy in Athens; his plays reflect his attitudes towards each of these forms of government. Scholars have not acknowledged, however, that Aeschylus used ghosts in his plays to express his aversion to monarchy and tyranny and his veneration of democracy. In this paper, I examine the ghosts of Darius in the Persians, Clytemnestra in the Eumenides, and Helen in the lost satyr play Proteus in order to demonstrate that the desires, characteristics, and presence of these ghosts reflect Aeschylus' opinion that problems in the monarchical family lead to the corruption of the state, while under democracy personal strife does not become political. Each of these ghosts appear only under tyranny or monarchy. In Aeschylean drama, the ghost does not exist in democratic Athens because democracy represents all things opposite to the ghost: rationality, safety, and fairness. Democracy dispels the unwanted ghosts.