26. The Suppliants (463 BC) by Aeschylus

Plot : Two brothers, Aegyptus and Danaus, descendants of Io and Zeus, have fifty children each. Aegyptus’ fifty sons determine to carry off Danaus’ fifty daughters, who escape with their father to Argos, their ancestral home. The Egyptians follow, and Danaus and the maidens beg King Pelasgus of Argos to protect them.
My thoughts : Again, with only one third of the story available, reading this play is unsatisfying. The drama of the arrival of the Egyptians and their promise of war is left hanging by the unfortunate loss of the other parts. A shame as the remainder of the story would have been interesting : the second play would have Danaus relenting and giving up his daughters, yet make the girls vow to kill their husbands on the wedding night. (Danaus has been prophesised to die at the hands of his son-in-law, a likely bet for someone with fifty daughters!). However, one daughter Hypermestra, has fallen in love with her husband and refuses to kill him. The third play would have to resolve the guilt of all concerned.
Like Seven against Thebes, the Gods are called on for help, but never appear on stage. I wonder if it was sacrilegious to portray a God on stage?
Favourite lines/passages
The Egyptians approach, and the maidens have been left alone by Danaus who has returned to Pelasgus to seek aid. The Maidens cry out

Could I but find a seat in the blue air
Where drifting rain-clouds turn to snow,
Some smooth summit where even goats cannot climb,
A place beyond sight, aloof,
A dizzy crag, vulture haunted,
To witness my plunge into the abyss,
To escape a forced marriage my heart refuses!
The my dead flesh might feed wild dogs,
Fatten the vultures of the valley, I’d be content!
For death is freed from suffering and tears.
Let death aim well,
And claim me before the bed and the embrace,
Where can I fly to be free,
To escape the bond of the flesh?

Diversions/digressions : Potentially confusing, there is another play by Euripides called The Suppliants, or The Suppliant Maidens, which is not related to the events of Aeschylus’ play, but is related to the events in Seven against Thebes. A trap for beginners like me!
Personal rating : 4/10
Next :  Aeschylus’ (and Ancient Greece’s) only surviving trilogy of plays, The Oresteia (458 BC), consisting of Agamemmnon , The Choephori (or, The Libation Bearers), and The Eumenides (or, The Furies)

 

 

 

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