By Matthew Wright
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Extra info for Euripides: Orestes
6 Aristotle was writing in the fourth century BC, several decades later than the plays that he describes; and his views on tragedy, coloured by his own very particular and complex philosophical preoccupations, will have been very different from the views of Euripides or his audience. What is a ‘perfect’ or ‘unitary’ plot in any case? The question 31 Euripides: Orestes is very difficult, or even impossible, to answer. 7 What is important is that a definite design can be perceived in the plot of Orestes: it is not simply a random, cobbled-together series of events.
47 Euripides: Orestes Choral song (1537-48) Another brief interlude, answering the earlier strophe at 135365 and using the same music. As Willink points out in his commentary, this ‘long-range responsion’ in effect marks off lines 1353-1548 as a self-contained act-within-an-act. The chorus sing yet again of the fall of the house of Atreus. As they sing, they notice smoke rising from the front of the palace (1542). ’ (1547) – a common enough image in tragedy, which here is transformed into a real threat, as it seems that the house may literally be destroyed.
It also strikes me that any mention of Menelaus’ smart appearance here might have seemed particularly pointed to anyone in the audience who remembered Euripides’ Helen (in which Menelaus was so dirty and ragged that he was unrecognizable to his wife). 25 Menelaus questions Orestes, in an unusually lengthy sequence of stichomythia (385-447), about what has been happening to him. But as the scene progresses, it becomes less likely that Menelaus’ arrival will actually result in the longedfor deliverance that it promised.