aeschylus was born into an aristocratic family at Eleusis in about 525BC and died in sicily in about 456BC.
he is one of athens three great tragic playwrights.
he is thought to have fought in the battles marathon and salamis.
he wrote over 70 plays but only 7 have survived, the persians is the earliest of his plays we have
persians is the only surviving greek non comic play that uses recent historical events for its subject matter rather than ancient legend.
the play was produced only 8 years after the battle of salamis, with which it is mostly concerned.
it is one of the only 3 examples of what is termed ‘old tragedy’, a genre at which aeschylus excelled and for which he introduced the ‘second actor’.
aeschylus was about 35 when darius’ invasion force landed at marathon and 45 when the battle of salamis took place.
it is known that his brother was killed at marathon.
as all athenian citizens abandoned the city and took part in salamis, it is likely that aeschylus also participated.
the persians were produced as part of a tetralogy of plays. the other 3 plays were: Phineus, Glaucus Potnieus, abd Prometheus Pyrakaeus.
persae sat between the 1st and 2nd mentioned.
THE STAGING OF THE PLAY - SPECTACLE AND PERFORMANCE
performed at the Dionysia in Athens. (festival dedicated to dionysus)
the festival included, apart from the rites, sacrifices to the god, dance competitions and recitations of the Homeric epices.
about the time of aeschylus’ birth(525BC) a new artistic form -tragedy- was added to the list of activities.
it envolved gradually but even at the beginning it included a chorus and, for the very first tiem, and ‘actor’.
all protagonists were masked, and would have been in costume.
writing in the middle and fourth century, more than 150 years later, aristotle says that it was aeschylus who added a second actor and subordinated the chorus ‘in favour of dialogue’
according to Raphael and McLeish ‘it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of music in an ancient performance of aeschylus’
this had the effect of heightening the emotional impact of the performance on the audience.
as well as music, there was dance
action takes place in the court of Xerxes’ at Susa.
the dramatic date is late 480
the greekes have already defeated xerxes at salamis but news of the battle has yet to reach the persian court.
THE KING’S CHARACTER IN AESCHYLUS
in the play, during the conversation between darius and atossa, we learn a great deal about Xerxes, even though he himself only appears at the very end.
it was ‘rashness’ that caused him to embark on this adventure. his father exclaims that he is a ‘poor fool’ a god has ‘robbed xerxes of his wits’. now darius shouts ‘o wretched son, to lose so fine an allied force!’ ‘was this not some madness that possessed him?’
atossa joins in to repeat the charges against him for extra emphasis…