Pylades in the Libation Bearers

Ὀρέστης: Πυλάδη τί δράσω; μητέρ᾽ αἰδεσθῶ κτανεῖν;
Πυλάδης: ποῦ δὴ τὰ λοιπὰ Λοξίου μαντεύματα τὰ πυθόχρηστα, πιστὰ δ᾽ εὐορκώματα; ἅπαντας ἐχθροὺς τῶν θεῶν ἡγοῦ πλέον.

Orestes: Pylades, what shall I do? Shall I spare my mother out of pity?Pylades: What then will become in the future of Loxias’ oracles declared at Pytho, and of our sworn pact? Count all men your enemies rather than the gods.

Aesch. Lib. 875

Every three years the Oxford University Classical Drama Society put on a Greek play in ancient Greek at the Oxford Playhouse. I have been to a number of these plays and a number of them have been exceptionally good. For a number of reasons I don’t think that the last one I went to (Aeschylus – Libation bearers in 2011) equalled the standard of previous ones. The principal reason why this production failed for me was that they eliminated the character of Pylades. I should stress that there have been many positive comments on this production so this is only my view. 

Just to recap Orestes returns to Argos with his friend Pylades to take vengeance on this his mother Clytamnestra and her lover Aegisthus for the murder of his father. For most of the play Pylades is silent until the moment when Orestes is about to kill his mother. At his point he begins to have doubts and asks Pylades what he should do. Pylades replies as above and the deed is done. In the OUCDS production there was no Pylades character. The question was asked but there was no reply. Instead there was a sort of murmur in the music. For me this was absolutely flat and undramatic. But it did show me one thing namely how important Pylades is to the play. He may only have a couple of lines but these lines are the centre of the play. Orestes has to obey the oracle of Apollo despite the dreadful thing he has to do if he does obey it.

The next OUCDS production is the Furies later this year. I am looking forward to seeing it.

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