Does the fact that he transformed Aeschylus
to his own porpoises mean that he misunderstood


-----Original Message-----
From: Carrol Cox [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Sunday, September 29, 2002 3:14 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: My pickiness: a reply to Peter

Peter Montgomery wrote:
> I in the mean time will continue to see Eliot's
> use of the Erinyes as a model for people having
> to face the consequences of their actions in all
> his plays.

But it also tells us something about Eliot (_and_ the plays) that he
profoundly misunderstood the thrust of the Aeschylean drama. There is no
question of conscience or facing consequences in Aeschylus. It is a
political/religious, _not_ moral or psychological drama.

There is nothing wrong with a poet radically misreading earlier poets;
Bloom may have something in his theory of (whatever the theory is
called). But there is also nothing wrong (in fact I think it is highly
desirable) that we incorporate recognition of that misreading into our
reading of the poet concerned.

Athena and Apollo (though in quite different ways -- those differences
also being important) are both emphatic that Orestes must _not_ be asked
to "face the consequences of his action."

Athena _persuades_ the Furies to accept the new order (among other
things, Aeschylus is urging the Athenian aristocracy to accept its new
place in the Democracy) -- in fact she uses some form of the word for
persuasion about every other line. But there is never any doubt but what
this is the Daughter of Zeus (with the thunderbolt at her disposal) who
is doing the persuading. The modern slang (an offer one can't refuse) is
not at all inappropriate to the scene.

(One can read the Oresteia as a 'rewriting' of the Odyssey, and the
Republic as Plato's attempt to rewrite and twist to aristocratic
purposes the Oresteia. Someone someday will write a book on the
sequence: Odyssey, Oresteia, Republic, Cantos.)

(I would say more, but it has been nearly 50 years since I read the
_Elder Statesman_, and I can't remember a single detail. I saw the
_Cocktail Party_ in Washington D.C. back in '52 or '53, and wrote a
paper on it in grad school -- but about all I can remember about it is
that the psychiatrist wanted only a very tiny drop of water in his gin.)


Ooops. Just went up stairs to check my copies. Obviously it was not 50
years ago I read the _Elder Statesman_ -- I must be thinking of _The
Family Reunion_ as the book I read but don't remember. I own what looks
to be the first (Faber & Faber) edition of _Statesman_, but don't know
whether I ever read it. I also own the first American edition of
_Confidential Clerk_, but I'm (almost) sure I never read that. It must
not have sold very rapidly, because I bought it in November '55, and it
is dated 1954. Someone mentioned his 'deserting' Hayward. When did that
happen. He's still thanking Hayward in the front of _Statesman_ in
November '58.