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Vittorio Alfieri’s tormented relationship with Aeschylus: Agamennone between Tradition and Innovation

Di Martino, G; (2019) Vittorio Alfieri’s tormented relationship with Aeschylus: Agamennone between Tradition and Innovation. Anabases , 29 pp. 121-133. 10.4000/anabases.8704. Green open access

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Abstract

In 1783, Vittorio Alfieri, one of the most prominent cultural figures of 18th-century Italy, published his first tragedies, amongst which both Agamennone and Oreste. Standing between humanistic freedom when dealing with the ancients and his rationalistic world, Alfieri endeavors to expand and question the linguistic, theatrical and political limits of Italian theatre, challenging his contemporaries with a new notion of the tragic. Particularly interesting is his Agamemnon, which stands out as a new Italian classic: its contemporary strength originates from an emulation of Aeschylus’ homonymous play, which he reads through Brumoy’s Théâtre des Grecs, and of Seneca’s Agamemnon, which the critics have always been prone to recognize as Alfieri’s main source. However true this might be on a superficial (and linguistic) level, I will argue that Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, via Brumoy, plays as essential a role in the creation of Alfieri’s masterpiece as Seneca’s tragedy. The craggy Aeschylean representation of the gods and fixity of the characters are transposed on the figure of Clytemnestra, becoming tyrannical inner forces: in other words, Aeschylus’ play converts into a tragedy about the inner tyranny that our psyches exert on ourselves, an interpretation that will enjoy widespread appreciation throughout the centuries. In the history of the reception of ancient drama in Early Modern Europe, Alfieri stands at the end of the chain: a hybrid figure, anchored to the ancients, yet inevitably imbued with modern anxiety.

Type: Article
Title: Vittorio Alfieri’s tormented relationship with Aeschylus: Agamennone between Tradition and Innovation
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.4000/anabases.8704
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.4000/anabases.8704
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Vittorio Alfieri, XVIIIth century, Pierre Brumoy, modern tragedy, greek tragedy reception, Aeschylus, Agamemnon, theatre translation, theatre adaptation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Greek and Latin
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10137639
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