Maria Takolander reviews 'Iphigenia Among the Taurians' by Euripides translated by Anne Carson

Maria Takolander reviews 'Iphigenia Among the Taurians' by Euripides translated by Anne Carson

Iphigenia among the Taurians

by Euripides (translated by Anne Carson)

University of Chicago Press (Footprint Books), $19.95 pb, 74 pp, 9780226203621

Creativity is always an exercise in recycling. Vision comes from revision. In the ancient world, such wisdom was institutionalised; the task of the poet was to powerfully exploit a cultural storehouse of existing plots. Thus the early Greek playwrights reworked the same complex of myths. However, stories are inexhaustible, something that Scheherazade, in another ancient text, teaches us. Certainly, Greek myth continues to be a rich source of inspiration. Over millennia, writers, artists, composers – even psychoanalysts – have returned to the material of the Greek poets. Translators of the Greek classics form part of this revisionary and creative enterprise.

Euripides’ Iphigenia among the Taurians, translated by the Canadian Ancient Greek scholar and poet Anne Carson, returns to the tragic story of the House of Atreus. According to that story, summarised at the start of this play, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis in order to cure ‘the disaster of windlessness’ that befell his ship as he set sail for Troy. The distraught Clytemnestra then murdered her husband upon his return from the war; he had compounded Clytemnestra’s grief over the loss of her daughter by returning with a mistress (Cassandra). Subsequently Clytemnestra’s son Orestes (with help from his sister Electra) murdered his mother to avenge his father.

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Published in May 2015, no. 371
Maria Takolander

Maria Takolander

Maria Takolander is an Associate Professor in Literary Studies and Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria. She is the author of a book of short fiction, The Double (Text 2013); three books of poetry, The End of the World (Giramondo 2014), Ghostly Subjects (Salt 2009), and Narcissism (Whitmore Press 2005); and a book of literary criticism, Catching Butterflies: Bringing Magical Realism to Ground (Peter Lang 2009). Her poetry and fiction have been widely published and anthologised. She is the recipient of a 2014-2015 $40,000 Australia Council grant and is currently working on a novel for Text Publishing.

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