by Edith Hamilton, 1965

A Review

Edith Hamilton passed her own mortal coil when I, Salembard, a lad of but 11 years, was first introduced to performance and rhetoric. To her chorus, I beg pardon for these poor words offered in praise of the muses who by combined charis, combined grace, provided the vision for her singular translations into our modern tongue!

Had she advised me, no doubt, I would have never studied German, nor Spanish, but the ancient fashion of the Greeks she spent a lifetime embracing, offering to the world a light that at four score and ten years, earned her recognition in Athens herself. Those who seek inspiration, heed my counsel, hear her muse. Listen to Professor Hamilton’s words regarding the trials, the duties, and the diligence of good and proper craft, combining appreciation for the arts, of culture, and language. Dear friend, tarry not, move forward, however awkward or uncertain be your progress, into the music of Erato, blessed sister of Eros, poetic muse whose light brings voice to thought human and divine! Translation? Transliteration? Nay, the aesthetic art most high flows loud and shines brightly still. Therefore, my true thought springs from the deep, the true Mother Night to inspire beauteous performance and understanding of these Three Greek Plays!

Hamilton offers masterful demonstration and by way of her introductions, the revelation and craft of the translator. Any who find her instruction disappointing, should, I proffer, return another day and try again to hear and understand the wisdom of Euripides and of Aeschylus, the father of Greek tragedy. Entering the brilliance of such light often comes with momentary loss of vision.

After some reflection, Let us consider the plays. Euripides, The Trojan Women, and Prometheus; and then Agamemnon by Aeschylus.

The Trojan Women

Here I offer some thematic observations for Hamilton’s rendition of a disturbing and revealing anti-war play by Euripides, The Trojan Women. The towers of Ilium have succumbed to the Greeks. Troy, vanquished, suffers the fate of the ancients whose fate casts them from victory into defeat. Experience their anguish as their husbands, their fathers, brothers, and sons are put to death, their wealth seized. Their girls and women await news of their new masters as liberty passes into memory, their situations now reduced to slavery. From highest to the low, the Trojan Women lament and grieve the loss of loved ones and their ancient civilization. Join their laments as anxiety becomes unbearable and the women of Troy are reduced to servitude, retaining no measure of rights or value. Consider the plight of victims of war. Rewards of the victorious quickly lose any vainglorious trappings so often adorning the victory song of the conqueror. Lessons well received in ancient Athens, who in shock bid the playwright take leave of Attica and flee north to retire and perish an old and poor man, yet rich in memory through the ages, even to our day.


Time for Aeschylus, whose gift of Tragedy and the peculiar style of verse for the Chorus, Hamilton transforms into English for us to apprehend. She arranges threads of her rhythmic verse as fibers before a loom, devotions for the Muses. Each arrangement and conjoining of threads sparks new illuminations as Professor Hamilton’s craft reveals the viewpoint of immortal Prometheus whose sufferings have only begun. He, cruelly pinned to a rock high in the Caucuses, holds firm in the justice of his acts. He will be visited by numerous agents of the gods, Zeus ever aware of Prometheus’s rebukes against the folly of the gods of Olympus.  Zeus, too, whose fate, Prometheus proclaims, will be far more desperate than his own after he too will fall. Read or better yet, listen to Hamilton’s rendition of how a titan condemned to suffer the tortures of a vengeful and most-high god, endures, knowing he will know justice and find liberation as his tormentor, in his turn, will fall into desperation.


The final act, the final Aeschylus tragedy could have been a work of a modern feminist playwright. Aeschylus revisits the aftermath of the Greek victory over the Trojans. Agamemnon triumphant, returns home, chief among the kings of Hellas, to face downfall by his own queen, Clytemnestra, whose need for justice and vengeance for his bloody sacrifice of their daughter, Princess Iphigenia, when the fleet first set sail to begin the decade of war against Troy. The fruits of victory offer a bitter harvest indeed to those whose power and privilege arise from evil done to others. The queen, like the ancient Prometheus, stands firm, accepting any fate that may befall her, secure in her sense of Justice fulfilled. The craft of Professor Hamilton rings through her English transformation of Aeschylus for our eyes and ears to enter and emerge overwhelmed and amazed with new understanding of the origins of tragedy in the ancient world. We are privileged to read, and as we can hear her transmutation of the play, Agamemnon, a fitting final installment for Three Greek Plays.

Five Stars ***** for the gift of eke kai phos, of sound and light, instruction and demonstration of wisdom.

Presented to the reader and hearer by Dean Edwards, AKA Salembard, 2024

Find Three Greek Plays here.


  • president and International coordinating editor, Democracy Watch News; Pacific Northwest coordinating editor, International Collaborative Media Alliance.

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