The Persians

Subsequent production history

According to a scholium at Aristophanes' Frogs 1028, Hiero of Syracuse at some point invited Aeschylus to reproduce The Persians in Sicily.[13]

Seventy years after the play was produced, the comic playwright Aristophanes mentions an apparent Athenian reproduction of The Persians in his Frogs (405 BCE).[14] In it, he has Aeschylus describe The Persians as "an effective sermon on the will to win. Best thing I ever wrote"; while Dionysus says that he "loved that bit where they sang about the days of the great Darius, and the chorus went like this with their hands and cried 'Wah! Wah!'" (1026–28).[15]

The Persians was popular in the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire, who also fought wars with the Persians, and its popularity has endured in modern Greece. According to Anthony Podlecki, during a production at Athens in 1965 the audience "rose to its feet en masse and interrupted the actors' dialogue with cheers."[16]

The American Peter Sellars directed an important production of The Persians at the Edinburgh Festival and Los Angeles Festival in 1993, which articulated the play as a response to the Gulf War of 1990–1991. The production was in a new translation by Robert Auletta.[17] It opened at the Royal Lyceum Theatre on 16 August 1993.[18] Hamza El Din composed and performed its music, with additional music by Ben Halley Jr. and sound design by Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger.[18] Dunya Ramicova designed the costumes and James F. Ingalls the lighting.[18] Cordelia Gonzalez played Atossa, Howie Seago the Ghost of Darius, and John Ortiz played Xerxes.[18] The Chorus was performed by Ben Halley Jr, Joseph Haj, and Martinus Miroto.[18]

Ellen McLaughlin translated Persians in 2003 for Tony Randall's National Actors Theatre in New York as a response to George Bush's invasion of Iraq.[19] The production starred Len Cariou as Darius.

A 2010 translation by Aaron Poochigian [20] included for the first time the detailed notes for choral odes that Aeschylus himself created, which directed lines to be spoken by specific parts of the chorus (strophe and antistrophe). Using Poochigian's edition, which includes theatrical notes and stage directions, "Persians" was presented in a staged read-through as part of New York's WorkShop Theater Company's Spring 2011 one-act festival "They That Have Borne the Battle."[21]

Also in 2010, Kaite O'Reilly's award-winning translation was produced on Sennybridge Training Area (a military range in the Brecon Beacons) by National Theatre Wales. Audiences valued the way this production required them to shift their attention between the spectacular landscape surrounding them, the particular history of the area, and the modern adaptation of the ancient Greek text performed onstage.[22] The work went on to win O'Reilly the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, presented by the Poet Laureate Carole, Ann Duffy.


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