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three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

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three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:12 pm

This brief Χορός is an example of Aeschlyus' potential for rebarbative syntax[1] and discourse structure. The referent of the leading vocative γύναι might be understood as Clytemnestra which would explain αἰσχύνουσα. If we assume the referent is Aegisthus then we could still retain αἰσχύνουσα to continue the metaphor, i.e., Aegisthus referenced as woman. νέον "recently" doesn't need replacing, it makes sense with τοὺς ἥκοντας ἐκ μάχης "those recently returning from battle." The contemptuous οἰκουρὸς "stay at home" of a man who does not go to war only works on the assumption that Aegisthus is here being addressed. The participle αἰσχύνουσα or αἰσχύνων is attributive to γύναι, σὺ but we must wait until the penultimate word, ἐβούλευσας for a finite verb and a proper clause. Once again, it doesn't help matters to claim this syntax is impossible. I have observed a pronounced tendency in Sophocles and Aeschylus to pile up verb arguments[2] and attributive modifiers in front of the main finite verb. There is a structural logic to this passage, somewhat complex and some would claim awkward, but it isn't just chaos.

Χορός
1625
γύναι, σὺ τοὺς ἥκοντας ἐκ μάχης μένων
οἰκουρὸς εὐνὴν ἀνδρὸς αἰσχύνων ἅμα
ἀνδρὶ στρατηγῷ τόνδ’ ἐβούλευσας μόρον;

1625
{Χο.} γύναι, σὺ τοὺς ἥκοντας ἐκ μάχης νέον –
οἰκουρὸς εὐνήν <τ'> ἀνδρὸς αἰσχύνουσ' ἅμα,
ἀνδρὶ στρατηγῷ τόνδ' ἐβούλευσας μόρον;

CHOROS.
Woman, thou, -- of him coming new from battle
Houseguard -- thy husband's bed the while disgracing, --
For the Army-leader didst thou plan this fate too?
— Robert Browning

Chorus
1625
Woman that you are! Skulking at home and awaiting the return of the men from war, all the while defiling a hero's bed, did you contrive this death against a warrior chief?
— H. W. Smyth


[1] an expression I picked up from a Randy Groves, a Unix Systems Administrator 30 years ago. I see the expression is still in use.

[2] arguments are constituents that function as parameters with the main verb, e.g., subject, object, indirect object. I realize that parameter probably isn't anymore helpful than argument. Defining one obscure word with another.
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:19 pm

Earlier, at 1225, Cassandra used οἰκουρός to describe Aegistheus, so it probably refers to him here, too (I found this in LSJ, lest anyone thinks I'm smart enough to have noticed it on my own):

λέοντ᾽ ἄναλκιν ἐν λέχει στρωφώμενον
οἰκουρόν, οἴμοι, τῷ μολόντι δεσπότῃ
ἐμῷ:

And here, ἀνδρὸς in the phrase εὐνὴν ἀνδρὸς αἰσχύνων, especially with the repetition, ἀνδρὶ, in the next line, seems to draw a pointed contrast with Agamemnon--"a real man"--suggesting that γύναι is a contemptuous reference to Aegistheus. It's difficult to choose between αἰσχύνων and αἰσχύνουσ'--was αἰσχύνουσ' (the reading for the mss.) substituted for αἰσχύνων (conjecture) by someone who felt it needed to agree in gender with γύναι, or who thought (erroneously, it seems) that Clytaemnestra was being addressed?

Fraenkel, West and Sommerstein retain the reading of the mss., νέον, accepting the anacoluthon; Page adopts the conjecture μένων. An anacoluthon here, leaving out a verb that governs τοὺς ἥκοντας and switch mid-sentence to a new construction, seems consistent with the anger and indignation the chorus expresses towards Aegistheus. All four texts adopt αἰσχύνων. None of them opts to change τοὺς ἥκοντας to genitives (either singular or plural) -- which would be an easy fix if you could explain the change from easy grammar to difficult.

What about taking both τοὺς ἥκοντας ἐκ μάχης νέον and εὐνὴν ἀνδρὸς as parallel direct objects of αἰσχύνων? Shaming or disgracing both the troops returning from the war by staying at home as an οἰκουρός and the bed of the real man? Apparently that's the idea behind the addition of <τ'>, a conjecture Fraenkel attributes to Wilamowitz. Fraenkel rejects Wilamowitz's conjecture and interpretation as far-fetched, asserting that τοὺς ἥκοντας is a "generalizing plural" referring to Agamemnon alone. Could you arrive at that interpretation ("both the troops and the bed") with ἅμα alone? It strikes me that that is just as easy as relying on an anacoluthon to explain the accusative τοὺς ἥκοντας.
Last edited by Qimmik on Fri Jun 14, 2013 12:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Thu Jun 13, 2013 9:15 pm

Qimmik wrote:An anacoluthon here, leaving out a verb that governs τοὺς ἥκοντας and switch mid-sentence to a new construction, seems consistent with the anger and indignation the chorus expresses towards Aegistheus.


Thank you Qimmik,

I agree with and appreciate your observations. Having studied the Pauline Epistles for eons anacoluthon isn't troubling. Broken syntax, unfinished clauses, are common features of speech acts. Complete sentences in dialogue often sound strange and stilted. A lot of things are left unsaid assuming the auditor can supply them by inference. Nothing kills dialogue faster than pedantic attention to correctness. Anger is consistent with abbreviated and disjointed syntax in natural dialogue. On the other hand pedantically correct syntax in dialogue can communicate contempt in some cultures. These are broad generalizations. But how does Aeschylus portray speech acts? The tragedian poet has other compelling considerations beyond presenting naturalistic speech. But we can agree that unfinished clauses and embedded parenthetical constituents are not a cause for undue concern or justification for emendation.
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Qimmik » Thu Jun 13, 2013 11:01 pm

I think it's important to keep in mind that all of the proposals are possible, as well as the possibility that the text is corrupt in some way beyond our ability to restore it. Before we accept the text as it appears in the mss. tradition and conclude that there is an anacoluthon here, we should remmeber that someone of the stature of Wilamowitz, as well as Page and others who have been proposing conjectural emendations ever since the Renaissance, sensed a problem here. That should make us uncomfortable.

But we're not preparing an edition of the text ourselves, so we don't have to commit ourselves to a single version.

There's evidence that the texts of Greek drama became corrupted at very early stages in the transmission. Our texts may have descended from copies made by and for actors in subsequent performances, who altered it at will to suit their own preferences. And then, superimposed on errors that inevitably crept in during the course of copying over the centuries, Hellenistic and Byzantine scholarship altered the texts, using methods we might not consider particularly sound, in ways that may not necessarily have been improvements. So some of the syntactic oddities may not be the product of Aeschylean freedom of expression, and, by the same token, some flashes of Aeschylean brilliance may have been irretrievably leveled out by subsequent history.
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Qimmik » Fri Jun 14, 2013 1:07 pm

I originally wrote this:

was αἰσχύνουσ' (the reading for the mss.) substituted for αἰσχύνων (conjecture) by someone (Triclinius?) who felt it needed to agree in gender with γύναι, or who thought (erroneously, it seems) that Clytaemnestra was being addressed?


But looking at the reported readings of the mss., it looks like the substitution can't be laid at Triclinius' feet, since a manuscript (noted by the siglum M) which is independent of the group of mss. descended from T.'s revisions, also reads αἰσχύνουσ' if I'm not mistaken: none of the texts with critical notes at my disposal record a variant ms. reading here (just conjectures), and M, although missing a substantial part of the Agamemnon text, is apparently intact at this point. So the corruption, if that's what it is, goes back to the remote archetype of all the mss.

This highlights the need to read a work like the Agamemnon with one eye on the critical notes, with some understanding of the vicissitudes though which the text passed over the course of its history.
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:41 pm

Qimmik wrote:I originally wrote this:

was αἰσχύνουσ' (the reading for the mss.) substituted for αἰσχύνων (conjecture) by someone (Triclinius?) who felt it needed to agree in gender with γύναι, or who thought (erroneously, it seems) that Clytaemnestra was being addressed?


But looking at the reported readings of the mss., it looks like the substitution can't be laid at Triclinius' feet, since a manuscript (noted by the siglum M) which is independent of the group of mss. descended from T.'s revisions, also reads αἰσχύνουσ' if I'm not mistaken: none of the texts with critical notes at my disposal record a variant ms. reading here (just conjectures), and M, although missing a substantial part of the Agamemnon text, is apparently intact at this point. So the corruption, if that's what it is, goes back to the remote archetype of all the mss.

This highlights the need to read a work like the Agamemnon with one eye on the critical notes, with some understanding of the vicissitudes though which the text passed over the course of its history.


Yesterday I read several introductions to Aeschylus Libation Bearers and it sounds like the state of the text is significantly worse than Agamemnon. When scholars say that the Oresteia is the only trilogy that has survived they should qualify it by saying we don't really have anything approximating what Aeschylus wrote. One very late ms. for Libation Bearers with lacunae and a significant level of corruption. Doesn't inspire confidence. Not exactly like working with Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus plus a hand full of 2nd and 3rd century papyri.
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Qimmik » Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:49 pm

None of them opts to change τοὺς ἥκοντας to genitives (either singular or plural) -- which would be an easy fix if you could explain the change from easy grammar to difficult.


Only genitive singular would work here because the last syllable of ἥκοντ- has to be short.
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Jun 18, 2013 6:50 pm

Qimmik wrote:I originally wrote this:

was αἰσχύνουσ' (the reading for the mss.) substituted for αἰσχύνων (conjecture) by someone (Triclinius?) who felt it needed to agree in gender with γύναι, or who thought (erroneously, it seems) that Clytaemnestra was being addressed?


But looking at the reported readings of the mss., it looks like the substitution can't be laid at Triclinius' feet, since a manuscript (noted by the siglum M) which is independent of the group of mss. descended from T.'s revisions, also reads αἰσχύνουσ' if I'm not mistaken: none of the texts with critical notes at my disposal record a variant ms. reading here (just conjectures), and M, although missing a substantial part of the Agamemnon text, is apparently intact at this point. So the corruption, if that's what it is, goes back to the remote archetype of all the mss.

This highlights the need to read a work like the Agamemnon with one eye on the critical notes, with some understanding of the vicissitudes though which the text passed over the course of its history.

According to the Loeb, if I understand correctly, αἰσχύνων is a conjecture by someone called "Keck" and αἰσχύνουσ' is the reading of f, f being the reconstructed "common ancestor of GF(E)Tr". Also, "M lacks Ag. 311-1066, 1160-end".

But there is also m, "one or more 14th to 16th century copies of M"; but according to R-T's chapter on the transmission of the text the folios missing in M "were lost by the 14th century", so whatever is lacking in M seems to be lacking in m too.

So if I understand correctly, the line 1626 is only preserved in the descendents of f, and thus M and m and whatever other manuscript scraps there are are no help here.
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Helikwps » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:44 pm

C. Stirling -- Coming to this thread two months late, can I ask what your general impressions are of the play and of Aeschylus's notorious difficulty? (Rebarbative indeed!) I want to give Agamemnon a try this fall and am willing to tough it through difficult passages like the Χορός, but not if the whole experience will be Finnegans Wake. Is Loeb the best critical apparatus for an amateur? Thanks much!
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:19 am

Helikwps wrote:C. Stirling -- Coming to this thread two months late, can I ask what your general impressions are of the play and of Aeschylus's notorious difficulty? (Rebarbative indeed!) I want to give Agamemnon a try this fall and am willing to tough it through difficult passages like the Χορός, but not if the whole experience will be Finnegans Wake. Is Loeb the best critical apparatus for an amateur? Thanks much!
Tim


I used what ever I could get my hands on. Mostly Denniston/Page and a pile of English versions. Greek Classics are not my thing really, so reading Page, Finglass, Frankel or Jebb is almost more difficult than reading the ancient text. I have an interest in syntax so I looked up a lot of stuff in Cooper which I own all four volumes of — a leftover from a reading project in Sophocles Electra when the I guy who was reading Electra with me had an extra set of Cooper he sold me at about 70% off list. We worked on Sophocles Electra with Kells and Copper until the fellows wife had their first child an that was the end of it. I finished Electra but it took a while.

The big difference seems to me between Agamemnon and Sophocles is vocabulary. Sophocles can be very difficult but he is less prone to making up new words or use words in ways nobody else does. I don't get bogged down in lexical issues. A lot of compound words are etymologically transparent but you can't count on it. Syntax in Attic Tragedy can be very bizarre. Anything and every thing can be left out of a clause. Talking about default word order in Tragedy seems like a waste of time, but Helma Dik does talk about it.

I don't know if I will take on any more Attic Tragedy. It is a lonely road to travel. I am also an amateur. One of my colleagues thirty years ago called me dilettante. I took it as complement since he was a world class dilettante himself.
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Qimmik » Sat Aug 10, 2013 3:24 pm

It's a different experience than Finnegan's Wake (not that I've given F.W. more than an occasional glance). The Agamemnon does have some coherence at the sentence level, so it's not a matter of discerning patterns out of long fragments of language. But the Agamemnon is difficult. As J.S. Bartholomew notes, Aeschylus takes extreme liberties with syntax and uses lots of obscure words--and these are fertile grounds for textual corruption. It's generally thought that corruption began early in the history of the text, and subsequent efforts of ancient and Byzantine scholars to bring order into chaos probably did more harm than good. This is not a text that you can read continuously: nearly every sentence is struggle. You can take some consolation in the fact that you won't be alone in your strenuous efforts to make sense out of the text--the density of modern commentaries such as Denniston-Page and above all Fraenkel, and their frequent disagreements, demonstrate that those who have spent their lives studying ancient Greek and have risen to the highest ranks of scholarship have nearly as much difficulty explaining the text as you will.

The new Loeb edition by Sommerstein is good, and you can use the translation to help you along. (Be sure and get the new Loeb, though.) But you'll also want to equip yourself with at least one commentary if you want to really engage with the text, because you will need a lot of background information you won't find in the text itself. Denniston-Page is older but still serviceable, and you may be able to find less expensive used copies; a newer commentary by Raeburn and Thomas aimed at a somewhat less advanced level might be more helpful to you. The Loeb text doesn't have an extensive critical apparatus--you can find that in the Oxford Classical Test edition by Page or the Teubner by West (in Latin), although the commentaries mentioned above have a critical apparatus reproduced from the OCTs, if you're interested in that--but the commentaries discuss textual issues in English, anyway.

http://www.amazon.com/Aeschylus-Agamemnon-Greek-Introduction-Commentary/dp/0198721307/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1376146509&sr=8-3&keywords=agamemnon+denniston+page

http://www.amazon.com/The-Agamemnon-Aeschylus-Commentary-Students/dp/0199595615/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1376145963&sr=8-8&keywords=agamemnon+greek+text

If you're interested in reading more broadly in tragedy, my experience is that the progression in order of increasing difficulty is exactly the reverse of the generational progression: Euripides is easier than Sophocles is easier than Aeschylus, so you might want to start with the Medea or the Bacchae, for which good commentaries are available. Again, be sure to get the new Loebs of these (and, wherever possible, other) authors.

Good luck!
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:01 pm

I don't have much to add to the above. It's difficult but possible. I think reading some Euripides and Sophocles and a lot of Homer first is a good idea.

I used a whole pile of books to read the Agamemnon. The ones that were constantly open on my table were Sommerstein's Loeb edition, with it's excellent English crib translation, and the newer commentary by Raeburn-Thomas. Denniston-Page's commentary I also used a lot, but less than Raeburn-Thomas.

For a critical text, I've been told that West is clearly the best. I've never seen it myself. I'm great fan of West though, so I don't find it hard to believe...
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Helikwps » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:38 pm

C. Stirling, Qimmik and Paul -- Thanks so much, your comments are extremely helpful and I'm very sorry for not getting back to you until now. I wasn't aware of the Denniston-Page, Fraenkel and Raeburn & Thomas commentaries and that will be a huge help. Given the word alterations and missing syntax you all mention I'll definitely lower the expectations bar in my reading. If the poetry of the original is there then my hope is that it will reward the constant breaks for reference books, but putting that effort into the remedial fixes of Byzantine scholars would of course be a slog. (My only other experience with tragedy is Bacchae, which I started too early in my study of the language and will have to go back to.) I will definitely get the Sommerstein Loeb thanks.

Again thank you SO much for your guidance and reccs -- I'm headed to AbeBooks and the hyperlinks now! Cheers,
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Qimmik » Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:59 pm

"putting that effort into the remedial fixes of Byzantine scholars would of course be a slog."

You won't need to do this yourself--the editor of the text you use will have tried to do this for you. And there wil be some discussion of textual issues in the commentary. Don't bother with Fraenkel--while it's an enormous achievement, it's at a very advanced level of scholarship and there's just too much material for you to digest alone. The later commentaries will have digested it for you. Even Denniston/Page might be a little too advanced (although we used it in high-school Greek). The new Raeburn/Thomas commentary might be your best bet.

Once you've read the Agamemnon, you will enjoy this:

http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/jod/texts/housman.html
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Helikwps » Thu Aug 15, 2013 6:07 am

Thanks Qimmik I'll keep that order in mind and thanks much for the Housman link, which I'll save for the end of it all. These are all some truly amazing Ag. resources and I'd never have known about them without the help of you all.

This board has caused a quantum leap in the quality of my Greek study over the past two years and I truly appreciate it. I'm sure others feel similarly. Thanks again,
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Qimmik » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:26 pm

The Housman fragment is hilarious, even to those who read Aeschylus only in English. But if you're thinking about tackling the Agamemnon in Greek, this article explaining how the fragment captures many of the distinctive features of Aeschylean style might actually be helpful in preparing you for the shock of confronting it in the flesh.

http://www.saintbonaventure.com/faculty/mcelvogue/documents/Housman1Marcellino9p.pdf
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Re: three difficult lines A.Ag. Χορός 1625

Postby Helikwps » Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:17 pm

I'll definitely go to both after Agamemnon thanks and I ordered Denniston last night (Raeburn and Somerstein Loeb to come...). Much appreciated Qimmik!
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