Seneca (4 BC–65), translated by Murgatroyd, Paul (contact-email)

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Thyestes, a Roman tragedy by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, dating from the first century AD. The play, a fabula crepidata comprising approximately 1112 lines, recounts the gruesome revenge of Atreus, King of Argos, on his brother Thyestes. Atreus tricks Thyestes into consuming a meal made from his own sons’ bodies, a deed driven by past grievances including theft of Atreus’s wife and throne.

Structured in five acts with interspersed odes by a chorus, the drama begins with a Fury invoking Tantalus’s ghost to incite madness in Atreus. Atreus, in the second act, resolves to enact his vengeance, plotting to deceive Thyestes. The third act sees a wary Thyestes, persuaded by his son, agreeing to share kingship with Atreus, unaware of the impending horror. The fourth act details the murder and preparation of Thyestes’ sons for the feast. In the final act, Atreus reveals the truth to Thyestes during the meal, culminating in a futile appeal to Jupiter and a confused, unresolved ending.

This edition is tailored for modern stage performance. The author has avoided adding new content to Seneca’s work but has made some cuts and simplifications to enhance accessibility.

Author Details

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Murgatroyd, Paul

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