The Persians (Die Perser)
German translation by Heiner Müller, after a translation by Peter Witzmann
In 480 BC the Persians lost the Battle of Salamis to the Greeks, whom they had previously oppressed. Eight years later Aeschylus wrote The Persians, what is now the world’s oldest surviving play. Here is a Greek speaking to other Greeks as if he were a Persian, describing this major battle from the defeated enemy’s point of view. Aeschylus lets those responsible for the fiasco have their say, from the Chorus of Elders to the defeated military commander, King Xerxes. The playwright examines contemporary history, but from a viewpoint that incorporates both past and future. He shows that the winners of today are the losers of tomorrow. Even when the dead are quickly buried and forgotten, they remain present.
“What’s fascinating about old texts like this,” writes dramatist Heiner Müller, “is how little has changed.” Dimiter Gotscheff synthesizes both Müller’s and Peter Witzmann’s translations of the play in his staging of The Persians, which was voted “Production of the Year 2007” by the critics’ poll in trade journal Theater Heute (Theatre Today).
October 7, 2006