01 Oct 2009
Agamemnon is a tale of the ruler of Argos (though other works indicate he was the ruler of Mycenae), an ally of Greece, upon his return to Argos after the fall of Troy. Though returning as an assumed hero, his joyous return is destined to be short-lived. Upon his return, his wife (Clytemnestra) convinces him to walk upon robe of purple (the color of royalty in that age) despite his protests that doing so was a sign of dangerous pride. Entering the palace and joined by the Trojan princess, Cassandra, Agamemnon soon cries out in pain. His wife exits the palace and announces she has killed him and the princess, ostensibly to avenge Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon who was sacrificed by him to assure fair winds on his journey to Troy. She and her lover Aegisthus take over the government, placing Aegisthus as the new king of Argus and leaving the suspicion that the assassination was not retribution for Agamemnon’s murder of his daughter, but was politically motivated.
Aeschylus, author of Agamemnon, is considered the father of Greek tragedy. Though he reportedly wrote over eighty plays, only seven have survived the ravages of time. Agamemnon is the first play of a trilogy with The Libation-Bearers and The Eumenides completing the Epic tale of tragedy. Aeschylus established firmly in the minds of his audience the concept of blood-curses, with the tragedy of each part triggered by prior crimes of the characters and leading into the next, culminating in the near ending of the bloodline of Agamemnon.
The two main characters of the play, Agamemnon, Cassandra and Clytemnestra, were rulers of the city of Argos. Clytemnestra is at first presented as a woman concerned for the return of her husband and brother from the Trojan War. The first hint of something being amiss is the Chorus’ reaction to Agamemnon entering the palace after walking upon the purple robes. Cassandra, prior to entering the palace, confirms what is about to take place by declaring a prophecy of Agamemnon’s death, as well as her own. Clytemnestra, due to Agamemnon’s murder of their daughter, feels justified in her action, though as mentioned before, this intend is clouded by her adulterous relation with Aegisthus.
The play Agamemnon deals with issues of revenge and justice, ripe topics for academic essays. Agamemnon returns to Argos under the assumption he is returning to the safety of his home, unaware that the crime he committed previously is about to be avenged. This is a common theme within the Greek tragedy genre, though Aeschylus was able to bring it to an entirely new level. Aeschylus’ presentation of Agamemnon and the two sequels reflected a fundamental progression of storytelling from campfire monologues of heroic adventure into a progressive presentation with multiple actors presenting the story not as a tale, but as an event, drawing his audience deeper into the story and giving him an eternal place in literary history. This evolution offers additional topics for academic essays and should not be overlooked.
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