01 Oct 2009

Essays on Agamemnon

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.

Just as Aeschylus’ skill with ink was far superior to his predecessors, some students are far superior in their writing skills than their peers.  Instructors often have the misconception that because one student is able to meet such high standards, then all must be judged in comparison, rather than as unique individuals.  This puts many students at a stark disadvantage, much as Agamemnon was under his assumption of safety in his own home.  Our writers stand ready to defend these students by providing high-quality essays and dissertations for almost any topic.  With years of experience and a dedication to excellence in their work, they have provided writing services to thousands of students from high school to post-graduate levels.  They eagerly await your order.

27 Jun 2009

Sample Essay: Conflict Between Vengeance And Justice In The Libation Bearers

Greece, one of the ancient civilizations, was famous for its philosophers, political scientists and writers, therefore it might be safely stated that Greece has paved the way to modern culture for the whole of Europe.

The Libation Bearers is the second part of the trilogy Oresteia, written by Aeschylus. It has been known that Athens has gifted the world with two exquisite creation of beauty – the Parthenon and the Oresteia. Aeschylus had established himself as a legendary figure in the field of drama in the west. The trilogy Oresteia reveals a great deal of his unique ideas.

There was a mystery about the origination of Greek drama even in the fourth century BC. Religious celebrations along with associated songs and dance were the surrounding circumstances. Athenians have largely contributed to the transformation of Greek drama by the 6th century BC when they transformed a rural celebration of Dionysus into an urban festival with dancing choruses liable to be appraised. The chorus comprising of masked actors was born out of an the idea that came from an anonymous poet and later, Aeschylus modified the art by using two masked actors, each of whom played different roles throughout the play. This can be called a transformation from many dimensions since the Greek drama originated from this transformation.

The modern readers may find the Chorus as a foreign element of the play. The Greek drama was an exquisite form of art where the actors were adorned with masks, and the performances incorporated song and dance. Hence it was not a “naturalistic” presentation. The Chorus emphasizes on poetical representation of themes with a represent of a group of characters.

In case of The Libation Bearers, slave women living in Clytaemestra’s palace and captives from old wars are all a part of the Chorus. Those slave women had loyalty towards Orestes and Electra while they hated Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus. Their interaction with the actors plays a significant part in the conspiracy. In general, the choruses of the Oresteia are more intensely tied up with the action than in the works of the other two great Greek tragedians. Despite all Aeschylus, was nearer to convention in which the Chorus was the entire show.

The Background: knowing about the curse on the House of Atreus along with the anecdotes related to Agamemnon are important for understanding the developments of plots in The Libation Bearers. The Curse on the House of Atreus began with a quarrel between two brothers, Atreus and Thyestes. Thyestes was forced to escape and then he tried to bring back peace with Atreus, returning to him with his children, and Atreus was apparently pleased. After inviting Thyestes to a feast, he treated him with his children’s flesh. He secretly slaughtered all of Thyestes’ children and served them as food to Thyestes in such a way that disguised the true nature of the meat. Thyestes unconsciously ate his own children. After the meal was over Atreus revealed the truth to Thyestes about what he had been eating, and Thyestes reacted by throwing a curse on Atreus’ house. Thyestes ran away with his only surviving child, Aegisthus. Atreus had two sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus. Agamemnon got married to Clytaemnestra while Menelaus married Helen. Priyam’s son seduced Helen, and she went willingly with him back to his city. Agamemnon and Menelaus organized the warlords of Greece into a massive force to win her back. All those fleets converged at Aulis, but were unable to set sail after consulting with the priests the cause of such thing came to be known. It was suggested that the goddess Artemis was angry and hence turned the weather against them. The prophet Calchas informed Agamemnon that to calm the goddess, the king would have to sacrifice what he loved most and that was his own daughter, Iphigeneia. Agamemnon did so, after which he sailed with his troops. The battle between Greece and Troy lasted for ten long years after which the city of Troy was reduced to ashes and all the Trojans were butchered or enslaved. On the return voyage, to their home, Agamemnon’s contingent encountered a terrible sea storm, and only Agamemnon’s ship reached back safely.

Agamemnon returned with a captive mistress, the prophetess Cassandra. Meanwhile, during his absence, his wife Clytaemnestra had taken a lover. This lover was in fact Aegisthus, the only surviving son of Thyestes. Soon after Agamemnon’s return, Clytaemnestra murdered the king while he bathed. Cassandra was the next victim. The prophetess already aware that she could not change her destiny and hence walked knowingly towards her own death. Actually there was a curse on the Cassandra as well, the curse was that she will be able to read the future but after she tells those to the others no one will believe her.  After both the murders, Clytaemnestra successfully reaches her goal and displayed the body of the king and proclaimed that justice had been done. Her motivations were mixed and included a hunger for power and her love for Aegisthus, but her hate for Agamemnon developed years back with the slaughter of their daughter and the queen was also taking revenge for that. Clytaemestra and Aegisthus installed themselves as the ruthless rulers of Argos. They had been known for their unlawful acts. Finally it carries us to The Libation Bearers.

Libation bearers: Set in Argos, many years after the death of Agamemnon, the play Libation Bearers opens with the return of Orestes to his motherland accompanied by his friend Pylades. Orestes far from home, and they he been deprived of their rightful inheritance. While Orestes was living in exile, his Electra has been turned into a servant in her own house. Orestes in disguise went to pay homage at the tomb of his father. While he was there, a group of women, with Electra at the forefront, came to the grave with gestures of mourning. Orestes intentionally hid himself so that he could learn the true intent of the women. The women paid homage in form of libations to the dead, but suddenly something caught the eyes of Electra. She was surprised to find a lock of hair on the tomb. In ancient Greece the lock of hair is a traditional offering to the dead and each family carried their own set of hair lock. This lock was special to Electra in the sense that it had the color and texture unique to the children of the great king Agememnon her father who had his only brother and other sister killed. Hence it must have come from the head of Orestes.  Satisfied with the true intent of the women and joyous on the fact that even the long years of separation had not changed her sister’s attitude towards him, Orestes revealed himself to her sister, and expressed that he had returned to avenge his father’s death and reclaim the throne and also mentioned that Apollo himself commanded him that he should kill the usurpers. Orestes and Electra tried to invoke the spirit of Agamemnon such that Orestes would be able carry out the act of matricide.

Orestes asked the Chorus about the reason behind their offerings at Agamemnon’s tomb. The slave women told him that Clytaemnestra had sent them; she had terrible nightmares about being bitten by a serpent that she was breastfeeding. The soothsayers interpreted her dreams as meaning that the dead were angry, and Clytaemnestra, being worried sent Electra and the slave women to pour offerings at Agamemnon’s tomb in an attempt to appease his ghost.

According to Orestes’ plan, he and Pylades, disguised, would enter the palace. Electra would keep watch, and the Chorus of slave women would help if they could. The two men should wait for the right moment to kill Clytaemestra and Aegisthus.

There was a change of scene from the tomb of Agamemnon to the outside of the palace of Clytaemestra. Orestes and Pylades approached the doors to the palace and pretended to be foreign travelers bringing terrible news about Orestes’ death. Clytaemestra welcomed them; she then sends for Aegisthus so that he could hear the important news. Orestes’ old nurse, Cilissa, went to look for him. She wept as she went, sad because Orestes was like a son to her. The Chorus hinted that Orestes could still be alive, and they urged Cilissa to tell Aegisthus to come alone, without his bodyguards. Cilissa did not completely understand the Chorus’ cryptic instructions, but she acted according to their instructions. Aegisthus returned without any protection. He went into the palace, and after some time one of his followers came out to announce that Aegisthus had been killed. The follower warned Clytaemestra but before she could take measures to protect herself, Orestes and Pylades came out of the palace and seized her. Though Orestes had a moment of hesitation, Pylades convinced him that he must go through with the act. Clytaemestra tried to get him to spare her life, finally warning him that if he killed her he will be cursed but Orestes was unperturbed. He and Pylades dragged the queen inside the palace.

Orestes came out of the palace with the bodies of his mother and Aegisthus. He declared that justice was served. He announced that he would go to the shrine of Apollo in order to wait for further instructions. All of a sudden Orestes could see the Furies (fearsome goddesses who had snakes in place of hair) had come to make Orestes repay for killing his mother. Orestes escaped, chased by the monsters, and the Chorus wondered if the Curse on the House of Atreus would ever come to an end.

Conflict between different moral systems: Vengeance and Justice

When Orestes’ hesitation led him to doubt if he could kill his own mother, Pylades told him that he should count all men as hateful to him besides the gods. Orestes had been ordered by the god Apollo to kill Clytaemestra and avenge his father’s death. Therefore, he had the right to vengeance. Besides Orestes had responsibility towards his dynasty. However, Clytaemestra was also his mother and therefore Orestes must make a choice. In spite of his actions being justified, he could not commit matricide without consequences for which he should be prepared. Despite all of Clytaemnestra’s attempts to escape the murder via sentiment-evoking talks and gestures, Orestes carried with his action and got justice through vengeance.

On one hand his actions of matricide is justified as he killed someone who killed his father and her actions as mother were never right. She had failed to live up to the name “mother”. When she found love and passion in between her lover’s hand, her son was in exile living a life full of uncertainty, though a king he has been forced to live a life of a beggar and her daughter was working as a maid servant at her own palace in right front of her eyes. Even accepting all these she was Orestes’ mother for whom he was able to see the first light of the Sun. There is another kink, Agamemnon’s murder was for three reasons and each of them were very powerful first Clytaemestra’s love for Aegisthus, second she was targeting the throne and last but not the least Agamemnon was the murderer of her younger daughter. So on the ground that Agamemnon was a murderer himself, if his assassination is justified then how could Clytaemestra be called a killer? Then Orestes is a sinner as he has killed Clytaemestra. But if Clytaemestra’s love for her own blood was that strong then why she had not shown that love towards her other children? So finally it was hunger for power and love to another man that led her to kill her husband and on that ground her murder at the hand of her own son is justified.

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