AESCHYLUS – AGAMEMNON

Aeschylus- Agamemnon
Throughout Time reading list
How obtained: free kindle version


Agamemnon is a fairly complicated story, but most of the story does not take place before the audience’s eyes- most of it is told in long monologues. At the beginning of the play, Clytemnestra and the watchmen see the beacons being lit, which means the war in Troy is over and Agamemnon is heading home. The watchmen are happy, Clytemnestra not so much. Her husband sacrificed their daughter to placate a god before he left, and she has not forgiven him. She has also taken a lover. After a few long monologues about this and the war, Agamemnon does in fact return. He has brought a concubine with him, Cassandra, who has been cursed with the ability to prophesy but never have anyone believe her. Agamemnon argues about either going inside the house or not. He goes in and is killed by his wife. Cassandra debates about going in- she knows she will be killed so doesn’t want to go in, but also knows it is fate- to hey, it will happen, may as well get it over with. She goes in and is killed. The children escape- and live another day to avenge their father and prolong the never ending cycle of bloodshed.

So pretty much all that happens is some people talk for a while about the past, and then other people debate entering a house, and then they die. The end. But it is still a good example of common themes in ancient Greek literature- particularly the cycle of death that means there is always someone else to avenge.(an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind).

Doesn’t seem like much, but apparently the play was revolutionary- it was the first play to have multiple characters interacting with each other, rather than just with the chorus (who represent the audience, the towns people etc, who may sing songs, or ask important questions of the main character that help get points across). This increased the ability to show conflict and drama.

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