Aeschylus was born in Eleusis, a Greek town near Athens, in 525 B. C. He was the first of the great Greek tragedians, preceding both Sophocles and Euripides, and is often credited with inventing tragic drama. Prior to Aeschylus, plays were primitive, consisting of a single actor and a chorus offering commentary. In his works, he added a “second actor” (often more than one) thus creating endless new dramatic possibilities. He lived until 456 B. C. , fighting in the wars against Persia, and attaining great acclaim in the world of the Athenian theater.
Aeschylus wrote nearly ninety plays; however, only seven have survived to he modern era, including such famous works as Prometheus Bound and The Seven Against Thebes. Agamemnon is the first of a trilogy, called the Oresteia, which continues with The Libation-Bearers and concludes with The Eumenides. The trilogy–the only such work to survive from Ancient Greece–is considered by many critics to be the greatest Athenian tragedy ever written, both for the power of its poetry and the strength of its characters.
Agamemnon depicts the assassination of the title character by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover; The Libation-Bearers continues the story with he return of Agamemnon’s son, Orestes, who kills his mother and avenges his father. Orestes is pursued by the Furies in punishment for his matricide, and finally finds refuge in Athens, where the god Athena relieves him of his persecution. The events of Agamemnon take place against a backdrop that would have been familiar to an Athenian audience.
Agamemnon is returning from his victory at Troy, which Palmieri 2 has been besieged for ten years by Greek armies attempting to recover Helen, Agamemnon’s brother’s wife, stolen treacherously by the Trojan Prince, Paris. (The events f the Trojan War are recounted in Homer’s Iliad. ) The play’s tragic events occur as a result of the crimes committed by Agamemnon’s family. His father, Atreus, murdered and cooked the children of his own brother, Thyestes, and served them to him; Clytemnestra’s lover, Aegisthus (Thyestes’s only surviving son), seeks revenge for that crime.
Meanwhile, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to gain a favorable wind to Troy, and Clytemnestra murders him to avenge her death. Tragedies were Athenian, reflecting the taste and intellectual climate of mid fifth century Athens. The weight of history and heritage becomes a major theme of the play, and indeed of the entire trilogy, for the family it depicts cannot escape the cursed cycle of bloodshed from its past. Aeschylus wrote this victory-winning trilogy in Athens, 458 B. C. His participation in a loosely organized political group is thought to have influenced his works.
His political faction included Pericles, who led Athens to the height of its political power and its artistic achievement with democracy. Pericles group believed in expanding democratic base of citizens, in manifesting Athens imperial claims, and in fostering a oreign policy that was anti-Spartan. Sparta had suffered defeat during an uprising in a nearby city-state. This Spartan failure upset the balance of power, which Pericles group wished to exploit. Argos, a city-state in the heart o f the Peloponnesos, without a powerful Sparta, extended control over some smaller neighboring cities.
In 462, Argos, Athens, and Thessaly formed an informal alliance. In 461, Argos changed her constitution from aristocratic to democratic. Her assembly, courts, and other features mimicked those of Athens. Something to note is Palmieri 3 hether or not these events had any influence over Aeschylus decision to move the locale of the entire myth from Mycenae(the Homeric version of the epic) to Argos! In response to these democratic reforms, other political groups attacked the reforms. Ephialtes, the original leader of the quasi-democratic faction, was assassinated; his position was taken by Pericles.
This can be paralleled to Aeschylus theme in Agamemnon. He emphasizes integrity and prestige of King of Argos(like Ephialtes). Furthermore, Clytemnestra can be referred to as Pericles, who assassinates The King and estores his power with her own–see a connection? Implications for city-state is also prevalent and important. The idea of class unity and a just society can be reflected in Aeschylus work. At last day of year in August (New Years Eve Day for ancient times) a court held a murder trial and tried an ax of murder, found it guilty, and threw it into the sea.
This trial reflects the serious implications the act of manslaughter held for the city-state. The concerns included first, how society is affected. That is, what is the result of revenge? If one member of a family were to take evenge on another, the pattern of vendetta and violence could go on forever. The fabric of society in ancient Greece is held together by the family; it is only through the family, for example, that you can gain your citizenship. When Aeschylus writes the trilogy about one family and the affects of murder and revenge, we have to ask ourselves, is it a metaphor for the city-state as a whole?
Secondly, revenge can operate on the political level, instead of a social aspect as stated above. This continuous revenge can bring about stasis–meaning revolution, strife, or change. It is a term used negatively; in that, revolution or fighting from within the family, is bad for the city-state. The family or families of Argos rather, are comparative to an Athenian city-state. Palmieri 4 Another concern is how to administer justice, especially when manslaughter which demands some form of punishment may have been justified.
In the ancient world murder and other acts of evil existed. Finally there was a religious aspect to the concernment of how to justify the people who committed such acts of evil. Their, the ancient peoples, apparent problem at that time was how to purify the city from its ollution or guilt brought on by bloodshed. An iterating comment can be made to which some or all these concerns are dramatized by Aeschylus Agamemnon: The family curse of the house of Atreus of repeatedly murders with family members and other family-love type relationships. wife, husband, etc. ) Many of the violent events are significant. The first significant violent development is the theft of Helen and the Trojan War that followed(recounted in Homers The Iliad). The second act of violence was Agamemnons sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia. Clytemnestra was enraged of her daughters demise, therefore her evenger against her husband was justified in her actions. Perhaps the most vile display of violence is the terrible sin of Agamemnons father Atreus. He, Atreus, killed his brothers children and cooked them for him.
As a result inspires Aegisthus, Agamemnons cousin and Clytemnestras lover, seeks revenge because Atreus, Agamemnons father, killed his brothers. This creates a trilogy of revenge between Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, and Aegisthus. The Trilogy forces us to recognize its context, with its repeated references to the political situation, the Argos alliance, and the newly democratic roup(Areopagus Council). One cannot remove the trilogy from its time and place without damaging our understanding of the plays; in order to do this, we would need to educate ourselves(like above) of fifth century life, placing ourselves in a virtual Athens.
With the knowledge of world history and study, I feel that the relationship with the thirteen colonies represented by Argos, Athens and Thessaly corresponding to Sparta Palmieri 5 acting as Britain clearly displays a perfect spot on the time line. The age of exploitation and revolution rather than mercantilistic rapport. Sparta had heavily nfluenced trade between the allies of the Achean cities. Argos, like Philadelphia of the American colonies, showed its evolving independence from Britain(Sparta).
The thirteen colonies would trade with Caribbean countries, the French and even Dutch companies. Sparta like Britain was jealous of these amicable relations between the others and intervened. Another focused idea, the citizens established factions of democracy as so did the Argives. People like Thomas Jefferson could have represented Aeschylus for he was a writer and in the new democratic group. Agamemnons return could be, ortrayed as the men who set out to expand the colonies and fought with the red skins or Indians (Trojans).
If I were to cast such a play, many notable people come to mind. For the most brief yet important character of the play, I feel William Clinton our president displays arrogance in his family, especially with his wife. So does Agamemnon when he returns home and refuses to walk over the purple carpet laid out by his Queen. Therefore Clytemnestra would be portrayed by Ms. Hillary Clinton. Her approaches and ruthless determination in the upcoming elections shows her starvation for power as so oes Clytemnestra.
In a way, the grudge Hillary hold against Bill after the Lewinsky incident is paralleled or similar to Clytemnestra revenge or grudge she holds for Agamemnons sacrifice of his daughter. Both women are disappointed to a degree with their husbands The Chorus gave me an impression of gossip. They seem to be as the washer-women who supposedly know all that the matter and what gossip is around first. And serving to their Queen during Agamemnons absence I would imagine Mr. Belverdeer to represent them all. He was a butler who helped everyone in a television sitcom family nd was always aware of news–bad or good.
He acted similar to a psychologist in giving advice to others. The chorus discussed and foreshadowed the danger of human pride. Palmieri 6 Cassandra the Trojan Princess who was captured by Agamemnon and then carried to Argos as his slave and mistress was my favorite character. She was also Apollos lover given the gift of prophecy, but when she refused to bear him a child was punished by making everyone around her disbelieve her predictions. Cassandra is most significant character. She would be played by Julia Roberts character in Pretty Women.
Julias character is underestimated because of her status, a prostitute. Aegisthus, Agamemnons cousin and Clytemnestras lover. Can be related to Sean Combs a rap artist whose friend was killed and seeks revenge for the terrible crime as so does Aegisthus who awaits his revenge to kill Agamemnon. The Herald can be represented by The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. He, like the Herald, bring news of arrival. The Herald patriotic recounts vivid descriptions of the horrors of war. The White Rabbit announces the Queen of Hearts arrival and the horror of her palace.
And last but not least, the Watchman who was assigned to watch for the signal of Troys fall from the room top of the palace, with a sense of negative foreboding. He can be paralleled with Phoebe from the hit sitcom on NBC, Friends. She is regarded as unimportant and always left at home to answer calls and leave messages. But she always has the best intuition as does the Watchman. In the excellent trilogy, Agamemnon, one can manifest the ideas of other themes and questions. For this, in my opinion, is regarded the most heavily lavished with theme and morals for all to read.