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March 29, 2013

Clytemnestra, the wronged wife of Agamemnon, freely admits her act of revenge to the chorus in the Agamemnon through this statement;

‘I stand where I dealt the blow; my purpose is achieved’ (Aeschylus Agamemnon 1379)

Agamemnon sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia to ensure a favourable wind in order to return to Troy. Clytemnestra had been given the false impression that Agamemnon intended to marry Iphigenia to Achilies and would never forgive her husband for the deception. Clytemnestra, therefore, believed her revenge was justified.

I will consider the justification of Clytemnestra’s action at another time but I want to briefly contemplate the statement that Aeschylus has her say.

Clytemnestra has brought down a man, her husband the conqueror of Troy. The character has demonstrated cunning, skill and ingenuity in achieving the task of destroying her husband and avenging her daughters murder. I consider that characters such as Clytemnestra may have been represented in such ways as to make the audience think about society as it was. Women did not have an equal position to men in Ancient Greece and as such Clytemnestra’s act of revenge would be received by some as shocking. However, others may have thought differently; she is an intelligent woman and has managed the affairs of the kingdom successfully in her husbands absence. However, there is also a coldness to her and a masculine persona that may have come with her character portrayal. This typically un-Greek ‘woman’ is unashamed in accepting responsibility for the murder and is proud of her achievement. I believe  that this statement reflects Aeschylus’ attempt  at presenting a strong female character to make (what may have been the all male audience) think about the role of women in society. I will return to these considerations in the future as the character of Clytemnestra warrants greater consideration.


From → Greek Tragedy

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