The characters in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon Essay
I agree with this statement to a certain extent, however, I think it does not represent the whole of the Agamemnon. I think that what invokes pity, are events, rather than characters, that have preceded the play. There are mixes of passive and fearsome characters in the Agamemnon. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus are an example of fearsome characters, when she kills Agamemnon and Cassandra, and he threatens the chorus near the end of the play. The chorus are relatively passive throughout the play until aggressive actions towards Aegisthus at the end.
The first idea of fear that does appear in the play is with the prologue of the play with the watchman; “Whenever I find myself shifting my bed about at night, wet with dew, unvisited by dreams because fear instead of sleep stands at my side to stop my eyes closing fast in slumber…” (l. 13) This is immediately demonstrative of the fear that his mistress, Clytemnestra, instils in him. It affects the watchman so much so, that his fear stops his “eyes closing fast. ” This is the first indicator in the play that Clytemnestra is stepping into her role as the ‘Iron Lady’ of Greece.
We know that she has set up a type of communication which allows her to know whether or not the Greeks have beat the Trojans, and whether or not their coming back. This gives her time to prepare her trap. I think for this reason, she probably emphasised the importance of the watchman’s role, and the punishment that would be inflicted should he fail his task. The chorus also demonstrate fear “There were times I thought I’d faint with longing [for the Greek armies to return]” “I have long had silence as my medicine against harm l. 39. “
This is not implicit as to who will “harm” them if they ever break their silence, but they are obviously trying to hide something from the herald and the “kings” that have returned. The dramatic irony in this play also shows how the audience and the chorus know something that the herald and the kings do not know. It seems like Clytemnestra has secured their silence, to make sure that the men returning home do not know about the doom that awaits their King Agamemnon.
An abstract idea of fear that is presented by Aeschylus is through Clytemnestra, by demonstrating the potency of fear, and how it can make people do things that they would not otherwise do. She makes Agamemnon step on the purple fabric through her manipulation of words. “Would you have vowed to the gods, if you had been in fear, that you would do this thing [step on the carpet]? ” She says that if Agamemnon fears the Gods he would step on the carpet. There is a prevailing sense of pity for Clytemnestra’s cause throughout the play, through use of Aeschylus’ clever involvement of Iphigenia’s death early on in the plot.
Clytemnestra referring to her hatred towards Agamemnon “Yes, he had the heart to sacrifice his daughter” (L224) This goes onto almost justify why Clytemnestra killed her husband. Also there is a sense of pity for Cassandra, who is a concubine to Agamemnon. She seems to be collateral damage to the killing of Agamemnon. We can see that the Chorus reinforce this pity for Cassandra “I pity her. I will be gentle. ” (L1069) and “peace, poor girl! ” (L1258) The chorus portray her as very much caught up in the politics of war, and helpless to change her destiny, which she can see.
Overall, I conclude that there is more fear that occurs throughout the play. Clytemnestra seems to be the key perpetrator of the fear factor, scaring the watchman, scaring the chorus, and also putting her husband in an unnecessary position of ‘fear. ’ There is however, the underlying theme of pity that Aeschylus provides subtly from the beginning providing the audience justification for why Clytemnestra creates fear. The pity of the play also tends to stay with the audience more, because of the final part of the play which sees Cassandra needlessly killed.