Analyze Agamemnon’s Character from Homer’s Iliad and Aeschylus’s Agamemnon

1359 words 6 pages
Assignment of Classics in Translation ( ENG 1421 )

Topic: Analyze Agamemnon’s Character from Homer’s Iliad and Aeschylus’s Agamemnon


Agamemnon is the son of King Atreus of Mycenae and Queen Aerope, the brother of Menelaus and the husband of Clytemnestra. Agamemnon and Clytemnestra had four children: one son, Orestes, and three daughters, Iphigenia, Electra and Chrysothemis. He was the king of Mycenae. When Helen, the wife of Menelaus, was abducted by Paris of Troy, Agamemnon was the commander of the Greeks in the ensuing Trojan War. Upon Agamemnon's return from Troy he was murdered by Aegisthus, the lover of his wife Clytemnestra. But according to some later versions of the book, Clytemnestra herself does the killing, or they do
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Our earliest picture of Agamemnon comes in the Watchman's speech that opens the play. The Watchman tells us that Agamemnon has been gone for ten years fighting against the Trojans; when he complains that the household is not managed as well as it used to be, and says he cannot wait to shake his master's hand again, this tells us that Agamemnon must be a pretty competent king.

Our picture of Agamemnon becomes more complicated during the first song of the Chorus. The Chorus starts by saying that Agamemnon and Menelaus were just in making war against the Trojans; in fact, they explicitly say that Agamemnon was sent by Zeus. But things get complicated when bad winds keep the Greek fleet at Aulis, and Agamemnon learns from the soothsayer Calchas that the goddess Artemis wants him to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia. He agrees to do that and kills his own daughter.

The sacrifice of Iphigenia is a complicated issue. It is clear that Agamemnon was in an unenviable position before sailing to Troy. In order to have his revenge for Paris' crime, and in order to aid his brother he must commit a further, perhaps worse crime. Iphigenia, Agamemnon's daughter has to be sacrificed so that the battle fleet of the Greek forces can avenge the reckless actions of Paris and Helen. In this context, the act of sacrificing one's kin for the sake of the state could indeed be deemed a righteous act. Agamemnon's decision to sacrifice his daughter could be deemed a