After reading Agamemnon, I was sure that Greek plays should be better enjoyed as performance than as book. I have read Sophocles’ Oedipus several years ago, and have almost forgotten how beautiful and dynamic Greek plays are, with all the strophe-antistrophe-epode. Reading them in books reduces the plays’ dramatic uniqueness. Unlike modern plays like Wilde’s or Shaw’s—or even Shakespeare’s—which are rich in characters and dialogs, in Agamemnon I only met with Clytemnestra, Agamemnon (whose name served as the title, but the character’s emotion was not much explored), Cassandra, and Aegisthus, besides the Chorus, the Watchman, and the Herald.
The play is opened by the watchman, who is waiting for a signal from Troy. King Agamemnon and his troops is on a mission to bring home Helen (his brother’s Menelaus’ wife) from her capture in Troy. Then it’s slowly revealed that before sailing to Troy, Agamemnon made a human sacrifice so that the wind favored them. The victim was his own daughter. The scene before the sacrifice was quite heartrending…
On Agamemnon’s leave, the queen Clytemnestra rules the kingdom. She seems to be rejoiced when finally her husband comes home safely and triumphantly. However, a slave whom Agamemnon has brought from Troy (the daughter of Priam, Cassandra) predicts that Agamemnon would be killed by his wife. It turns out that the murder was planned by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus (Agamemnon’s cousin) as an act of revenge. Clytemnestra avenges her daughter’s murder; while Aegisthus blames Agamemnon for serving his two brothers (boiled!) to his father—who was Agamemnon’s rival of the throne of Argos.
While Agamemnon is constructed by beautiful rhymes, the length of the each dialog could be quite tedious to read. Maybe it’s because Aeschylus was one of the first Greek tragedians. Euripides’ Medea and Sophocles’ Oedipus were more enjoyable for me.
Three stars for Agamemnon.
I read ebook from Adelaide University’s Online Library
This book is counted as:
85th book for The Classics Club Project