aeschylus I Agamemnon

aeschylus I Agamemnon - A Watchman atop the roof of the...

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A Watchman , atop the roof of the palace in the Greek city of Argos, complains that he has spent so much time in this perch that he knows the night sky by heart. He is waiting for a beacon that will signal the fall of Troy, which has been besieged for ten years by a Greek army led by Agamemnon , the king of Argos. Agamemnon's wife, Clytemnestra , governs Argos in her husband's absence, and, while the Watchman says that she has "male strength of heart," (11) the absence of the king makes him fearful. "I sing," he declares, "only to weep again the pity of this house / no longer, as once, administered in the grand way" (16-18). The beacon flares, signaling Troy's fall, and the Watchman leaps up and cries out with joy at the news, and rushes inside to tell the Queen. The Chorus , an assembly of Argos' oldest and wisest male citizens, comes onstage and discusses the history of the Trojan War. They recount how Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus, the king of Sparta, gathered a huge fleet and army to recapture Helen, Menelaus' wife, who was stolen by Paris, a Prince of Troy; and they discuss how the Greeks and Trojans have spent ten years wearing themselves out in battle. Meanwhile, the old men of Argos (the men too old to fight) are growing weaker and weaker in their old age. Clytemnestra joins them, and the Chorus demands to know why she has ordered sacrifices to all the gods and celebrations throughout the city. Before she answers, they recall the terrible story of how the Greek fleet, on its way to Troy, was trapped in Aulis by unfavorable winds, and how Agamemnon learned that the winds were sent by Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. In order to appease her and sail on to Troy, Agamemnon was forced to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia; the Chorus describes in detail her pitiful cries for mercy as her father's men cut her throat. When the Chorus finishes recounting the story of Iphigenia, they again ask Clytemnestra to explain her sacrifices. She tells them that Troy has fallen to the Greeks. They wonder whether she has dreamed this, or perhaps heard a rumor. The Queen dismisses these suggestions with contempt, saying that she is not foolish enough to believe dreams or hearsay, and tells the Chorus how a system of beacons, stretching across the Greek islands, has carried the news from Troy to Argos. She pictures the slaughter inside the walls of Troy, and hopes that the Greeks will commit no offenses against the gods that would hinder a safe journey home. The Chorus gives thanks to Zeus for the victory and says that Troy deserved destruction as punishment for the crime of Paris; Helen's eloping with the Trojan prince brought doom upon his city. Then they think of the terrible cost of the war: "The god of war, money changer of dead bodies, / held the balance of his spear in the fighting, / and from the corpse-fires at Ilium / sent their dearest the dust / heavy and bitter with tears shed / packing smooth the urns with / ashes that once were men" (438-44). Meanwhile, all is not well at home; the losses suffered in the war
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This note was uploaded on 04/01/2008 for the course CAMS 100 taught by Professor Lunt,davidjames during the Fall '07 term at Penn State.

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aeschylus I Agamemnon - A Watchman atop the roof of the...

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