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Agamemnon | Study Guide


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Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the main characters in Aeschylus's play Agamemnon.

Agamemnon | Characters

Character Description
Agamemnon Agamemnon is the king of Argos. Under his skilled command, the Argive troops won the battle against Troy. Read More
Clytaemnestra Clytaemnestra is Agamemnon's unfaithful and angry wife and queen of Argos. She murders Agamemnon to avenge their daughter, whom he sacrificed to win the war. Read More
Cassandra Cassandra is the daughter of Priam, the king of captured Troy. She is also a priestess of Apollo with the dubious power of prophecy. Read More
Aegisthus Aegisthus is Agamemnon's cousin and Clytaemnestra's lover. He avenges his father's exile by helping Clytaemnestra kill Agamemnon. Read More
Chorus The Chorus is a group of Argive elders who speak with one voice—often that of the playwright—reflecting on events and providing background information. Read More
Aesculapius Aesculapius was the god of medicine, who became skilled enough in healing to restore the dead to life. Zeus, afraid men might become immortal and threaten the power of the gods, struck down Aesculapius with a lightning bolt. The Chorus uses Aesculapius as an example of the gods' wrath and power.
Apollo Apollo is the son of Zeus and one of the most feared and powerful Greek gods. Apollo controls prophets and prophecy, music, sunlight, and healing. Apollo granted Cassandra her powers of prophecy, although he later cursed her so no one will believe her.
Ares The unpopular god of war, Ares represents the worst aspects of battle and slaughter. The Chorus claims Ares "pays gold for soldiers' bodies" and "trades funeral dust for men," implying Ares's role in the violence of the Trojan War.
Artemis The goddess of nature, hunting, and wild animals, Artemis also is a warrior and a defender of the weak and helpless. Calchas says she "abominates the eagles' feast" and may have grown angry with Agamemnon for sacrificing a deer or another animal. Her wrath caused the winds that delayed Argive troops, and she demanded Agamemnon sacrifice his daughter.
Athena Athena is the Greek goddess of war and reason and the protector of cities. After Agamemnon takes place, she pardons Orestes for his killing of Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus in The Eumenides.
Atreus Atreus is the former king of Argos and Agamemnon's father. His descendants and their spouses and children form the House of Atreus, the family dynasty. He served his brother Thyestes the flesh of Thyestes's children, setting the house's curse in motion.
Calchas A Greek prophet and priest of Apollo, Calchas has a direct line to the gods, which mortals do not. He advises Agamemnon and his armies during the Trojan War, anticipating the capture of Troy and telling Agamemnon to sacrifice Iphigenia.
Chorus leader The Chorus leader is an old man in the Chorus who speaks both individually and for the whole Chorus, sharing their opinions and beliefs.
Cronos Cronos is the son of Uranus and former ruler of the Greek gods, defeated by Zeus. The Chorus references Zeus's defeat of Cronos in the Parodos saying Cronos "met his match and is no more."
Helen Originally Menelaus's wife, and known for her great beauty, Helen was abducted by Paris, the son of the Trojan king. Her abduction began the Trojan War, as the Greeks (or Argives) fought to get her back. She and Clytaemnestra are sisters, and because she married Agamemnon's brother, Helen is connected to the House of Atreus.
Herald A loyal soldier who served with Agamemnon in the war and never questioned its necessity, the herald believes divine fortune saved his ship (the only one not wrecked); his function is to deliver the "messenger speech," summarizing important events not shown on stage, like the shipwreck.
Hermes Hermes is the Greek god of travelers and the messenger god. The herald pays tribute to Hermes as his patron god.
Iphigenia Iphigenia, a young unmarried virgin at the time of her death, is Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra's oldest daughter. Agamemnon sacrifices her to appease the goddess Artemis, who demands Iphigenia's death before allowing the troops to sail for Troy.
Menelaus King of Sparta and Agamemnon's brother, Menelaus fights as Agamemnon's second-in-command in the Trojan War; he wants to recover his estranged wife Helen, who has been captured by the Trojan Paris. Near the end of the war Menelaus's ship is separated from other Argive ships in a storm.
Messenger The messenger is a palace servant; he does not speak during the play but relays important news or developments to the characters on stage.
Orestes Orestes is Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra's son, a young child during the events of Agamemnon. For Orestes's safety, Clytaemnestra has sent him to stay with an ally during the war. In The Libation Bearers, Aeschylus's second Oresteia play, Orestes returns to Argos as a grown man and with help from his sister Electra, kills Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus to avenge his father's death.
Paris Paris, also called Alexander, is the son of the Trojan king Priam. Paris takes a bribe from the goddess Aphrodite to win the most beautiful woman alive, believed to be Helen of Sparta. When Paris kidnaps Helen and takes her to Troy, the Greeks retaliate by starting a war. The Chorus refers frequently to Paris's insolence and evil.
Poseidon Poseidon is the Greek god of the sea. He sided with the Greeks during the Trojan War and sent a sea monster to attack Troy toward the war's end.
Priam Priam is the king of Troy and father of Paris, the young man who abducted Helen from Greece, and of Cassandra, Agamemnon's captive. A number of Priam's children died during the Trojan War, and after the Argives declared victory, Priam was killed.
Soldiers and servants With no lines to speak, the servants work for Agamemnon, Clytaemnestra, and Aegisthus, often performing tasks of stagehands, like laying down the carpet or lighting lamps; many soldiers flank Agamemnon at his return, showing his power, and later guard Aegisthus, providing a sense of menace as they surround the Chorus in the final scene.
Thyestes Thyestes is Agamemnon's uncle, Aegisthus's father, and King Atreus's brother. Before the events of Agamemnon, Thyestes challenged the authority of Atreus, who retaliated by exiling Thyestes and serving him a meal made from the flesh of his own children. When Thyestes realized what he had done, he called down a curse on the House of Atreus, condemning all family members to die in pain.
Uranus Former god of the sky and heaven, Uranus was overthrown by his son Cronos. The Chorus uses Uranus as a warning in the Parodos, saying "people will talk about that god as if he'd never even lived."
Watchman A palace servant, the watchman waits on the palace roof for signal fires indicating the end of the war; his function is to introduce the plot, explain relevant events such as the Argive presence in Troy and Clytaemnestra's rule, and hint that all is not well in the House of Atreus, thus beginning the rising action.
Zeus Leader of the gods, Zeus controls the sky and the weather; the characters and Chorus repeatedly refer to Zeus as a mighty avenging force who "accomplishes all things." Zeus sides with the Greeks, or Argives, during the Trojan War.
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