Agamemnon | Study Guide

Aeschylus

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Agamemnon | Stasimon 4 | Summary

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Summary

The Chorus begins to sing about how even wealthy men are unsatisfied. If victorious and honored Agamemnon will die in retribution for those he has killed, every mortal is a victim of fate. A scream from the palace interrupts the Chorus. Agamemnon cries out; he has been dealt a deadly blow.

The Chorus members panic and break up, speaking to one another individually. One wants to attack the palace and catch the murderers in the act. Another wants to summon help. Some Chorus members fear the murderers will "tyrannize the city." They cannot decide whether to surrender or confront the tyrants. They agree to wait and discover the truth before they act.

Analysis

To the Chorus, Agamemnon seems invincible. He represents royalty, dignity, prosperity, war victory, and the entire polis, or city. But neither his wealth nor his victory in war nor the safety of his own home can shield him from fate. If Agamemnon is not safe from the gods' wrath, no one is.

The Chorus returns to its theme of righteousness versus evil. Of course they know Agamemnon is guilty of certain crimes. He killed many men in the war and led his soldiers to their deaths through shipwrecks. But he is paying the penalty for "blood which other men before him shed": Atreus's murder of Thyestes's children, the primal act of doom which was not Agamemnon's fault but for which he will suffer. In the earlier words of the Chorus, "the unholy act" dooms whole generations of families.

The Chorus is the liaison between the audience and the characters, the voice of reason and order. As the individual members break up in chaos, the audience may be confused. Aeschylus's use of more voices on stage and his disruption of the Chorus's unity increase the power of the dramatic arc. At first the Chorus members think they have some control and can change the tide of events but realize their fate is probably sealed. They know they are captives, and the debate changes to how to handle their new masters. Finally they accept their lack of control, and like others in the play, they will have to wait.

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