CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY
AGAMEMNON, son of Atreus and King of Argos and Mycenae;
Commander-in-Chief of the Greek armies in the War against Troy. CLYTEMNESTRA, daughter of Tyndareus, sister of Helen; wife to Agamemnon. AIGISTHOS, son of Thyestes, cousin and blood-enemy to Agamemnon lover to Clytemnestra.
CASSANDRA, daughter of Priam, King of Troy, a prophetess; now slave to Agamemnon.
CHORUS of Argive Elders, faithful to AGAMEMNON.
CHARACTERS MENTIONED IN THE PLAY
MENELÂÜS, brother to Agamemnon, husband of Helen, and King of Sparta. The two sons of Atreus are called the Atreidae.
HELEN, _most beautiful of women; daughter of Tyndareus, wife to MENELÂÜS; beloved and carried off by Paris._
PARIS, son of Priam, King of Troy, lover of Helen.
Also called ALEXANDER.
PRIAM, the aged King of Troy.
The Greeks are also referred to as Achaians, Argives, Danaans; Troy is also called Ilion. The play was produced in the archonship if Philocles (458 B.C.). The first prize was won by Aeschylus with the "Agamemnon", "Libation-Bearers", "Eumenides", and the Satyr Play "Proteus".
The Scene represents a space in front of the Palace of Agamemnon in Argos, with an Altar of Zeus in the centre and many other altars at the sides. On a high terrace of the roof stands a WATCHMAN. It is night.
This waste of year-long vigil I have prayed
God for some respite, watching elbow-stayed,
As sleuthhounds watch, above the Atreidae's hall,
Till well I know yon midnight festival
Of swarming stars, and them that lonely go,
Bearers to man of summer and of snow,
Great lords and shining, throned in heavenly fire.
And still I await the sign, the beacon pyre
That bears Troy's capture on a voice of flame
Shouting o'erseas. So surely to her aim
Cleaveth a woman's heart, man-passioned!
And when I turn me to my bed—my bed
Dew-drenched and dark and stumbling, to which near
Cometh no dream nor sleep, but alway Fear
Breathes round it, warning, lest an eye once fain
To close may close too well to wake again;
Think I perchance to sing or troll a tune
For medicine against sleep, the music soon
Changes to sighing for the tale untold
Of this house, not well mastered as of old.
Howbeit, may God yet send us rest, and light
The flame of good news flashed across the night.
[He is silent, watching. Suddenly at a distance in the night there is a glimmer of fire, increasing presently to a blaze.
0 kindler of the dark, O daylight birth
Of dawn and dancing upon Argive earth
For this great end! All hail!—What ho, within!
What ho! Bear word to Agamemnon's queen
To rise, like dawn, and lift in answer strong
To this glad lamp her women's triumph-song,
If verily, verily, Ilion's citadel
Is fallen, as yon beacons flaming tell.
And I myself will tread the dance before
All others; for my master's dice I score
Good, and mine own to-night three sixes plain.
[Lights begin to show in the Palace.
Oh, good or ill, my hand shall clasp again
My dear lord's hand, returning! Beyond that
I speak not. A great ox hath laid his weight
Across my tongue. But these stone walls know well,
If stones had speech, what tale were theirs to tell.
For me, to him that knoweth I can yet
Speak; if another questions I forget.
[Exit into the Palace. The women's "Ololûgê" or triumph-cry, is heard within and then repeated again and again further off in the City. Handmaids and Attendants come from the Palace, bearing torches, with which they kindle incense on the altars. Among them comes CLYTEMNESTRA, who throws herself on her knees at the central Altar in an agony of prayer.
Presently from the further side of the open space appear the CHORUS of ELDERS and move gradually into position in front of the Palace. The day begins to dawn. CHORUS.
Ten years since Ilion's righteous foes,
The Atreidae strong,
Menelaüs and eke Agamemnon arose,
Two thrones, two sceptres, yoked of God;
And a thousand galleys of Argos...