Aeschylus’ Oresteia: Agamemnon
Close Reading Essay|
“Now you pass judgment! Exile from this land,
the hatred of the people, public curses.
But him! What charges did you ever bring against him?
For all he cared he might as well have been killing an animal. Oh, he had plenty of sheep to choose from,
but he sacrificed his own child, my labor of love,
to charm away the cruel storm-winds of Thrace.
He was the one you should have banished from this land,
as punishment for the pollution he brought on us.
But when you hear of what I have done,
you judge so harshly. Go on, threaten away!
I'll meet your match. If you overthrow me, then you win,
but if the gods have ordained another outcome,
then you will learn discretion, however old you are.”
After the murder of Agamemnon and Cassandra, Clytemnestra attempts to justify her actions in a response to the accusations of the chorus. The aggressive stance that Clytemnestra takes in the beginning of this passage is clearly a reversal of genders. It shows the strength of her character as well as the duality. Explaining her reason for murdering Agamemnon, she logically questions the chorus, asking how they dare judge her, especially because Agamemnon has killed more people than she has killed. She then falls back into the traditional role of a Greek woman by acting like a mother, revealing the necessity of the actions she committed as a man. Her ability to move between the characteristics of both male and female emphasizes the duality of her character, as shown in her speech. Without this section of the play Aeschylus’s representation of reversed gender roles would not be very significant. In the first stanza, Clytemnestra demonstrates outrage at the idea that the chorus feels they have the audacity to judge her and her actions. That the mere suggestion that she should be banished from her home, exposed to the hatred and curses of the populace when...
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