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by Aeschylus

Agamemnon Family Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Christopher Collard's translation.

Quote #1

(Calchas, quoted by the Chorus): "'Apollo there! Healer indeed, I call on you,
lest [Artemis] make contrary winds for the Danaans,
long delays that keep the ships from sailing,
in her urge for a second sacrifice,
one with no music, no feasting,
an architect of feuds born in the family,
with no fear of the man;
for there stays in wait a fearsome, resurgent,
treacherous keeper of the house, an unforgetting Wrath which avenges children.'" (146-155)

In these words quoted by the Chorus, we see Calchas, the chief soothsayer of the Greek fleet, accurately predicting what will happen. Artemis will force Agamemnon to kill his daughter, Iphigenia; this, in turn, will inspire Clytemnestra to seek revenge on him. At the same time, however, there could be a double meaning in Calchas's reference to the "unforgetting Wrath which avenges children." This doesn't just have to refer to Clytemnestra, but could also refer to the spirit of vengeance (or, more simply, the desire for vengeance) that will impel Aegisthus to murder Agamemnon in revenge for his brothers and sisters, who were killed by Agamemnon's father, Aegisthus. Things must get really awkward at this family's Thanksgiving dinner.

Quote #2

(Clytemnestra): "May happy news come with the dawn from her mother night, as in the proverb!" (264)

These words spoken by Clytemnestra use family imagery in a metaphorical way, when she suggests that the dawn is the child of "mother night." Is this just random, or could it be connected with the play's more general themes? Here's something to think about: if the night before was when Troy was captured, and if Troy being captured led to Agamemnon's homecoming, then wouldn't it make sense (still in a metaphorical way) to say that the fall of Troy is the "mother" of Agamemnon's homecoming? In a play in which the cycle of revenge is handed down from generation to generation within a single family, wouldn't it make sense to talk about all forms of cause-and-effect in terms of mother-and-child imagery? Maybe Aeschylus isn't so crazy after all.

Quote #3

(Chorus): "And just how recent is the city's sack?"
(Clytemnestra): "During the night which has now given birth to this day, I tell you." (278-279)

If you weren't convinced the last time around, look how Aeschylus is hammering the point home. He repeatedly describes sequences in time, and sequences of cause-and-effect, in terms of mother-and-child imagery. This can hardly be coincidence in a play focused on the cycle of revenge passed down from generation to generation of a single family.

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