Agamemnon Justice and Judgment Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Christopher Collard's translation.
(Agamemnon): "Leda's child, guardian of my house, your speech was appropriate to my absence: you drew it out at length. Fair praise, however, is a reward which should come from others. Besides, do not pamper me in a woman's fashion; and do not give me gawping or obeisance crying from the ground as if I were some barbarian, or strew my way with vestments and open it to jealousy. It is the gods these things should magnify; as a mortal it is impossible for me to walk on beautiful embroideries without fear. I tell you, show me respect as a man, not as a god. Foot-wipers and embroideries cry out different meanings; a mind to avoid wrong is god's greatest gift. The man to call blest with success is the man who has ended his life in precious well-being. If I could fare in everything as I fare now, I shall be quite confident." (914-930)
Agamemnon's speech here, shortly after his arrival back home in Argos, is elaborately concerned with a certain meaning of justice: giving people what they deserve, though here Agamemnon expands this to include ideas, things, and gods as well. Thus, Agamemnon says (1) that the length of his absence got what it deserved when Clytemnestra made a long speech; (2) that Clytemnestra shouldn't treat him like a barbarian, which is contrary to what he deserves; (3) that she shouldn't treat him like a god, which is contrary to what he deserves; and (5) that she shouldn't treat embroideries as foot wipers, which is contrary to what they deserve. He seems pretty obsessed, doesn't he? Why do you think Agamemnon cares so much about this kind of appropriateness or justice? Why do you think Aeschylus made a point of making him blabber on about it for so long?
(Cassandra): "Not, I swear, that he and I shall die without retribution from the gods: there will come another in turn to avenge us, a child born to kill his mother, one to exact penalty for his father. A fugitive, a wanderer, an exile from this land he will come home to put a coping-stone on these ruinous acts for his family; his father thrown on his back on the ground will bring him back. Why then do I lament so piteously? Now that I have seen Ilion's city faring as it fared, and those who took the city getting their outcome like this in the gods' judgment, I shall go and do it: I will submit to death." (1279-1289)
Cassandra consents to die when she realizes (a) that someone (i.e., Orestes) will come to avenge her and Agamemnon, and (b) that the death of Agamemnon will be payback for what happened to Troy. Does this mean she thinks her own death is just?
(Chorus to Clytemnestra): "You are great in your plans,
arrogant in your talk –
exactly as your mind is mad from this event
and the gore which drips from it; the thick smear of blood in your eyes is obvious.
Payment in return you have still to make, and you shall be deprived of your friends;
a blow is to pay for a blow." (1425-1430)
In these words to Clytemnestra after they learn what she has done, the Chorus presents a certain view of justice: "a blow is to pay for a blow." That is to say, whatever you did to someone else, you should get the same back in return.