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by Aeschylus

Agamemnon Memory and The Past Quotes

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

Quote #7

(Agamemnon): "The city was taken; its smoke even now makes it a clear mark; the storms of Ruin live on; the ash of its dying sends out rich puffs of wealth. For this the gods should be paid very mindful thanks, since we punished an arrogant robbery, and it was for a woman that Troy was ground into dust by the Argives' beast of destruction – the offspring of the horse, shield-bearers in a body, launching their leap at the Pleiades' setting." (821-826)

In these lines, Agamemnon makes a point of reminding his audience about the past, specifically, the crime of Alexandros in carrying off Helen (this is the woman to whom he refers). You could say that he is using the memory of the past to justify the actions of the present. After all, if there wasn't some excuse, you wouldn't think that leveling a whole city to the ground would be something to boast about, would you?

Quote #8

(Cassandra): Apollo, Apollo!
Lord of the streets, my destroyer!
Oh where, wherever have you led me? To what kind of house?
(Chorus): "To that of the Atreidae. If you do not realize this, I am telling you, and you will not call it false."
(Cassandra): "No – to a godless house, with much on its conscience –
evil bloodshed by kin, carving like meat –
a place for slaughtering men, a floor sprinkled with blood!"
(Chorus): "The stranger has a keen nose it seems, like a hound; she is searching for blood and will discover whose murder it was."
(Cassandra): " – because I put my trust in this evidence here:
these are infants weeping for their slaughter,
and over their roasted flesh which their father devoured." (1085-1097)

Cassandra is able to ferret out the crimes of the past with her prophetic power. As soon as she starts talking about sensing blood in the house, it is clear that the Chorus knows what she is talking about; they aren't surprised by what she tells them, only that she was able to figure it out. What does this say about the Argives' (citizens of Argos's) relationship to their past, if the murder of Atreus is on everybody's mind, but nobody explicitly mentions it?

Quote #9

(Cassandra): "Oh! Oh, this misery! Deep down again the fearsome work of truthful prophecy agitates and whirls me round with its stormy prelude. You see these young ones seated by the house, resembling dream-shapes? They are children killed, as if by people outside their family! Their hands are full of their own flesh for meat, clearly visible, holding their entrails and the vitals with them, most pitiable burden, which their father tasted. For that, I say that someone is planning retribution, a cowardly lion who roams free in the marriage-bed and has stayed at home – alas it is against the master on his return." (1214-1227)

The power of Cassandra's vision is such that it makes the past present: she literally sees the victims of Atreus's crime standing in front of her, holding their own entrails in their hands. Aside from its dramatic effectiveness (the image is likely to strike fear into any theatrical audience or reader, modern or ancient), could we think of this as connected in any way to the main theme of "Revenge"? Doesn't revenge also seek to make the past present, by turning a deed back on its original doer?

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