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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 #1

(Chorus): "Ten years it is since the great plaintiff against Priam,
lord Menelaus with Agamemnon,
honoured by Zeus with their double throne and double scepter,
the sturdy yoke-pair of the Atreidae,
sailed with a fleet of Argives from this land,
a thousand ships, an armada in support.
Their loud and ringing cry was of war, from anger" (40-47)

Why do you think the Chorus's first song is so preoccupied with events that happened ten years earlier? Is this just Aeschylus's way of conveniently presenting background information about Agamemnon? But couldn't Aeschylus also be showing how, in Agamemnon's absence, his citizens are all living in the past? What's your take?

Quote #2

(Chorus): "What followed, I neither saw nor do I say;
but Calchas' skills did not go unfulfilled." (248-249)

Here, the Chorus drops hints about what happened in the past ("Calchas' skills did not go unfulfilled"), while also reminding us that they were not there to witness it. This could be interpreted as showing how events can become part of inherited cultural memory. If so, could this be related to some of the play's other themes, such as those of "Revenge" or "Family"?

Quote #3

(Chorus): "The grace of shapely statues
is hateful to the husband;
in their lack of eyes
all love's being goes lost.
Apparitions in dreams and mournful imaginings
come to him, which bring empty delight –
empty because when a man imagines his loved one,
the vision slips away through his hands
and is gone, never afterwards keeping
with its wings to the pathways of sleep." (416-426)

In these lines, the Chorus shows how memory makes the absence of a loved one especially painful; if Menelaus were simply able to forget Helen, there might have been no Trojan War. Can you think of other examples in the play of memory contributing to pain?

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