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by Aeschylus

Agamemnon Politics Quotes

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

Quote #4

(Chorus): " – I do not know what plan to hit on and say; for the man of action has also to plan for it.
– I'm like that too, at a loss for words to resurrect the dead.
– Are we really to drag out our lives in submitting like that to these violators of the house as our rulers?
– That is not tolerable, it is better to die; it is a fate milder than tyranny.
– Why, are we to divine from the evidence of his groans that the man is dead?
– We should be discussing this from clear knowledge; guessing is different from knowing clearly.
– I am getting a majority on all sides for approving this course, to know exactly how things are with the son of Atreus." (1358-1371)

Sure, you hear a lot of talk about how Congress is deadlocked and can't get anything done. But even ancient Athens, the birthplace of modern democracy, experienced its share of "Democracy Inaction." Here, we see the initial enthusiasm of the Chorus members fade away as they descend into confused arguing. When they finally come to a majority decision, the decision is to take no action: they will wait until they have a clearer knowledge of the facts. Of course, it's always good to know the facts before acting. Overall, do you think Aeschylus's picture here supports democracy, criticizes it, or is his portrayal a mixture of both attitudes?

Quote #5

(Aegisthus): "Is this your language when you sit at the oars below, while those at the helm control the ship? Old as you are, you shall know how heavy it is for one of your years to be taught, when word has been given to show good sense. Chains and the pangs of starvation are the most excellent diviner-doctors for the mind in teaching even old age. You can see – but can you not see this? Do not kick against the pricks, in case you hit yourself and get hurt." (1617-1624)

These words from Aegisthus seem to bear out the Chorus's fear from the previous quotation: that the murder of Agamemnon is only a prelude to a new reign of tyranny in Argos. This can be seen in the fact that Aegisthus insists on rigid political and social hierarchy (as symbolized in the image of the oarsmen and the helmsmen of a ship), and promises to inflict physical pain on those who try to destabilize it.

Quote #6

(Chorus to Aegisthus): "You – you woman! Against those who were newly from the fighting, while you had kept the house at home and violated the husband's bed as well – did you plan this death for their commander? […] As if I shall see you ruling the Argives – you who planned death for this man but had no courage to carry out the deed by killing him yourself!"
(Aegisthus): "That was because the deception was clearly a woman's role, while I was a suspect enemy from long ago." (1625-1627, 1633-1635)

The gendered language of the Chorus reveals that they are not entirely opposed to having somebody rule over them – they just don't want to be ruled by someone they consider less than a man – i.e., a woman. This is consistent with their negative attitude towards Clytemnestra, expressed elsewhere in the play. What do you think the Chorus finds most objectionable about being ruled by a woman, or a man who reminds them of a woman?

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