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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 #1

(Chorus): "Ares who traffics in the gold of bodies
and holds his scale in the battle of the spears,
sends back to their kin
from Troy heavy dust burnt in the fire,
which brings hard tears; and in place
of a man, ash is the freight
of urns easily stowed.
Lamenting they praise the men,
one as knowing in battle,
another as fallen bravely amid slaughter.
'Through the wife of another' –
a man is snarling this quietly.
Resentment steals over their grief
against the Atreidae leading the case." (437-451)

This quotation is thematically the inverse of the last quotation from the theme of "Family." There, Clytemnestra told the Chorus to butt out of the funeral arrangements for Agamemnon: that was a private matter best left up to her own family. Here, the Chorus describes how they grumbled about the Trojan War, because they considered it an inappropriate intrusion of Agamemnon and Menelaus's own family life into the political life of the city. Why should their sons and relatives have to die to bring back some other guy's wife? What do these lines suggest about the relationship between private life and politics?

Quote #2

(Chorus): "Were not one man's status in life
set by heaven, preventing
another's from greater advance,
my heart would have anticipated
my tongue in pouring this out;
but now it grumbles
in the darkness, with my spirit grieving and not hopeful
ever of winding all to its end
effectively; my mind is ablaze." (1025-1033)

Here, the Chorus portrays their social and political status as determined by the gods. It's easy to imagine that kings such as Agamemnon would promote such beliefs among their people. After all, if the lower classes think that the gods want them to stay that way, they're much less likely to revolt, right? The thing is, these specific lines show that plan backfiring. Because the Chorus members are so concerned about their low social status, they don't speak out of turn to warn Agamemnon about the impending danger from Clytemnestra. Whoops.

Quote #3

(Chorus): "The deed has been done, it seems to me from the king's cries of pain. Let us share our thoughts, in case there may somehow be safe plans.
– I tell you my proposal, to have criers call the townsfolk here to the house, to help.
– No, my idea is to rush in at once and prove the deed together with the freshly streaming sword.
– I share a proposal like that, and I vote for action; it's a moment for no delay!
– It's here to see: this is their prelude to actions which mean tyranny for the city.
– Yes, we are taking our time while they trample down delay's reputation, and their hands are not asleep." (1346-1357)

After the Chorus hears the death-cries of Agamemnon, they immediately launch into a scene that would have been familiar to all members of the play's original audience – at least all of them who were male citizens, that is. What do they do? They debate! The democratic nature of this debate is driven home by the Chorus's biggest fear: that whoever assassinated Agamemnon will use this to impose tyrannical, dictatorial rule over the city.

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