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Agamemnon

Agamemnon

by Aeschylus

Revenge Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

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)

We also used this same quotation in the section on "Justice and Judgment," but we're reusing it again here. Why? Mainly to point out an ambiguity that lies at the heart of Aeschylus's play. If you set out to kill somebody who did something wrong to you, can you be acting justly? Doesn't that sound more like revenge than justice? Is there a difference between justice and revenge? What about the fact that Menelaus and Agamemnon act out of "anger," as the Chorus says; can justice be dealt out angrily, or does it require a more measured approach? These questions get close to the heart of what Agamemnon is all about.

Quote #2

(Chorus): "I have the power to tell of the command destined on its road, the command
by men in their full prime – my age in life still breathes persuasion
from the gods above, the strength of song –
how the Achaeans' double-throned command,
one mind captaining the youth of Greece,
is sent with vengeful hand and spear
against the land of Teucer by an omen, a ferocious bird" (104-112)

Same idea here as the last time around. The Chorus has generally portrayed the Greek war against Troy as just and sanctioned by the gods, but they also portray it as an angry act of revenge – as symbolized here by the reference to a "vengeful hand and spear." Are these two ideas compatible or incompatible?

Quote #3

(Chorus): "Apollo there! Healer indeed, I call on you,
lest [Artemis] make contrary winds for the Danaans,
long delays that keep the ships from sailing,
in her urge for a second sacrifice,
one with no music, no feasting,
an architect of feuds born in the family,
with no fear of the man;
for there stays in wait a fearsome, resurgent,
treacherous keeper of the house, an unforgetting Wrath which avenges children." (146-155)

This is another quotation that could be placed in several different sections. Most obviously, you've got some issues here relating to the theme of "Fate and Free Will"; this comes up in the idea of the "unforgetting Wrath which avenges children," a reference to the curse on the house of Atreus that will result in Agamemnon getting killed. But couldn't the Chorus's words here be interpreted in a more metaphorical sense, too? You don't necessarily have to take literally the idea that a spirit of Wrath is responsible for killing Agamemnon; after all, Aegisthus does come onstage at the end of the play and say, "Hey everybody; I just killed Agamemnon because of what his dad did to my brothers and sisters." In this light, couldn't you just take the Chorus's words here as a statement on how the desire for revenge gets handed down from generation to generation like a horrible heirloom?

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