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by Aeschylus

Agamemnon Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes

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

Quote #4

(Chorus): "What followed, I neither saw nor do I say;
but Calchas' skills did not go unfulfilled.
Justice weighs down the scale for some to suffer and learn.
You may hear the future when it happens;
until it does, farewell to it! – or it's the same
as sorrowing too soon:
it will come sharp and clear, rising with dawn's rays." (248-254)

These words of the Chorus come not long after their first statement of the principle that learning comes from suffering, a major threat to communication. The fact that they are repeating this idea in such quick succession provides a good clue about how important it is. But what about the difference this time around? What is the effect of saying that "Justice" makes people suffer and learn, instead of Zeus? Is it simply because Zeus is in charge of Justice? (You'll have to look elsewhere in the play to figure this one out.) In any case, the idea of learning through suffering definitely fits well with the end of this quotation, when the Chorus says people shouldn't worry about the future until it happens. If you only learn through suffering, this makes total sense: how can you know anything about the future until you've suffered through it? Try to keep this passage in mind when looking at the other quotations; this section makes clear the connection between the theme of "Suffer and learn" and the theme of prophecy, especially as illustrated by Cassandra.

Quote #5

(Chorus): "I am not sorry to be convinced by what you say; the old are always young enough to learn readily." (583-584)

With these words, the Chorus signals that it believes the Herald's account that Troy has fallen. How does this fit in with the idea expressed elsewhere in the play, that one learns from "suffering," a.k.a. "experience"? The Chorus, after all, has not learned about Troy's fall from experience; instead, its members have been convinced by a detailed report provided by a credible witness (the Herald). Or is this a case of "learning" at all? When Aeschylus is talking about "learning," does that mean the same thing as consenting to believe or disbelieve somebody's account? Does "learning" for Aeschylus mean acquiring facts (as the Chorus does here) or wisdom? What is the difference between facts and wisdom? These are all issues you should be thinking about in reading this play.

Quote #6

(Chorus to Herald): "[Clytemnestra] spoke that way to you, words which if you understand them with the help of clear interpreters, appear specious." (615-617)

These words present another perspective on the theme of "Suffer and learn." Specifically, they show how words can be deceptive to those who do have not experienced the facts behind them. Clytemnestra's words to the Herald project an image of a loving, devoted wife, eager to see her husband. But the Chorus, who has lived under Clytemnestra's command for the past ten years, knows that she isn't all she appears to be. But are the Chorus's words enough to convince the Herald? If not, does this suggest that he, too, has to suffer before he learns?

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