Study Guide

Agamemnon Lies and Deceit

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Lies and Deceit

There are some obvious connections between the theme of "Lies and Deceit" and that of "Wisdom and Knowledge." The connection between these two themes becomes clear when the Chorus tells the Herald not to take everything Clytemnestra says at face-value; this is because they, the Chorus members, have learned from experience what she is really like, and so they know the truth. The same goes for self-deception, as when the Chorus thinks that Clytemnestra is acting foolishly by celebrating Agamemnon's homecoming before she knows if it's true or not. But here's the thing. Even experience can be deceptive if people act in ways that conceal their inner nature and intentions. Thus, even though the citizens of Argos have long experience of Clytemnestra, this doesn't make them suspect that she is a murderer.

Also, Aeschylus's play raises the issue that some people are especially prone to being deceived, in ways that go beyond the simple problem of lacking experience. The Chorus tells Agamemnon at lines 788-789 that mortals are especially able to be deceived once they have "transgressed justice." Agamemnon brushes off these warnings, but ends up being deceived by Clytemnestra. What does this say about him? How is the issue of transgression connected with being gullible anyway?

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Which does Aeschylus portray as more dangerous: self-deception or being deceived by others?
  2. Why does Agamemnon let himself be deceived by Clytemnestra?
  3. Does Aeschylus's play portray deception as ever justified?
  4. Why does Aeschylus draw a connection between people's unjust behavior and their inclination towards self-deception?

Chew on This

The play suggests that you can only be deceived by someone else if you let yourself be deceived.

The play suggests that innocent mistakes are possible; people are not always to blame for being deceived.

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