Study Guide

Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, and Iphigenia Themes

  • Betrayal

    Yeah, there's no getting around the fact that this myth is chock full of some pretty serious betrayals. First, there's Agamemnon who betrays his daughter, Iphigenia, by offering her up as a sacrifice to Artemis so that he can go off and fight the Trojan War. Not only is this a betrayal of Iphigenia, it's also a major stab in the back to his wife, Clytemnestra. We can't think of many worse things one parent could do to another than kill a child they created together.

    Clytemnestra answers Agamemnon's betrayal with some of her own. While the king is off at war, she starts sleeping with his cousin, Aegisthus. (Ouch. Also, ew.) When he gets back, she seals the deal by stabbing her hubby to death. (Ouch again!) No doubt about it, these people do some serious backstabbing. Well, in Clytemnestra's case, she does some heart-stabbing, some chest-stabbing, some face-stabbing and whatever other creative kind of stabbing you can think of.

    Questions About Betrayal

    1. What do you think is the worst betrayal in this myth? Explain your answer.
    2. How would this story be different if all instances of betrayal were removed?
    3. Is Clytemnestra's murder of Agamemnon really betrayal, or a kind of brutal justice? Why do you think so?
    4. If Agamemnon had chosen not to sacrifice Iphigenia, would that have been a betrayal of his army? Why, or why not?
    5. What other characters might be guilty of betrayal in the story?
  • Revenge

    When Clytemnestra stabs Agamemnon to death for sacrificing Iphigenia she wreaks a pretty awful revenge. What makes the myth interesting (to us anyway) is that to her, it isn't really revenge at all. To the queen, she's only giving her husband what he rightly deserves. She feels like she has every right to make Agamemnon pay for what he did. We love this myth because it really makes us think about the line between revenge and justice.

    Questions About Revenge

    1. Do you think Clytemnestra is getting revenge or justice? Explain your answer?
    2. What is the difference between revenge and justice?
    3. Are any of the other characters in the story out for revenge?
    4. What is another way Clytemnestra might've made Agamemnon pay?
    5. If Agamemnon could come back from the dead, what do you think he would say to Clytemnestra?