Agamemnon: Power And Vengeance An Analysis Of Zeus's Role In Cycle Of Violence And Revenge In Aeschylus's Agamemnon

1110 words - 4 pages

Agamemnon: Power and VengeanceIn the world of Aeschylus, the lives of mortals are rocked by the emotions of a volatile and vengeful god. This human-like god Zeus is equipped with the power to wreak havoc on the lives of his mortal subjects. In Aeschylus' tragedy, Agamemnon, Zeus blesses and and encourages a vengeful ten year war waged by the twin kings Menelaus and Agamemnon against the city of Troy, sparking a cycle of continued infidelity and violence. This text reveals a rather perverse system of divine justice in which, at times, pride and revenge are valued more highly than human life.The war against the city of Troy is waged because Menelaus is angry and embarrassed that his wife Helen ran away with Paris, yet the chorus makes it clear that this war is also one of divine justice. In a passage describing the war the chorus uses a simile to make the king's vengeful war seem justified and even holy.Ten years since the great contestants of priam's right , Menelaus and Agamemnon my lord, twin throned and twin sceptered, in twofold power of kings from God, the Atreidae, the strength and the armies. Their cry of war went schrill from the heart as eagles, stricken in agony for young perished, high from the nest eddy and circle to bend and sweep of the wings stroke, lost far below the fledglings, the nest and the tendance. Yet someone hears in the air, a god, Apollo, pan or Zeus, the high thin wail of these sky guests, and drives late to its mark the Fury upon the transgressors, so drives Zeus the great guest god the atreide against Alexander: for one man's promiscuous sake . . . . You cannot burn flesh or pour unguents, not innocent cool tears, that will soften the god's stiff anger. (Agamemnon: 6)The prideful kings' "shrill cry of war," is likened to the cry of an eagle, "stricken in agony," after losing a child. The kings themselves are likened to majestic eagles who have just suffered the loss of their offspring. Thus the chorus gives weight to the kings' injured pride and desire for vengeance by validating this pride as equal to the primal pain of the eagles. When Aeschylus writes that the Atreide was driven against Alexander for one woman's promiscuous sake," the deaths of the struggling masses" are meant to seem a worthwhile sacrafice in the face of "justice." Upon returning home from battle, Agamemnon tells the chorus, "the stormcloud of (Troy's) ruin lives; the ash that dies upon them gushes in smoke their pride and wealth. For all this we must thank the gods with grace of much high praise and memory, we who fenced within our toils of wrath the city," (Agamemnon: 30) attributing his victory in war and the necesity of the war itself to "the gods," and mentioning only victory over Troy's "pride and wealth," not the people who actually felt the brunt of his wrath. To Agamemnon and to Zues, the pride of this royal family is without question worth war, and it is to be understood that the common man must accept this as the mechanisms of...

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