Chorus Intervention In Aeschylus' The Eumenides And Agamemnon

982 words - 4 pages

In The Eumenides and Agamemnon of The Oresteia trilogy, Aeschylus constructs an over-arching metaphor for elements of the new Athenian democracy. The chorus in each play represents the people who feel under-represented and disrespected, by the society's changing values. In The Eumenides, the chorus of Furies is frustrated with the younger gods and infringements on their power; in Agamemnon the chorus fears more the control of an effective woman in Clytemnestra rather than the leadership of fruitless Agamemnon. Both choruses take direct actions thought to ensure their prominence.

Agamemnon picks of the story eponymous Greek king following the conclusion of the Trojan War. In his absence, his wife Clytemnestra has assumed the throne, and the polis has flourished under her. However, as a woman, Clytemnestra is nonetheless seen as unsuited to continue her reign given the morays of Argos. The chorus of Agamemnon relates with Clytemnestra and the thematic frustration with the control of women. Consisting of the bitter old men who were not allowed to go to the Trojan War, the chorus is opposes Clytemnestra's leadership as a woman for the sake of their own pride. They are relieved by Agamemnon's return, and see it as their salvation from being Argos' "dishonored ones." (Agamemnon, Ln. 79) Therefore they spend the play working to critique and delegitimize her reign, ultimately calling for her death for by Orestes hand.

The chorus views Agamemnon's return as "justice com[ing] to birth." (Agamemnon, Ln. 1001) Their surprising willingness to accept the loss of an entire generation of young Greek men in exchange for Agamemnon's return to the throne leaves no doubt about how crucial they believe the perseverance of older structures of power to be - in fact, their vision of their future with Clytemnestra as a leader is so apocalyptic that envision "heavy rains of blood will crush the house" (Agamemnon, Ln. 1561) Clytemnestra is to them a force which will "hold [them] down" (Agamemnon, Ln. 146), and a "woman [who] made him (Agamemnon) suffer." (Agamemnon, Ln. 1481) They call for the return of Orestes to both avenge his father's death and release them from her rule.

Their view of the future with Clytemnestra as ruler pays no heed to the success of her reign. Even Agamemnon acknowledges that her rule surpassed his: "The storms of ruin live! Her last dying breath, rising up from the ashes sends us gales of incense rich in gold." (Agamemnon, Ln. 804) The chorus' overriding concern is not with success or competency, but only with the preservation of the tradition rule. By first backing Agamemnon and then calling for Orestes murder of Clytemnestra they are seeking to reassert and realign the old order.

While the chorus in Agamemnon is focused on restoring power to Agamemnon as king, the play's sequel, The Eumenides traces the progression of the struggle for power as the chorus of the Furies strives to retain authority.

The metaphorical focus of The...

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