Language In Aeschylus Essay

1623 words - 6 pages

Language in Aeschylus

Language is Aeschylus' juggernaut: he uses striking, innovative words to drive an image into the mind of his audience. Clytaemestra, notorious as a villain or perhaps an anti- heroine, effectively acts as a medium for Aeschylus’ brilliant rhetoric in Agamemnon. Clytaemestra’s rhetoric not only invokes vivid imagery, but also confuses and perverts spheres of logic and rhetoric: sacrifice with murder, liquids with cloth, and blood with wine. These images overturn the values and traditions of her society, symbolized by the chorus, by joining spheres that were customarily kept separate. Aeschylus’ perversion of values through the confusion of rhetorical spheres gives Clytaemestra ultimate power in the play and throughout the trilogy.
One of the ways Aeschylus builds Clytaemestra’s power at the play's climax is through the involution of murder depicted as a sacrifice. The ritual sacrifice, a sphage, served as a means of purification in antiquity (Lebek 80). In Agamemnon, the symbolic act of sacrifice becomes corrupted and equated with murder. Death, as a sacrifice, is a constant theme. It has been alluded to many times before Agamemnon's demise, always in the form of ritual sacrifice, but never as murder. The most obvious example is the mention of Iphigenia's sacrifice. Therefore, by the time the audience comprehends Clytaemestra's murderous act, it has seen a precedent set for murder mistaken as sacrifice. Clytaemestra boldly presents her position to the chorus: “I struck him twice. In two great cries of agony he buckled at the knees and fell. When he was down I struck him the third blow, in thanks and reverence to Zeus the lord of dead men underneath the ground.” She continues her plea, almost relishing in what she has done: “…and as he died he spattered me with the dark red and violent driven rain of bitter savored blood to make me glad, as gardens stand among the showers of God in glory at the birthtime of the buds” (1389-1394). The three murderous blows that Clytaemestra strikes allude to the three libations offered during a normal sacrifice. Typically, one would offer three libations of wine: first to the Olympians, then to the Chthonians, and finally to Zeus, the Savior (Lebek 1-7). Clytaemestra corrupts the ritual sacrifice on several accounts. She offers blood rather than wine, sacrifices a king rather than an animal, and confuses the steps of the sacrificial ritual.
The first corruption of the ritual is the offering of blood rather than wine. It is not the first time that human remains have been offered for ritual feast instead of animal ones; the audience quickly remembers the feast of Atreus, perhaps the ultimate symbol of the impiety of the Atreides. By offering Agamemnon's blood as wine, Clytaemestra makes a connection with the feast a generation earlier. The second corruption concerns what is being sacrificed. Rather than killing some goat or bull, Clytaemestra murders her husband and king. Again, a...

Find Another Essay On Language in Aeschylus

The Philosophy and Psychology of Sophocles’s Antigone and The Eumenides in Aeschylus’ Oresteia

2452 words - 10 pages The Philosophy and Psychology of Sophocles’s Antigone and The Eumenides in Aeschylus’ Oresteia There is a consensus among readers of the poetry or plays written in the fifth century that the plays succeed with inspiring profound movement on the audience. The methods or reasons for the reader to be moved by a text are often disputed. Specific to tragic works the concepts of philosophy and psychology are critical elements to

Ancient Greek Theatre. Essay

3043 words - 12 pages price of hubris? Read a soliloquy from a Greek tragedy, or for that matter from Hamlet or Macbeth, and what you will hear is these questions being asked.The Tragedy FormThe traditional tragedy in Aeschylus' time (circa 475 BC) consisted of the following parts:*Prologue, which described the situation and set the scene*Parados, an ode sung by the chorus as it made its entrance*Five dramatic scenes, each followed by a Komos, an exchange of laments by

The Origins of Greek Theatre

2318 words - 9 pages Theater was born in Attica, an Ionic region of Greece. It originated from the ceremonial orgies of Dionysos but soon enough its fields of interest spread to various myths along with historic facts. As ancient drama was an institution of Democracy, the great tragic poets Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides as well as the comedian Aristophanes elevated public debate and political criticism to a level of aesthetic achievement. Euripides and the

Death by Aeschylus Reasons Why Teachers Should not Force Students to Study Agamemnon

1077 words - 4 pages quarrelsome era. No compassionate instructor should teach Agamemnon. Agamemnon is a laborious play written by the caustic character commonly known as Aeschylus. There are reasons for the abhorrence. It is boorish, it does not fit Aristotle?s definition of tragedy nor does it fit his six elements. It is contrived, and it serves no purpose in the actor?s repertory. It is the bane of theatrical history students everywhere, and therefore the work should burn

Play Analysis - The Bacchae

1792 words - 7 pages god, Dionysus, a god with feminine features (i.e. Rosy cheeks, long blond curls, etc.), who embodied a mortal figure, walked among the mortals, and spoke like a mortal. One believes this was new to the first Greek audience, as in previous plays by Aeschylus and Sophocles, the male gods were enormous, booming and masculine. What is more interesting is that Dionysus was the protagonist of the play. In plays by the other two tragedists, the gods

The History of Entertainment

1619 words - 6 pages still popular today, and contributed thousands of new words to the English language. Many people also started playing a game that is similar to soccer. Players kicked around a leather ball filled with straw. This was one of the first modern competitive sports played. This and many other characteristics of entertainment in the Middle Ages have had a lasting effect history. During the 18th and 19th centuries, much like the Renaissance, traveling


1263 words - 5 pages , Oceanus departs.The Chorus again repeats that they shed tears for Prometheus, and that the entire world that was old before Zeus mourns for the suffering of Prometheus and his Titan brothers at the hands of the new tyrant. They say they have seen only one other Titan bound and tortured in this way: Atlas, who holds the world. Prometheus replies by summarizing all he has done for humanity. He taught human beings how to use numbers and language so

Thomas DeQuincey's book "Confessions of an English Opium eater" .

1546 words - 6 pages Diary of an AddictThomas De Quincey's, "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater" is a brief history of the authors life, as well as a detailed account of the physical and psychological effects associated with eating opium. De Quincey is not only the author, but also the narrator and main character of the book. His profound knowledge of the English language makes his prose at times feel like a one-way conversation with a genius. All in all

Analysis of Greek Tragedy Using the Aristotilean Model

1339 words - 5 pages the tragedy is. It cannot be so long, however, as that the memory can not take in the entire performance. Aristotle also gives a history of plays and of the innovations and developments they have undergone. Aeschylus was responsible for the first innovation in classic tragedies, reducing the number in the chorus to 12-15, which previously was around fifty, and introducing a second actor on stage. Sophocles later introduced the third character

classical greek

1975 words - 8 pages The Classical Period In Greek Art & PhilosophyAdapted from Charles Van Doren's A History of Knowledge and Marilyn Stokstad's Art HistoryThales and the Greek explosionThere is no evidence that Greek was a written language prior to the middle of the eighth century BC. Suddenly, with the importation of papyrus, Greek written materials began to be produced, and commercial records and treatises on technical subjects began to be distributed


4228 words - 17 pages , influenced, and challenged readers to the present day. To suggest that all Western literature is no more than a footnote to the writings of classical Greece is an exaggeration, but it is nevertheless true that the Greek world of thought was so far-ranging that there is scarcely an idea discussed today that was not debated by the ancient writers. The only body of literature of comparable influence is the Bible. The language in which the ancient

Similar Essays

Oresteia The Issue Of Justice In Aeschylus' Eumenides

2550 words - 10 pages Oresteia - The Issue of Justice in Aeschylus' Eumenides The concept of justice is manifested through the three plays of Aeschylus' Oresteia. The old tradition of justice, the private blood feud, caused an ungoverned succession of violent acts that spiralled uncontrollably. Aegisthus, Clytemnestra's lover, is introduced in Agamemnon; he desires vengeance for the plot contrived by Agamemnon's father (Ag: 1605-1611).1 Neither Agamemnon nor

Eumenides Resolution Of Conflict In Aeschylus' Oresteia

1939 words - 8 pages . (1992). Aeschylus: The Oresteia. Cambridge * LEBECK, A. (1971). The Oresteia: A Study in Language and Structure. Washington * LLOYD-JONES, H. (1971). The Justice of Zeus: Sather Classical Lectures vol. 42. California * LLOYD-JONES, H. (1979). Aeschylus: The Oresteia. California * SOMMERSTEIN, A.H. (1989). Aeschylus: Eumenides. Cambridge * WINNINGTON-INGRAM, R. P. (1983). Studies in Aeschylus. Cambridge ENDNOTES 1

Why Does Agamemnon Die? An Analysis Of Aeschylus's 'agamemnon' From The Orestia Trilogy Which Examines The Multiple Causes Of His Death. Based On A Reading Of The Play In Translation.

1337 words - 5 pages Aeschylus' Oresteia: AgamemnonWhy did Agamemnon die?Aeschylus' tragedy, the Agamemnon, is the opening play in the only surviving Greek trilogy: the Oresteia. The Agamemnon has a multifaceted plot, charting the reasons for the hero's legendary unexpected death on his victorious return from Troy. Aeschylus manipulates the original myth in order to accentuate the dangers of giving power to a woman, hence Clytemnestra's murder of Agamemnon as

Clytaemnestra And Penelope A Essay

1082 words - 4 pages choose. It's all one.' (Aeschylus, page 162, lines 1426-1428) Strong language is used to describe her: 'fell, bestial, corrupt, godforsaken' (Homer page 199 & Aeschylus page 146). Placed in a somewhat similar situation to Penelope's, she might have suffered at home alone if it weren't for one circumstance: the sacrifice of her daughter by Agamemnon. In response to this act of barbarity she contracted an alliance with Aegisthus, Agamemnon's cousin