The Oresteia Essay

1028 words - 4 pages

The Oresteia contains a string of bloody acts, all resulting from one conflicted decision. Because of this decision, Iphigeneia dies, Agamemnon dies, and Clytaemestra dies. The bloodshed is tragic because the slaughtering is all within one family. The decision that provokes the other decisions is Agamemnon's settlement on sacrificing Iphigeneia. As a result of this sacrifice, Artemis allows the Greek army, whom she had been holding on the shore, to begin their journey to sack Troy. Agamemnon's dilemma, which had two unfavorable options and multiple consequences on either side, deserved more contemplation than was given.Should he kill his daughter and continue on to Troy, or should he let his daughter live and put the honor of Menelaus and Argos aside? He realizes that it is a lose-lose situation: "What of these things goes without disaster?" (Agamemnon, 211). Agamemnon needed to examine his predicament more thoroughly, but it is easy to see why he made his decision so hastily. The situation: there are 1000 ships armed with Greek soldiers that are ready to fight and win honor back for their city. How is Agamemnon going to tell all of his soldiers, "Well, sorry guys, I don't want to kill my daughter, so it looks like the trip is off." Not only is he going to look cowardly in front of his men, he is also going to look like a bad king who does not have the best interests of his people in mind. To those soldiers, the death of Agamemnon's daughter is merely a stepping stone in their quest to overthrow Troy. Agamemnon has the same warrior-mentality as his soldiers when it comes to making the decision, as evidenced by his thoughts: "How shall I fail my ships and lose my faith of battle? For them to urge such sacrifice of innocent blood angrily, for their wrath is great-it is right. May all be well yet" (Aeschylus, 212-216).Agamemnon is clearly letting his passion for honor on the battlefield prevail over his love for Iphigeneia. This is understandable though, because back then the woman was not nearly as important as honor and glory on the front. If he had been in a rational state of mind, he would have sat down and recognized the implications of his decision. By doing this he would be more tentative when it came to killing his own flesh and blood. He would recognize that his wife would be furious with him for killing their innocent daughter. Also, he might speculate about what it would be like if the Greeks were not able to overthrow the Trojans. His daughter's death would be in vain. As it is, Agamemnon's choice is somewhat validated, because the Greeks are able to rout Troy, so Iphigeneia's death is not in vain. Still, there is much more carnage due to his decision to sacrifice Iphigeneia than there would have been if he had let her live.If Agamemnon had spared his daughter's life, he would have also spared his life, his wife's life, and the lives of thousands of Greek soldiers. By not appeasing...

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