Aeschylus "Agamemnon" - Hero or Villain?

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Agamemnon- Hero or Villain?


Aeschylus’ trilogy “The Oresteia” is the one of earliest and the only surviving complete set of Greek tragedies we have. It was performed at the City Dionysia in Athens in 458 BC and won first prize. The first of the plays, “Agamemnon” tells the story of the Argive king returning from the Trojan war, where he has the face the consequences of having sacrificed his daughter in order to help Greece succeed in defeating Troy. It would seem as if Agamemnon isn’t a great guy, but his character is more complex than that and you can debate as to whether he is in fact a hero or a villain.

Agamemnon- King of Argos

Agamemnon is a good king- or at least, that’s what his subjects think. In the opening prologue, the watchman waiting for the signal that the war is over sets the scene of the play. In this, he expresses how much he wishes Agamemnon would come home and everything could go back to how it was before he left “I cry for the hard times come to the house, no longer run like the great place of old.” The watchman says that when Agamemnon finally returns, “I’ll take your loving hand in mine”, so clearly he believes that Agamemnon cares about his people, who care about him in return.

The chorus, who are the old men of Argos, also seem to love Agamemnon. During their opening speech (the parados) they tell the story of Agamemnon leaving for Troy with his brother Menelaus- “our great avenger went for Priam- Menelaus and lord Agamemnon.” They clearly think that Agamemnon is a good warrior and admire him. They also praise him to his face when Agamemnon arrives home, calling him “my king, the scourge of Troy, true son of Atreus.” However, they aren’t afraid to criticise his going to war- earlier in the play they talk about how the war was “all for a woman” and when Agamemnon arrives they tell him that “I drew you in my mind in black, you seemed a menace at the helm.” Agamemnon responds by saying that “I hear you and agree, I will support you.” Overall, it seems as though Agamemnon as a king has a good relationship with his people and so is a hero to them.

The Sacrifice of Iphigeneia

The chorus tells the story of how


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