Summary of Agamemnon by Aeschylus

Summary of Agamemnon by Aeschylus

Key information about Aeschylus

       i.            Born in 525/524 BC and died in 456/455 BC

     ii.            One of the greatest Greek tragedians.

  iii.            Father of Greek tragedy.

   iv.            Older than Sophocles and Euripides.

     v.            Winning first prize at the Dionysia competition in 458 BCE.

   vi.            Agamemnon was the first play in a trilogy.

Key information about the play:

Full title: Agamemnon

Author: Aeschylus

First Performed: 458 BCE

Type: Play

Genre: Tragedy


       i.            Nets

     ii.            Watchdog

  iii.            Purple Carpet

   iv.            Birds

Themes of the Play:

       i.            Fate

     ii.            Revenge versus Justice

  iii.            Righteousness versus Evil

   iv.            Gender Roles

     v.            Character foiling and doubling

   vi.            Divine versus human justice

vii.            Corruption and purity

Characters of the play:


       i.            King of Argos.

     ii.            Husband of Clytemnestra.

  iii.            Chief commander of Greek armies.

   iv.            Elder brother of Menelaus.

     v.            A great warrior.

   vi.            Sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, for favorable wine to carry the Greek fleet to Troy.

vii.            Brought Cassandra with him as a concubine.

viii.            Killed by Clytemnestra.


       i.            Protagonist of the play.

     ii.            Agamemnon’s wife.

  iii.            In the absence of Agamemnon, she has ruled Argos.

   iv.            Plans with ruthless determination to take revenge.

     v.            Kills her husband and Cassandra.

   vi.            Beloved of Aegisthus, cousin of Agamemnon.


       i.            The elder citizens of Argos.

     ii.            Serve as advisors to Queen Clytemnestra during Agamemnon’s absence.

  iii.            Provide commentary on the action of the play.

   iv.            Express the background for the action.

     v.            Describe the events of the Trojan War.

   vi.            Reveals the dangers of human pride.


       i.            A Trojan priestess.

     ii.            Daughter of Priam, the legendary king of Troy during the Trojan War.

  iii.            Captured by Agamemnon and carried to Argos as mistress or concubine.

   iv.            Has a power of prophecy but people do not believe her prophecy.

     v.            She is killed by Clytemnestra.


       i.            Clytemnestra’s lover.

     ii.            Agamemnon’s cousin.

  iii.            Son of Thyestes,

   iv.            Wants power and vengeance like Clytaemnestra.

     v.            His manner is authoritative and menacing.

The Watchman

The Herald

       i.            Provides news of Agamemnon’s safe homecoming.

     ii.            An ardent patriot.

  iii.            Expresses vivid descriptions of the horrors of the war against Troy.

Summary of the play:

The play starts with a watchman who on the roof of the royal palace in the Greek city of Argos waits for the news of the outcome of the Trojan War hoping for the victory of Greek soldiers. When the watchman sees the signal fire indicating victory, he goes to the palace to spread the news.

The Chorus, a group of Argive old people, express the news and tell that they have been waiting for this victory for 10 years, they ask the Argive queen, Clytaemnestra, for news.

Then the Chorus expresses the Argive prophet, Calchas, who predicted the Argive victory and tells how the goddess Artemis forced Agamemnon, leader of the Argive forces, to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia so his troops could set sail.

Exiting from the palace, Clytaemnestra tells the Chorus that the Argive armies have destroyed Troy. The Chorus reveals the destruction caused by Paris and Helen, whose kidnapping started the war, and laments the damage and sorrow war causes. Individually Chorus members tell whether Clytaemnestra’s news can be trusted.

A herald arrives to confirm Troy is defeated. Clytaemnestra decides to give her husband, Agamemnon, a hero’s welcome home. The Chorus tells the story of Helen’s arrival in Troy, laments Troy’s grief, and warns of doom for the violence.

Agamemnon comes back with Cassandra, a prophetess from Troy and captured member of the royal family, now his war prize. He glorifies the gods for saving him and says he will work with the Chorus to establish a democracy. Seemingly worried about her husband, Clytaemnestra welcomes Agamemnon and promises she has been faithful.

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When Clytaemnestra spreads a purple carpet for Agamemnon to walk on, he protests, saying the honor is fit only for a god, not a human. He and Clytaemnestra disagree about this, but finally, he walks across the carpet into his palace. The Chorus senses fear. They think something terrible will happen, and they realize justice will be served.

Clytaemnestra and the Chorus persist Cassandra to enter the palace and take her place as a slave. Cassandra immediately refuses and she cries out in horror and claims she sees murder and tragedy in the palace and She speaks the Chorus her visions, which become more specific. Cassandra tells that Clytaemnestra will kill Agamemnon and Cassandra herself. The Chorus members are more confused and afflicted, unsure whether to believe her.  Infuriated, Cassandra enters the palace, though she knows that she will die very soon too.

The Chorus begins to tell about the inevitability of fate, but screams from the palace interrupt them. The Chorus members worry and scatter, debating whether Agamemnon is dead and whether his killers will capture the city of Argos.

Then, the palace doors open, revealing Clytaemnestra with blood on her hands. Clytaemnestra has killed Agamemnon and Cassandra. She reveals that she kills Agamemnon to take revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia and she also kills Cassandra because she was Agamemnon’s lover. When she wants to justify her actions, the Chorus argues with her. The Chorus members get into trouble for the slain Agamemnon, but Clytaemnestra says he brought his death on himself.

Aegisthus, Agamemnon’s cousin and Clytaemnestra’s lover comes and assisted in her plot. He expresses that justice has been served for past crimes. Long ago Aegisthus’s father, Thyestes, had been betrayed by Atreus, Agamemnon’s father. As part of their power struggle, Atreus plotted Thyestes into eating his own young children then banished him from the city. Taking Aegisthus with him, Thyestes went to Argos and called down a curse on the House of Atreus, ensuring its members would die violently. Aegisthus speaks to angry Chorus members who now will have to serve him. They shame him and tell him that they are ready to die. They hope Orestes, Agamemnon’s exiled son, will return.

Thus, the play ends with Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus, now they are the rulers of Argos, returning to the palace. As guards surround the gate, after denouncing the murderers, the Chorus detached.

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