[Footnote 1: See my Four Stages of Greek Religion, p. 47. Cornford, From Religion to Philosophy, Chapter I. See also the fine pages on the Agamemnon in the same writer’s Thucydides Mythistoricus, pp. 144, ff. (E. Arnold 1907). G. M.]
To me this consideration actually increases the interest and beauty of the Oresteia, because it increases its greatness. The majestic art, the creative genius, the instinctive eloquence of these plays—that eloquence which is the mere despair of a translator—are all devoted to the expression of something which Aeschylus felt to be of tremendous import. It was not his discovery; but it was a truth of which he had an intense realization. It had become something which he must with all his strength bring to expression before he died, not in a spirit of self-assertion or of argument, like a discoverer, but as one devoted to something higher and greater than himself, in the spirit of an interpreter or prophet.
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY
AGAMEMNON, son of Atreus and King of Argos and Mycenae; Commander-in-Chief of the Greek armies in the War against Troy.
CLYTEMNESTRA, daughter of Tyndareus, sister of Helen; wife to Agamemnon.
AIGISTHOS, son of Thyestes, cousin and blood-enemy to Agamemnon lover to Clytemnestra.
CASSANDRA, daughter of Priam, King of Troy, a prophetess; now slave to Agamemnon.
CHORUS of Argive Elders, faithful to AGAMEMNON.
MENELAUeS, brother to Agamemnon, husband of Helen,
and King of Sparta.
The two sons of Atreus are called the Atreidae.
HELEN, most beautiful of women; daughter of Tyndareus, wife to MENELAUeS_; beloved and carried off by Paris._
PARIS, son of Priam, King of Troy, lover of Helen.
Also called ALEXANDER.
PRIAM, the aged King of Troy.
The Greeks are also referred to as Achaians, Argives, Danaans; Troy is also called Ilion.
The play was produced in the archonship if Philocles (458 B.C.). The first prize was won by Aeschylus with the “Agamemnon”, “Libation-Bearers”, “Eumenides”, and the Satyr Play “Proteus".
The Scene represents a space in front of the Palace of Agamemnon in Argos, with an Altar of Zeus in the centre and many other altars at the sides. On a high terrace of the roof stands a WATCHMAN. It is night.