Notes on Characters from Agamemnon

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Agamemnon Major Characters

Agamemnon: Son of Atreus, King of the Argos. Agamemnon aides his younger brother Menelaus by assembling a massive army and Greeks to bring Menelaus' wife, Helen back from Troy. In order for the Greek ships to sail, he sacrifices his eldest daughter, Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis, much to the upset of his wife, Clytaemnestra. Agamemnon returns from the Trojan War after ten years, victorious, bringing along the Trojan princess Cassandra, whom he has enslaved and made his lover. Arriving home, his wife pressures him to arrogantly walk across a red carpet into the palace, offending the gods. He is treacherously slain in his own bathtub by a furious Clytaemnestra, avenging Iphigenia's death, as well as punishing her unfaithful husband.

Clytaemnestra: Daughter of Tyndareus, sister of Helen, and wife of Agamemnon. Clytaemnestra and her sister Helen married the brothers Agamemnon and Menelaus, respectively. Clytaemnestra controls the city of Argos while her husband is fighting at Troy for ten years, seething with anger about the death of her eldest daughter Iphigenia. Bold, aggressive, and cunning, she behaves like a man, dominating those around her, including the Chorus and even her own husband, when she convinces him to walk across the red carpet upon his return. With the help of Aegisthus, she plotted the bloody murder of her husband when he returns from the war, in order to avenge Iphigenia's death and punish him for his infidelity to her by making Cassandra his lover. She states afterwards that she and Aegisthus will now rule Argos, for her young son Orestes, also the next heir to the throne, has been sent away into exile.

Cassandra: Sister of Paris; daughter of Priam, King of Troy. Given powers of prophesy by the god Apollo but also cursed because she refused to make love to him, Cassandra is condemned to foretell the future, but no one believes her predictions. After Troy is sacked, Agamemnon brings her back to Argos with him, much to the upset of his wife Clytaemnestra. Although Cassandra tries to warn the Chorus about Clytaemnestra's murder plot, these old men do not believe her. The brave Cassandra then willingly enters the palace knowing that she will die there, as her body is left stabbed and bloodied at Agamemnon's side. She asks Apollo that whoever it is that will avenge Agammenon's death, let that person remember her and avenge her death as well.

Minor Characters

Helen: Daughter of Zeus; wife of Menelaus; divine sister of Clytaemnestra. Helen is the central cause of the Trojan War, since the Trojan prince ruthlessly kidnapped her from Menelaus' palace in Sparta when he was visiting there as an honored guest. Considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world, she was promised to Paris by Aphrodite after he judged her to be the winner in a beauty contest. The Chorus blames her for the deaths of so many young men who are fighting because of her. After Troy is conquered and Paris killed, Helen is apparently lost at sea with Menelaus after his ship is destroyed in a storm.

Menelaus: Son of Atreus; younger brother of Agamemnon; also the King of Sparta. His wife, Helen, was kidnapped by the Trojan Paris while a guest at his palace. Menelaus asks Agamemnon to assemble a Greek army to rescue her from Troy. After the war is ended, Menelaus' ship sinks during a storm, and nobody knows where he is, much to the disappointment of the Chorus of Elders in Argos.

Paris: Son of Priam, King of Troy. Paris was chosen to be the judge in a beauty contest between the goddesses Aphrodite, Athena, and Zeus' wife Hera, and declares Aphrodite to be the winner. As a reward, she promises him that the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, will be his wife, regardless of the fact that she was already married. Paris kidnaps Helen from Menelaus, sparking the Trojan War. He does not live to see its end, slain in the ninth year by a Greek named Pyrrhus.

Iphigenia: Eldest daughter of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra from Argos. In order for the Greek fleet to sail away to Troy, Agamemnon sacrifices Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis, much to his wife's utter disgust and total outrage. He had lured her to the place of sacrifice, called Aulis, by telling his wife that Iphigenia was going to be married to the Greek warrior Achilles. Clytaemnestra uses similar deceptions to murder her husband ten years later in order to avenge her beloved daughter's death.

Watchman: A man who watches for a fire signaling that Troy has fallen. After the Watchman sees the fire at last after ten years, he expresses great joy but is also concerned about what will happen when Agamemnon returns at long last.

Chorus of Elders: A group of old men from Argos. The Chorus is a passive observer to much of the action, refusing to get directly involved in either aiding Agamemnon when warned by Cassandra that Clytaemnestra plans to murder her and Agamemnon. Nor does it make any effort to stop Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus after they emerge from the palace, bragging about the murders. Instead, the Chorus is very passive and complains about everything, without trying to do anything about it.

Atreus: Son of Pelops; father of Agamemnon and Menelaus. His grandfather, Tantalus started the curse of Atreus by cooking Pelops and serving him to the gods. Pelops was resurrected by Zeus, however, and fathered the two sons Atreus and Thyestes. Atreus, in a struggle for power with his brother, and angry after Thyestes made love to his wife, cooked Thyestes' children and fed them to him at a banquet. This shedding of kindred blood continued the curse of Atreus, followed later by the death of Iphigenia and of Agamemnon himself.

Artemis: Greek goddess of hunting; sister of Apollo. Artemis refused to give the Greek ships good winds so that they could sail to Troy because the Greeks had slain a wild rabbit, a creature which she loved. Thus, Agamemnon was required to sacrifice his eldest daughter Iphigenia at Aulis to appease her anger. After this, Artemis gave the Greeks calm winds to sail to Troy.

Calchas: Prophet of Apollo. Calchas often relays what the gods want the Greeks to do before and during the Trojan War. He informs Agamemnon that Iphigenia must be sacrificed in order to appease Artemis.

Apollo: Greek god of prophesy, music, and light; brother of Artemis. The Chorus of Elders prays that Apollo will protect them from his sister Artemis. Later, Cassandra appeals to Apollo for help against Clytaemnestra, although he has cursed her because she rejected his love, and as such he does not offer any assistance at all.

Zeus: Greek god of the heavens; king of all the gods. Many people show respect towards Zeus, including the Chorus of Elders, thanking Zeus for returning Agamemnon safely home, and Agamemnon himself thanks Zeus for giving the Greeks victory. Clytaemnestra asks Zeus to help her in murdering her husband, declaring 'Zeus, Zeus...accomplish these my prayers.' Agamemnon offends Zeus after walking on the red carpet, however, because of this act of arrogance.

Hephaestus: Greek god of fire; son of Zeus and Hera. When the signal fires are lit after Troy is conquered by the Greeks, Clytaemnestra announces that Hephaestus has set the first blaze from Mount Ida, near Troy, thus sparking a line of signal fires spreading within the sight of Argos.

Furies: Goddesses of revenge older than any of the Olympian gods led by Zeus. The Furies punish the worst of sins, especially the shedding of kindred blood, tormenting the criminal until he is himself killed. The Chorus warns that the Furies will punish anyone who does not live life in moderation and show reverence towards the gods.

Herald: A Greek messenger who announces the return of Agamemnon to Argos after the Trojan War has ended. Clytaemnestra urges him to go back to the ships and bring back her husband as quickly as possible, because she is so eager to see him again. In reality, she is eager to kill him.

Hermes: Greek messenger god and god of journeys; son of Zeus. The Herald thanks Hermes for watching over him and bringing him safely back to Argos after the Trojan War has ended.

Priam: King of Troy; father of Paris. When Paris was a baby, Priam was warned by a prophet that Paris would cause the destruction of Troy, so he sent him away to be a shepherd on nearby Mount Ida. However, it was on Mount Ida that the quarrelling goddesses found him and asked him to judge their beauty contest. Priam is slain when Troy falls.

Orestes: Son of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra. Orestes is sent to live in exile before Agamemnon returns from Argos. As a result, Clytaemnestra murders her husband without any interference and controls the kingship with the help of Aegisthus. Yet Orestes remains the rightful heir to the throne.

Thyestes: Father of Aegisthus; brother of Atreus. After Thyestes fell in love with Atreus' wife, a jealous Atreus cooked Thyestes two children alive and fed them to him, unknowing, at a banquet. He then expelled Thyestes from Argos and the man lived the rest of his days in exile, unavenged.

Aegisthus: Son of Thyestes; cousin of Agamemnon; lover of Clytaemnestra. Aegisthus helps Clytaemnestra to plot Agammenon's murder, although he does not commit the murder himself. Because a woman did the deed for him, the Chorus, considers him to be a coward and calls him a woman. Aegisthus avenges the murders of his siblings and the exile of his father, Thyestes, at the jealous hands of Atreus, by helping to kill Atreus' son, Agamemnon.

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