Agamemnon Lines 1331-1677
After bidding farewell to Cassandra as she enters the royal palace at Argos, the Chorus of Elders wonders if her prophesy shall really come true: that Clytaemnestra will murder Cassandra and Agamemnon in revenge for his sacrificing her daughter Iphigenia ten years ago when the Trojan War first began. The old men wonder if a man so great as Agamemnon, having survived the perils at Troy, is fated to be murdered by his own wife. They ask, "Must he give blood for generations gone,/die for those slain and in death pile up/more death to come for the blood shed,/what mortal else who hears shall claim/he was born clear of the dark angel?" Lines 1338-1342. Indeed, Agamemnon's father Atreus polluted the house with sin when he cooked Thyestes' children in the oven and secretly fed them to him. The gods are angry that Atreus has done such a wicked deed, and now his son Agamemnon must suffer as well. At this moment, Agamemnon's voice is heard crying out in pain that he has been stabbed; the Chorus becomes alarmed. The men argue about what they should do, agreeing to enter the palace first to see what has happened.
Upon entering the palace, the Chorus sees a hideous scene before them. Agamemnon and Cassandra are lying the ground, dead, and Clytaemnestra stands over them, explaining that she first restrained her husband by throwing heavy robes around his body so that he could not fight back at all, and then stabbed him three times. His blood splattered all over her body and hands, but Clytaemnestra says that this made her "glad" to feel his blood all over her body. She urges the Chorus to be happy that Agamemnon is dead, since he "filled our cup with evil things unspeakable." The woman is acting very differently than she did earlier when her husband first returned to Argos, inviting him to step upon the red carpet and be honored by his people. Now, her flattery has turned into hatred. Instead of praising him for being the hero that sacked the city of Troy, now Clytaemnestra calls him an evil man, principally because of what he killed their eldest daughter Iphigenia so that Artemis would send wind so that the Greek ships could sail to Troy.
The Chorus of Elders is not happy that their king is slain, and they are outraged that Clytaemnestra has murdered her husband. The queen of Argos does not show any sympathy, "You cry out as if I were a woman and vain;/but my heart is not fluttered as I speak before you./You know it. You can praise or blame me as you wish;/it is all one to me. That man is Agamemnon,/my husband; he is dead; the work of this right hand/that struck in strength of righteousness. And that is that" Lines 1401-1406. She comments that the Chorus treats her as if she was a "woman," even though she is in fact a woman. Clytaemnestra has murdered the king, and she makes this very clear to the Chorus, that it was "the work of this right hand" which stabbed him. It is almost as if she is out to prove something, since it is so important to her to make the Chorus understand that she is a murderer. The Chorus is disgusted, wondering whatever has driven her to such a state of evil. They insist that now no one shall care for her, since she will be an outcast who is "crushed with men's bitterness."
Clytaemnestra is not humbled by the Chorus' words and becomes defensive, reminding these men that they did absolutely nothing at all to help her daughter Iphigenia when Agamemnon sacrificed her to the goddess Artemis. She warns the old men, asking them to try and stop her, "go on and threaten me, but know that I am ready,/if fairly you can beat me down beneath your hand,/for you to rule; but if the god grant otherwise,/you shall be taught--too late, for sure--to keep your place" Lines 1422-1425. She insists that the gods support these actions against her husband and Cassandra, stating that they will protect her if the old men decide to take the power to rule Argos away from her. Showing little respect, she says "keep in your place." It is clear now that Clytaemnestra plans to rule over Argos, replacing her husband. There is no guilt for what she has done, but instead the woman feels joy, claiming that he deserved this death after murdering their daughter at Aulis before the Trojan War began. Now she stands up for herself instead of allowing these old men to talk back to her.
The Chorus of Elders replies that the Queen is filled with pride, and now she is driven by her emotions rather than rational thoughts, "swung clear to the red act drives the fury within your brain," yet it also predicts that these murders shall one day be avenged. The men repeat the prophesy that Cassandra made, that Clytaemnestra will be murdered herself for what she has done. Again, the woman is disaffected, stating that she will be protected by her friend Aegisthus, who has been her lover while Agamemnon was away. This is the opposite of what she had said earlier, insisting that she had been faithful to her husband when he returned. She thinks it is a further revenge that Agamemnon lies dead on the floor with his mistress Cassandra while she, the murderess, is still living and has also taken another lover. Clytaemnestra is becoming very much like Agamemnon now instead of being a docile, obedient woman. She has murdered, she bosses the Chorus around, she has been so bold as to have a lover, and she wishes to rule over the city called Argos as well. The Chorus laments about how wicked Helen was for starting the Trojan War and causing so many brave men to die; now the Chorus blames women again for this murder of Agamemnon. If it was a man who committed this act, perhaps it would not have been so bad.
Clytaemnestra counters again for the Chorus not to blame the entire Trojan War on Helen alone, defending this woman who is in fact her sister. She insists that the deaths of so many Greek men was not Helen's fault, and these old men are merely looking for a scapegoat. The Chorus compares her to a carrion crow, disgusted that she is so proud of the terrible deed she has done. They appeal to Zeus for comfort, suddenly overcome by such sadness at how much they loved King Agamemnon, who has been murdered in his own home by his wife. They add that Zeus controls everything that humans do, including even this act of murder. Clytaemnestra agrees somewhat with this statement, saying that it was not she, but in fact Zeus that killed Agamemnon, "Can you claim I have done this?/Speak of me never/more as the wife of Agamemnon./In the shadow of this corpse's queen/the old stark avenger/of Atreus for his revel of hate/struck down this man,/last blood for the slaughtered children" Lines 1497-1504. According to her, the King of Argos suffered because of his sins for murdering Iphigenia, but he also because his father, Atreus, murdered Thyestes' children long ago. Atreus'avengers are still in the house, and it is they who have committed this murder under Zeus' direction. Clytaemnestra justifies her actions by stating that this is an act of justice.
The Chorus continues to cry and complain about Agamemnon's death, and Clytaemnestra merely says again that he deserved what he got, for "With the sword he struck [Iphigenia],/with the sword he paid for his own act." The old men wonder what will happen now to Argos and what shall happen to Agamemnon's body. They are in a state of total confusion about what to do. Their leader has fallen, and with no one to guide their actions, these old men are lost. Clytaemnestra tells them not to worry, since she and her lover, Aegisthus, have a duty to bury Agamemnon because they murdered him, gloating to think that when Agamemnon goes to the Underworld, he will see Iphigenia. She also declares that there is nothing to worry about, for she has ended the curse of Atreus, "I swept from these halls/the murder, the sin, and the fury." There will be no more suffering in Argos according to her, contrary to what the prophetess Cassandra had predicted. Cassandra had said that Clytaemnestra's child would kill her to avenge the father's death, yet she is completely unsuspecting that anything like this will happen.
Aegisthus then enters the palace and praises the gods for allowing them to murder Agamemnon. He reveals that this was revenge for him as well, for Thyestes was in fact his father; it was his older siblings who were cooked alive by Agamemnon's father Atreus. He recalls the gruesome details of the banquet where Thyestes' two children were fed to him (Aegisthus was the third child and the youngest), and that Thyestes cursed Atreus' family as a result. Aegisthus feels no guilt about what has happened, "Out of such acts you see this dead man stricken here,/and it was I, in my right, who wrought this murder.../driven, a helpless baby in [Thyestes'] arms, to banishment./Yet I grew up, and justice brought me home again,/till from afar I laid my hands upon this man,/since it was I who pieced together the fell plot./Now I can die in honor again, if die I must,/having seen him caught in the cords of just punishment" Lines 1603-1611. Aegisthus has different reasons for murdering Agamemnon. He also wants to reclaim the city for himself, since Atreus banished Thyestes from the city, fearing that he would try to take back the throne. Aegisthus admits that he helped plot this murder against the King. Both of these two people insist that their actions are supported by the gods above, however, and as such, they are free from any punishments.
The Chorus blames Aegisthus for all that has happened, stating that he put Clytaemnestra up to committing this act of murder instead of being honorable and doing it himself, "So then you, like a woman, waited the war out/here in the house, shaming the master's bed with lust,/and planned against the lord of war this treacherous death?" Lines 1625-1627. The Chorus no longer directs its anger toward Clytaemnestra but instead focuses on Aegisthus, comparing him to a cowardly woman. Aegisthus threatens that he will punish the Chorus, declaring "Once broken, you will be easier to deal with." The Chorus insists that Aegisthus cannot rule over Argos because he is not worthy, for he did not even have the courage to kill Agamemnon himself; he had to have a woman do the deed for him. The Chorus does not respect Aegisthus. He replies that Clytaemnestra was in a better position to kill Agamemnon because she is a woman and women are better at deception than men are. Aegisthus warns the Chorus to stop or else they will suffer terribly for their disobedience.
Defiant, the Chorus hopes that Agamemnon's son Orestes will return to Argos and save them, mocking Aegisthus again for having a woman commit the murder for him, "But why, why then, you coward, could you not have slain your man yourself? Why must it be his wife who killed,/to curse the country and the gods within the ground?/Oh, can Orestes live, be somewhere in sunlight still?/Shall fate grown gracious ever bring him back again/in strength of hand to overwhelm these murderers?" Lines 1642-1648. Orestes remains their only source of hope in stopping these two murderers, nor does the Chorus believe that the gods support what has happened. Instead of perceiving Agamemnon's death to be well-deserved, it believes that the gods shall punish Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus. He threatens the Chorus again, and they become very angry, wishing to fight against him in a swordfight. Aegisthus is prepared to do battle, but Clytaemnestra interrupts, insisting that there will be no more fighting. She urges that there be no more death or bloodshed and asks Aegisthus to go inside of the royal palace with her.
Reluctantly, Aegisthus agrees, arguing with the Chorus and trying to pick a fight with them as he is leaving. Once again, Clytaemnestra remains calm, urging Aegisthus to follow her with the words, "These are the howls or impotent rage; forget them, dearest; you/and I/have the power; we two shall bring good order to our house/at least" Lines 1673-1676. Although Clytaemnestra was filled with rage after the death of Agamemnon, now she is now calm, going so far as to advise the man what to do. Now Aegisthus is the emotional one, just like is the Chorus of old men. Now the woman remains the only rational person, while everyone else around her begins to act like an emotional woman. With these final words, Clytaemnestra coaxes her lover Aegisthus back into the palace with the Chorus still standing outside. The queen of Argos adds that even if there is disorder in the city, the two of them will at least make sure that things are orderly inside of the palace, where there is no Chorus of Elders to question their authority. Pleased with what they have accomplished, the two murderers disappear deep inside of the palace and are not seen again.