Comparing the Portrayal of Clytemnestra in Agamemnon and Electra

opinion Essay
1441 words
1441 words

Comparing the Portrayal of Clytemnestra in Agamemnon and Electra

In both Electra and Agamemnon, Euripides and Aeschylus have chosen to

represent Clytemnestra as a complex character being neither all bad

nor all good - the signature of a sophisticated playwright. In

Agamemnon, Clytemnestra is a morbidly obsessive woman, utterly

consumed by the murder of her daughter for which the audience cannot

help but sympathise; she is capable only of vengeance. In the Electra,

Clytemnestra is placed in an even more sympathetic light, victimised

by her own daughter who in turn is driven by an obsessive desire,

similar to that of her mother's, to avenge her father's death.

In ancient plays and epics, the name of Clytemnestra was used as

synonymous with the extremity of unfaithfulness, for example, in

Homer's The Odyssey we see faithful Penelope being contrasted to the

wicked Clytemnestra. This suggests that a contempory audience may have

found Clytemnestra to be far less sympathetic than to a modern

audience, whose infiltrated ideas of sexual equality inevitably impact

on our sympathies. To sympathise with any character, we must be able

to understand and identify with that character's point of view.

Clytemnestra was a mother whose daughter was about to marry the famous

Achilles. Her love and pride in Iphigenia would have been at its

strongest at this time as she helped her daughter prepare for the

noble marriage. Upon learning that she had sent her daughter to her

death due to the deceit of her husband, Clytemnestra was grieved and

enraged beyond measure and gave her heart over to the avengement of

her daughter. The very strong reaction Clytemnest...

... middle of paper ... psychological reasons for the

murder are the point and not her emotional state. Considering this,

both Agamemnon and Electra reach similar conclusions concerning

Clytemnestra's situation. She has ample grounds for hating her husband

but no-one holds her justified in killing him in either play, "your

words are just; yet in your 'justice' there remains something

repellent." Electra disposes of her mother's defence in detail and

leaves the audience feeling that Clytemnestra's murder of her husband

really was not warranted. How different the plays are in their

depiction of her character depend on how the reader chooses to

interpret Clytemnestra's maternal professions; either genuine and

loving or devious and selfish.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how he confesses to the crime, "i did it all, i don't deny it, no."
  • Describes the words of the men, "praise me, blame me as you choose. it's all one."
  • Opines that women are often told that they are bitter, but in every summary.
  • Opines that it was she who decided who lived and who died.
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