Characters- The Watchman
1). The Watchman:
• The watchman sets the time and place for the play (Agamemnon’s palace in Argos, the house of Atreus); he describes the many miserable nights he has spent on the rooftop of the palace watching for the signal fires that will herald the fall of Troy.
• The watchman is one Aeschylus’s small characters, but like the herald he serves an important role as he not only sets the scene but also perhaps portrays the mood of Argos awaiting their king and soldiers return.
• “That woman – She manoeuvres like a man” is the important first reference to Clytaemnestra, it ominously refers to her doing a man’s job and her “male” qualities e.g. intelligence and pride etc (unnatural). He hints at fear of Clytaemnestra and seems to miss Agamemnon the king but for what reason it is clearly not his place to say as demonstrated by the “The Ox is on my tongue” on the next page. In this way the watchman ominously points to the events of the play but cleverly reveals no detail at this early stage.
• Even when the watchman notices the signal fires “You dawn of the darkness, you turn night to day- I see the light at last” his initial joy is undermined by a sinister anxiousness as he expresses his wishes that Agamemnon return home.
• The fire that the watchman sees is compared to dawn, but it is perhaps a false dawn as it is of mortals not the gods, also it brings no joy to Argos only more misery and sorrow when the king is murdered upon his homecoming.
• The watchman leaves to tell Clytaemnestra the news of her husband’s imminent return.
2). 1st Choral Ode: the purpose of the chorus is to direct the audience, provide a time lapse and to praise the gods.
• In the first choral ode the chorus establishes it’s identity within the play, provides a time lapse to allow the watchman to inform Clytaemnestra of the news of the fall of Troy and directs the audience by informing them that it has been ten years since Agamemnon set out for Troy. The reason for this war is Paris’s betrayal of the laws of hospitality by stealing Helen from Menelaus.
• Agamemnon and Menelaus are likened to “vultures robbed of their young, the agony sends them frenzied” where Helen equates to their “young.” The vult...
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...n while hiding in the shadows. He seems another self-centred reason for Clytaemnestra to do away with her husband. While the story of his brothers fate at the hands of Atreus wins him some sympathy from the audience the rest of his behaviour condemns him.
• The chorus show him no respect and so he threatens them “I’ll make you dance, I’ll bring you all to heel” it is a terrible thing to threaten old men and not pay them the respect that their age demands. The chorus and Aegisthus continue to argue until a fight breaks out, as the two sides (the chorus and Aegisthus’ men) prepare to charge. Clytaemnestra steps in. Aegisthus is heinous indeed to be prepared to kill the old men.
• Clytaemnestra acts like a man and belittles Aegisthus by taking charge of him. Aegisthus throws a tantrum further belittling him. Clytaemnestra fully in control has the last words of the play; she has maintained her control from beginning to the end of the play. “Let them howl they’re impotent. You and I have power now. We will set the house in order once for all”
• The play finishes with an open unfinished business ending leaving the story open for The Libation bearers and The Eumenides.
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