Comparing the Portrayal of Clytemnestra in Agamemnon and Electra

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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
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In Agamemnon, Clytemnestra is convinced of her own righteousness and freely confesses to the crime, "I did it all, I don't deny it, no. He had no way to flee or fight his destiny," and Agamemnon, arrogant and foolish, certainly is not a sympathetic victim. Aeschylus seems to be keeping Clytemnestra firmly in the audience's sympathies, as Clytemnestra constantly refers back to the source of her hatred for Agamemnon, "he sacrificed his own child, our daughter." It is suggested in Agamemnon that Clytemnestra may not have been so fixated on killing her husband if he had returned soon after Iphigenia's death. It was the destructive time that lapsed between the heart-breaking news and Agamemnon's return that fed her obsession with dreams of vengeance, "I brooded on this trial, this ancient blood feud year by year."

Aeschylus' motive to keep Clytemnestra in a sympathetic light is also evident through his decision to suspend knowledge of the existence of Aegisthus, Clytemnestra's lover, until the last moments of the play. The existence of a lover immediately suggests an ulterior motive to Clytemnestra's murder of Agamemnon and therefore Aeschylus chooses to sway the audience to sympathise with Clytemnestra and understand

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