Agamemnon, King of Argos, returns to Greece a victor in the Trojan War, bringing with him the seer Cassandra as his war-prize and concubine. Awaiting him is his vengeful wife Clytemnestra, who is angry at Agamemnon’s sacrifice of their daughter Iphigeneia to the gods, jealous of Cassandra, and guilty of taking a lover herself. The events that unfold catch everyone in a bloody net, including their absent son Orestes.
Aeschylus was the first of the three great tragic dramatists of ancient Greece, a forerunner of Sophocles and Euripides. His earlier tragedies were largely choral pageants with minimal plots. In Agamemnon, he retains the lyricism of those works, but he infuses this drama with such creativity and energy that the spectator or reader is constantly spellbound. From the speech of the weary watchman on the roof, lying on his forepaws like a dog, to the blood-splattered Clytemnestra who likens herself to a garden in bloom, passage after passage demands to be included in anthologies of Greece’s greatest poems.
Translator David Mulroy brings this ancient tragedy to life for modern readers and audiences. Using end rhyme and strict metrics, he combines the buoyant lyricism of the Greek text with a faithful rendering of its meaning in lucid English. The Agamemnon no longer needs to be called a difficult play.
About the Author
Aeschylus (525/4-456/5 B.C.E.) was Greece’s leading playwright between his first victory at the festival Dionysus in 484 B.C.E. until his death, winning thirteen first-place crowns in that period. His epitaph, however, boasts only that he fought bravely for Athens at the Battle of Marathon. David Mulroy is a professor emeritus of classics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His translations of The Complete Poetry of Catullus and of Sophocles’ Theban trilogyOedipus Rex, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonusare all published by the University of Wisconsin Press.
Read an Excerpt
Sleep disappears and in its stead
the memory of pain
drips around the restless heart
a never-ending rain.
Self-knowledge comes to those who wish
and those who wish it not.
Our helmsmen are divinities,
and they’re a violent lot.
chorus from Agamemnon
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