ENG111 -- Introduction to Literature: Beholding Violence in Drama and Film

Prof. Eileen Joy

Summer 2011

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS #2: Aeschylus, Agamemnon

Figure 1. Clytemnestra murdering Cassandra (430 B.C.E.)

Respond to TWO of the following prompts:

1. Why do you think Clytemnestra enjoys killing Agamemnon so much? [Pay careful attention to the language she herself uses, as well as to how the Chorus describes what happened to her daughter before Agamemnon left for the Trojan War.]

2. Why do you think Agamemnon talks about the destruction of Troy, as Ian Johnston writes, "with such grim pleasure"? [Again, look carefully at Agamemnon's speeches as well as how the Chorus describes his reasons for going to Troy in the first place.]

3. In your opinion, does Clytemnestra go too far in her revenge, and why or why not? [You may base your response on personal opinion, to a certain extent, but you should also refer directly to the language of the play to help support your main points.]

4. How would you characterize the feelings of the Chorus [the old men of Argos] toward Agamemnon? Toward Clytemnestra?

5. Look closely at the speeches by the Herald; what can these speeches tell us about his view of the Trojan War, in which he was a soldier?

6. Looking closely at the speeches of the Chorus and of Agamemnon, what seems to be the attitude toward women in this play?

7. What function do you think Cassandra plays in the drama? Is her murder justified, and why or why not?

8. If, as Joe Sachs argues, following Aristotle, tragedy "seems always to involve testing or finding the limits of what is human," how does Aeschylus explore these limits in his play Agamemnon?

Please respond to the questions with full, complete sentences. You should write approximately two typed, double-spaced pages (total) in response to the prompts you choose (but let's not get distracted by these fine points of detail--what matters to me is that you respond to these prompts with thoughtfulness and care and show me that you have something of substance to say in relation to the reading and discussions we have had, and what that ultimately means is: MORE is always better than less, but one page is the minimum). The questions are always interpretive in nature, and therefore there are NO right or wrong answers, only your opinion (an opinion, nevertheless, that's hopefully grounded in a close reading of the text as well as a close attention to background material presented through online links). You will want to refer to and/or quote specific passages from the text in order to support your observations and ideas.

Responses should be saved as .doc [Microsoft Word] or .rtf [Rich Text Format] files and sent to eileenajoy@gmail.com as email attachments.