Friday, July 11, 2014

TFBT: Cassandra, Sex Slave of Agamemnon

I preparation for next week’s Book Club at Hour 25 I read “Agamemnon again this time from Cassandra’s point of view.  Just reading her lines and skipping the rather clueless chorus, Cassandra makes a lot more sense.  She is an amazing character with an incredible scene rather than just a plot device. 

And I couldn’t help but notice the ironic difference between her and her consort.  Agamemnon is clueless the whole time he is on stage.  Clytemnestra’s gloating, bragging and delight in describing all the ways she’d heard he died just makes it too obvious that the guy is doomed.  Oblivious, he dies.  On the other hand Cassandra knows all too well what happened is happening and will happen.  Yet knowing all, she too dies.

Herbert Weir Smyth’s translation of Agamemnon at Hour 25 and at Perseus, translates Cassandra’s lament at lines 1072 and 1076 as “Woe, woe, woe! O Apollo, O Apollo!”  However, Browning, Gilbert Murray and Philip Vellacott’s various translations say something like “Woe, woe! O Earth, O Apollo, O Apollo!”  The Greek at Perseus says “τοτοτο πόποι δᾶ. πολλον πολλον.“  And the lexicon at Perseus says that δᾶ = by earth.  I have no Greek, so maybe others can help me.  Which translation is correct?  Why is Cassandra calling to Gaea?  Prayer?  Witness?  Simply an expletive?

At line 1100  Kassandra cries of Clytemnestra; “Alas, what can she be planning? What is this fresh woe she contrives here within, what monstrous, monstrous horror, unbearable to philoi, beyond all remedy? And help stands far away!”  So after that oblique dialogue Aeschylus orchestrated between the herald and chorus regarding Menelaus’ whereabouts, we now know for sure that he is no where nearby.

I just think the below is a lovely and moving bit of poetry to end on;
“Ah me, Scamander, my native stream! Upon your banks in bygone days, unhappy maid, was I nurtured with fostering care; 1160 but now by Cocytus and the banks of Acheron, I think, I soon must chant my prophecies.”


  1. The Chorus of the Agamemnon is indeed so clueless about current events that I wonder why it is often presumed to have perfect knowledge of theology. The praise of Zeus in the choral odes is taken as the opinion of Aeschylus himself. However, I agree with one author who said that "religious utterance in any play always has a dramatic context and always comes from the mouth of a character or chorus. Its claim to be authoritative may be slight or null; the only kind of utterance that is routinely reliable is prophecy."
    I think that the numerous choral references to Zeus, almost as hysterical as those in the Suppliants, serve to mask the impotence of the old gentlemen. They blame Cassandra for walking voluntarily to her death, yet no one of them offers her an escape route. They seem to think that if she stays in front of the gates long enough, Zeus will send a rescue team!

  2. Maya M,
    I also find the routine helplessness of the chorusin Greek Tragedies rather irritating I am looking forward to the Euminides where Apollo comes iffas intimidated by the chorus.


  3. Maya M,

    I had a glitch. If posted here I lost it. Pleaserepost bill