"when men’s lives are swollen with hubris they are toppled down by some disaster sent from heaven" -from Sophocles' Ajax

22 January 2014

Aeschylus' Oresteia Video Blog

In this video blog I discuss the Oresteia of Aeschylus as a whole cycle, commenting on how the play moves from a primitive originary culture of violence, where justice is associated with strength and revenge, to a culture structured by the rule of law, in which justice is determined according to communal standards. I also talk about each of the three plays in the trilogy--Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides--each of which you can learn more about in my blogs about those specific plays.
Additionally, I briefly discuss what the Oresteia tells us about the theatre of the City Dionysia, about Hellenistic burial customs, and about 5th century Athenian trial procedures.

The Eumenides, by Aeschylus

The last of Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy, The Eumenides follows Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers in chronicling the (mis)fortunes of the house of Atreus, rulers of Argos. While Agamemnon focuses on the titular character’s return from the Trojan War and his murder by Clytaemnestra, and The Libation Bearers tells the story of Orestes’ return to Argos and his revenge for his father’s murder, The Eumenides is more judicial in its tone and style, staging the trial of Orestes contested between the Furies and Apollo with Athena officiating.

The Eumenides picks up the problem introduced by The Libation Bearers of divine conflict between the Furies—ancient deities representing a culture built on blood feuds and debts—and Apollo—one of the new Olympians who has set himself against the will of the Furies. Orestes—hero of The Libation Bearers—sought Apollo’s blessing and protection in his quest to kill Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus for murdering his father Agamemnon, and Apollo had sanctioned the vengeance, but by ancient tradition the Furies hunt down those who slaughter their parents and torment them to death. So the central play of the trilogy sets the stage for the conflict between the old and new gods in the final play.
The last play of the Oresteia centers on the trial of Orestes, which plays out as a power struggle between the ancient and incredibly powerful Furies, representatives of the bad old days of violence, and the new god Apollo who seeks to overturn the powers of the women. Between these two forces steps Athena, patron goddess of Athens, home of Aeschylus and his audience, and so a key admirable figure for them. Athena sets up a trial, in which both sides get to make their cases before the Athenian citizens making up the jury, and she enforces their decision at the end, which favors Orestes and Apollo. However, Athena—unlike Apollo—knows that the Furies are not simply to be spurned as outdated relics of an old system. Instead, she offers them a new position within a socio-cultural system based on the rule of law rather than on blood vengeance. Athena offers the Furies the chance to become protectors of Athens, and in exchange for their protection of the city and its crops and goods, the citizens would honor them and offer generous sacrifices. Thus the Furies transition into the Eumenidies: the Kindly Ones.

The play opens with the Pythia, Apollo’s priestess, making a prayer honoring several of the gods—Zeus, Poseidon, Dionysus, Athena, and especially Apollo. She goes into the place of prophecy and comes immediately out to relay the horrible scene in the temple. She tells the audience of a man whose hand drips with a blood abhorrent to the gods, but who is dressed in the white robes and olive branch of a suppliant, he is surrounded by terrible Gorgon headed women sleeping. She concludes that Apollo must purge his temple of these abominations, and as she leaves Apollo opens the doors to his temple and tells Orestes that he will not fail to fulfill his promise to the suppliant, and that he abhors the Furies who will drive Orestes across the land. Apollo sends Orestes to Athens, to the shrine of Athena to seek her protection and help in addition to that of Apollo, and Hermes guides Orestes off; Apollo also leaves. The Furies remain asleep, but the ghost of Clytaemnestra appears and tries to urge the Furies to awake and pursue Orestes. She complains of the desolation of her afterlife without honors or due reverence, and reminds the Furies both of her curse and of their ancient role as punishers of matricides. She yells at the deities until they begin to wake, at which point the ghost of Clytaemnestra vanishes and the leader of the chorus of Furies urges her followers awake. As individuals, the chorus laments the escape of Orestes, promising to continue their pursuit of the matricide in spite of Apollo, and even at the god’s peril. At this Apollo re-enters dressed for battle, with his golden bow and arrows and threatens the Furies if they don’t leave his temple. He tells them to go back to their hideous domain of death and gore. The leader of the Furies tells Apollo that he is responsible for the carnage Orestes wreaked upon his mother and her lover, explaining that Apollo had supported Orestes and after the crime welcomed him to the temple. Apollo asks why the Furies pursue matricides but did not condemn Clytaemnestra when she murdered her husband, and they explain that spousal murder does not violate blood ties and so does not offend their ancient laws as much, to which Apollo replies that such a murder offends Hera, queen of the gods and patron goddess of marriage. The Furies proclaim that they will never give up their hunt for Orestes, and Apollo says that they can pursue him to the shrine of Athena, where she will decide between the two parties. Next we see Orestes at the shrine asking for Athena’s protection. The Furies enter—in what was supposedly a terrifying scene—and hunt for Orestes, gradually closing in on him hugging the legs of Athena’s statue; the Furies make their case condemning matricide, and Orestes protests that his guilt has been purged by Apollo’s sacrificial ceremony. After Orestes calls again on Athena, the Furies begin a long chant/song about their role as revengers, their alignment with the night, and their domains of blood and violence. AT the end of this song, Athena appears dressed for battle and says that she has heard a suppliant and come from a village near Troy which has been dedicated to her by the victorious Hellenes. She asks who all these figures—Orestes and the Furies—are and why they surround her shrine. The leader of the Furies explains who they are and what their ancient role as enforcers of blood debts entails. Athena insists on hearing Orestes’ side of the story before coming to a conclusion about the justice of the whole affair, and the Furies agree to let her act as judge and to abide by her verdict. Athena then asks Orestes to explain himself and his desire there, and he clarifies that he does not need his guilt purged because Apollo has already done so, then he explains that his father was Agamemnon—whom Athena knew well from the Trojan War—and was disgracefully murdered by his wife and her lover, and so Orestes sought the aid of Apollo who blessed his quest for matricidal revenge. Athena declares that the matter is too important for her judgment, and so she declares that there will be a trial judged by Athenian citizens. Although the Furies agree to this trial, they are reluctant lest an acquittal for Orestes opens the door for mankind to commit all kinds of crimes that had once been subject to ancient punishments, and they fear for the decline of their power. Athena sets up the court with the jury, and as she is preparing Apollo appears to speak on behalf of Orestes. The Furies open the proceedings, and rather than making a speech (as was customary in Athenian court proceedings) they choose to question Orestes about the murder, to which he openly admits having killed his mother, but says that he was supported in his just actions by Apollo and the spirit of his father. Apollo agrees that Orestes had his blessing, and asserts that the Oracular blessing comes not only from Apollo himself, but also relates the will of Zeus, thereby suggesting that the king of the gods endorsed the murder. He describes how disgraceful it was for a man like Agamemnon to be murdered by stealth in his home by his wife, rather than to die gloriously on the battlefield. The Furies protest that it cannot be just for a son to spill his mother’s blood, even in revenge for a father because both parents raised the child; Apollo counters arguing that the woman is simply a receptacle for the baby which actually comes just from the man’s seed, and that Athena is proof that the male parent (in her case, Zeus) is all that is needed to produce a child. Athena asks if all the arguments have been made, and has the jury vote on guilt or innocence in the traditional Athenian way, by dropping a stone into one pot to signify guilt or the other pot to signify innocence. She praises the legal and democratic nature of this system as the voting proceeds. After her speech, both the Furies and Apollo threaten the jurists with their eternal displeasure if the vote goes against them. The votes are even, and Athena breaks the tie in favor of Orestes. Orestes declares his joy at being found innocent and explains that he intends to return home to rule in Argos, and that because of Athena’s verdict he will create a lasting alliance between Argos and Athens (though the alliance with Argos specifically was fairly recent, not necessarily dating to Greek antiquity). After Orestes and Apollo go, the Furies accuse Athena of rigging the vote to erode their power, and they promise to lay waste to Athens and the surrounding region. Athena assures them that they did not really lose and asks them to put aside their ancient fury in exchange for honors from the Athenians. The Furies repeat their lament and Athena again asks them to calm themselves, reminding them that she is the only deity other than Zeus allowed to wield his thunderbolts, but moving swiftly on to assure them of faithful sacrifices if they bless Athens. The Furies reassert that they have been disgraced, and Athena asks them to both share their wisdom with her—being older goddesses and having gained wisdom—and to be open to listening to her wisdom given by Zeus. She promises them a bountiful share of the harvest each year if they will support Athens. The Furies again bewail their shaming, and Athena again reassures them, reminding them that to destroy Athens would be unjust. She assures them that they will have a vast amount of power in the new system, and the Furies begin to warm to the idea. She tells the Furies to develop a new song, one of joy and harmonious support, rather than conquest, and the Furies sing this new song with Athena at their head. Athena and the Furies call down blessings on Athens—which must of course have been very popular when the play was performed in that city—before Athena’s women enter the stage with materials to make sacrifices to the Furies. The play ends with the women singing songs of praise to the (former) Furies, now the Eumenides—the Kindly Ones.

21 January 2014

The Libation Bearers, by Aeschylus

The Libation Bearers is the second play in AeschylusOresteia trilogy, preceded by Agamemnon and followed by The Eumenides. As I explained in my blog about Agamemnon, the Oresteia is the only complete and surviving trilogy we have from ancient Greek drama, which means that it gives us significant insight into how Greek playwrights approached the City Donysia—the annual festival honoring Dionysius, the god of wine whose rites eventually inspired theatre.

Given that the overall arc of the Oresteia moves from a primitive vendetta culture to the rule of law, and that The Libation Bearers is the central play in the trilogy, this play occupies a complex position in the larger narrative. Whereas Agamemnon is firmly rooted in a revenge culture, The Libation Bearers complicates and problematizes that culture, opening the way for the emergence of a legal authority constructed by Athena in The Eumenides. In Agamemnon, Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus murders the titular king in revenge for various injuries and injustices done to them in the past, and while the chorus condemns their actions, on a divine level it seems that Clytaemnestra is supported by the Furies—ancient goddesses tasked with upholding curses, carrying out revenge, and enforcing the payment of blood debts. In The Libation Bearers, however, the situation vis-à-vis the gods is more complicated. On the one hand there is Clytaemnestra who is associated with the Furies and who calls down a mother’s curse on Orestes at the play’s end; on the other hand there is Orestes, who has been told by Apollo’s oracle at Delphi that if he doesn’t kill his mother and Aegisthus he will be cursed forever. So rather than one deity backing one cause, The Libation Bearers places two divine forces against one another—the Furies vs. Apollo—which sets the stage for their direct confrontation in the trilogy’s final play, The Eumenides.

The Libation Bearers opens with Orestes and his friend Pylades dressed as travelers, arriving at Agamemnon’s tomb near Argos. Orestes cuts two locks of his hair and sets them on the tomb as a means of honoring his father who has been denied the proper funereal rites by Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus. The men notice a company of women approaching, dressed in black mourning robes and led by Orestes’ sister Electra; Orestes and Pylades decide to hide and find out why the women have come. The chorus and Electra arrive, and the chorus explains that they have been hurriedly sent by Clytaemnestra to pour libations at the grave of Agamemnon because the household seer has had a terrible vision of the un-mourned dead rising to take vengeance on the guilty living. The chorus of slave women detest Clytaemnestra, whom they feel has rejected the gods’ will through the murder and subsequent unceremonious burial of Agamemnon, and they say that the earth won’t accept the libations and that Agamemnon’s blood won’t settle properly in the earth until he has been avenged. Electra asks the women to tell her what prayer to make, whether one for peace for her father, or for revenge, or to make no prayer at all because the libations come from Clytaemnestra. The chorus urges her to ask for blessings for herself and those who hate Aegisthus, chiefly among them her brother Orestes, thought to still be in exile, and to pray that the murderers will like be murdered. Electra makes her prayer and pours the libation over the grave, and the chorus mourns Agamemnon and prays for his revenger to come. After pouring the libation, Electra notices the lock of hair Orestes had cut. She draws the chorus’ attention to the hair, and while she seems to hope that it is Orestes’ own hair—it is the same shade and texture as hers and she seems to recognize its curl—Electra is reluctant to hope that her brother has returned. She vacillates between the certainty that she holds Orestes’ hair and the certainty that he must be dead, until she notices a pair of footprints by the grave, which match the shape of her own feet. She follows the tracks as Orestes emerges from his hiding place behind their father’s tomb. Initially Electra still refuses to believe that the man before her could be Orestes, but he convinces her by claiming his hair and showing her a strip of cloth she had made for Orestes. The siblings rejoice, then pray to Zeus giving thanks for finding one another and asking the god’s protection over them as orphans of a man who had offered generous sacrifices. Orestes promises to offer similar sacrifices if his quest to revenge his father is successful. Orestes tells Electra and the chorus of Apollo’s prophecy for him, that if he does not revenge the murder he will be cursed and tormented. Orestes and Electra call upon their father’s spirit to hear them and see the revenge done. Then Orestes wishes that his father had died at Troy, an honorable death, and been buried as a hero, but Electra rejects this wish preferring instead to focus on the murderers and the need for revenge. Electra, the leader of the chorus, and Orestes have several interchanges calling on the gods for help and building themselves—especially Electra—into a violent fury. Electra and Orestes call directly on the spirit of their father, asking it to rise up and assist them in their quest. After this, Orestes asks why Clytaemnestra chose now, several years after the murder, to send libations to Agamemnon’s grave, and the chorus leader tells the story of the queen’s dream: that she gave birth to a snake and when she went to nurse the creature blood mixed with the milk, and when she woke up she ordered libations sent to try and assuage her guilt. Orestes immediately identifies himself as the snake that will kill the mother who bore him. He then lays out his plan for the murders: that Electra will return to the palace, while he and Pylades would approach the door dressed as strangers and speaking in Delphic riddles. Once shown inside the palace, as the Hellenic rules of hospitality would require, Orestes will stab Aegisthus and then Clytaemnestra. He warns the chorus not to betray their plan, and then Orestes, Electra, and Pylades leave. The chorus recounts three stories of murderous wives and mothers, all clearly meant to evoke a comparison with Clytaemnestra—Althaia, who killed her own son; Scylla, who betrayed her father to his death; and the women of Lemnos, who murdered their husbands. The chorus invokes the spirit of justice against such murderers. Next Orestes and Pylades arrive at the palace gates, and Orestes bangs on the door demanding entry. The porter, contrary to the rules of hospitality, demands to know who the visitors are before letting them enter, and Orestes says that he has important news for the masters of the house. Now Clytaemnestra arrives and opens the door for the visitors, inviting them inside. Orestes tells her that they are travelers from near Delphi, who have come with news that Orestes is dead, and information about where they could go to get his ashes if his family wanted to perform a proper burial. Clytaemnestra seems distressed by the news of Orestes’ death, and Orestes wishes he could have brought better news to be more welcomed as a guest, but the queen assures him that he will be fully welcomed and given all the honors of a family member. At Clytaemnestra’s command, Electra leads Orestes into the palace. The chorus enters the stage and muses about Orestes’ progress in his quest. Then they notice the nurse who raised Orestes as a child, who comes on mourning Orestes’ death; she is tasked with bringing the news to Aegisthus. The nurse recounts how she had bathed Orestes, nursed him, protected him, and helped him through his childhood, and she laments having to outlive him. The chorus leader stops her and asks her to encourage Aegithus to come see the travelers without his bodyguards, hinting to the nurse that Orestes may not actually be dead. The chorus makes another prayer to Zeus and the other gods—especially Apollo and Hermes—that the plan will work and the hated royal couple will be slain. Aegisthus comes on and seems unexpectedly glum about Orestes’ death, noting that the other murders are too recent for the house to comfortably accept this new death. He asks the chorus for news, but the leader says he must see the travelers himself. Aegisthus leaves, and the chorus sends up another prayer, which is interrupted by the sound of a scream from inside the palace. The chorus wonders what has happened until a servant runs out and proclaims that Aegisthus has been slain. Clytaemnestra arrives and the servant tells her what has happened, and she sends for a battle axe. The palace doors open and Orestes and Pylades stand over Aegisthus’ lifeless body, Orestes declares his intention to kill his mother and she asks if he has no pity on the woman who gave birth to him and nursed him. Orestes hesitates until Pylades has his only line of the play, in which he says it is better to make all mankind one’s enemies than to make the gods one’s enemies. Orestes drags Clytaemnestra to the body of Aegisthus, and she protests that she wants to grow old with Orestes, and that fate was the real cause of Agamemnon’s death, but Orestes rejects her pleas and explanations, claiming that if fate guided her then it guides him now. Clytaemnestra threatens Orestes with a mother’s curse, but he closes the doors to kill her anyway. The chorus reflects that even though justice may take time, as it did with the 10 year siege of Troy, the gods’ vengeance cannot be escaped. The reiterate that Apollo has sanctioned Orestes’ revenge, and so the killing must be just. The palace doors reopen in a tableau reminiscent of that from Agamemnon when Clytaemnestra stood over the bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra, but now it is Orestes standing over the bodies of Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus. Orestes holds up the shroud in which his father was murdered as evidence for the justice of his actions, and speaks of the murderous tyranny of the slain pair. The chorus says that the work was bloody, though they agree that it was just, and Orestes says that his father can now finally be properly mourned. However, Orestes soon realizes that his journey has not ended, but that in killing his mother he has opened up a divine can of worms—he must now contend with his mother’s curse and with the Furies who take revenge on matricides. Pylades dresses Orestes as a suppliant of Apollo, and they plan to make their way to the god’s shrine at Delphi to seek his protection. The chorus encourages Orestes to stay and put aside his feelings of guilt, but he begins to see the Furies pursuing him and feels increasingly desperate to seek Apollo’s protection at Delphi. He runs from the stage pursued by the (visions of) Furies, and the play ends with the chorus recounting the three-generations of tragedy for the house of Atreas: the children eaten by Thyestes, Agamemnon’s murder, and now Orestes’ matricide.

20 January 2014

Agamemnon, by Aeschylus

AeschylusAgamemnon is the first play of The Oresteia, the only extant trilogy from ancient Greek drama. Unlike the Theban cycle by Sophocles, which was written over several decades, The Oresteia was written to be performed together as a cycle telling the story of the house of Atreus. In the City Dionysia, tragic playwrights would enter three tragedies and a satyr play (The Cyclops by Euripides is the only surviving example) which would be performed together and judged both individually and as a group. Most of the extant plays are single plays that would have been performed with two other plays, but The Oresteia is the only example of a full trilogy we have.

Over the arc of The Oresteia, Aeschylus moves us from the primitive foundational rules of the vendetta and the blood feud to the rule of law upon which a civilization can be built. As the first in this cycle, Agamemnon is rooted in the rule of vengeance. The play tells the story of the Agamemnon’s murder by Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus, both of whom seek vengeance against the king who has just conquered Troy. Clytaemnestra seeks vengeance because Agamemnon sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia at the outset of the Trojan War (ten years before Aeschylus’ play is set) so that the gods would grant him winds to sail to Troy. Aegisthus seeks revenge for the barbaric treatment his father Thyestes by Agamemnon’s father Atreus, who killed Thyestes’ children and served them to him to eat at a feast. Clytaemnestra is further insulted when Agamemnon returns from the Trojan War with his new slave/lover Cassandra, who had been Apollo’s priestess in Troy.
Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus become lovers while Agamemnon is away fighting and the two of them plot to murder the king when/if he returns from the war. The plot of this play focuses on the king’s return and the murder by the two vengeful lovers. While Aegisthus just seems weak—particularly in contrast to Agamemnon’s feats in the Trojan War—because he lets Clytaemnestra murder her husband, she comes across as both deviously cunning and brutally ruthless. In addition to the cold brutality with which she commits the murder, Clytaemnestra has a unique command of language, using it to manipulate people and to simultaneously conceal and reveal her true intentions and feelings.

Agamemnon opens with a watchman on the walls of Argos, he has watched there for a long time, waiting for the signal fires to be lit as a sign that the Hellenes have taken Troy. He begins by complaining of being tired from the long watch, but then he sees the signal fire and begins to celebrate. His celebration ends, however, as he asks that Agamemnon be brought safely home. The watchman goes into the palace to bring the news to Clytaemnestra, and the chorus of old men enters the stage. The chorus discusses the origins of the Trojan War, how the brothers Agamemnon and Menelaus collected their forces for the fight. As the chorus speaks, Clyteamnestra comes out and begins to light sacrificial fires. The chorus explains that they are old men incapable of going to fight at Troy, but they have remained behind waiting for news—they ask Clytaemnestra why she is lighting the fires, what news she has gotten but she ignores them and continues silently lighting the sacrificial flames. After Clytaemneastra returns to her palace, the chorus recounts the visions of Calchas—the king’s seer—which led to the Trojan War, visions of eagles tearing apart a pregnant rabbit, and a lion cub that destroys the people who brought it into their home. After recounting these visions, the chorus calls upon Zeus, praising the king of the gods, before recounting the sacrifice of Iphigenia, which was done to assuage Artemis’ fury against Agamemnon’s arrogance. They tell how Agamemnon resisted sacrificing his daughter, but then he and his men were seized by a frenzy and killed her. At this point, Clytaemnestra returns and the leader of the chorus addresses her. She tells them that the Greeks have conquered Troy, and there is an exchange where the chorus expresses doubt that it could really be true. Clytaemnestra assures the chorus that the news is accurate, and when they ask how she could know so soon, the queen explains that there was a series of signal fires intended to announce the capture of the enemy city, and she describes the geographic journey the signal makes from Troy to Argos. Next, she describes a vision of the conquered city, with people weeping over the bodies of the dead and the soldiers getting their first restful sleep in 10 years. The chorus rejoices, praising Zeus for the victory and noting that worldly power and wealth cannot protect people from the will of the gods—this of course is directly referring to Paris, but foreshadows the demise of Agamemnon later. The chorus recounts the causes of the Trojan War, specifically Paris’ abduction/seduction of Helen, violating his role as a guest in Menelaus’ house; they blame Helen for the war as much as Paris, and commiserate with those who have lost loved ones in the fight. Soon the chorus begins to doubt whether Clytaemnestra’s news is reliable, and the leader reminds them that someone will come to confirm or reject the news soon enough. At that moment, a herald comes running in and falls to the ground proclaiming his joy at being back in Greece. He informs the chorus that the news is true, that the Greeks have taken Troy, and that Agamemnon is returning to Argos. After a quick discussion with the chorus, the herald recounts the various hardships of the Trojan War—the heat in summer, the cold in winter, being under constant bombardment from the city, and so on. Clytaemneatra returns and chastises the chorus for not believing her earlier, and in a speech that both obscures and reveals her murderous intent, she declares that she will welcome Agamemnon home. The chorus asks about Menelaus, and the herald informs them that his ship was separated from the fleet, and no one knows whether he is alive or dead. The chorus has a long section where they condemn Helen for betraying Greece, and they acknowledge that her presence has meant equal doom to Troy, and that justice has finally caught up with her. At this point Agamemnon enters and the chorus welcomes him back and tries to warn him to be cautious because some people in the city resent him for the losses in the war. Agamemnon declares his joy at being home and reminds us of the glorious victory over Troy. Clytaemnestra comes out of the palace and Agamemnon says he will take measures to find any traitors. She tells the chorus about the disheartening effect of rumors, and then informs Agamemnon that their son Orestes—for whom The Oresteia is named—is not in the city; this speech has a double meaning because it also calls to mind Iphigenia, their other absent child. Clytemnaestra tells about how she kept a dedicated and solitary watch for the return of Agamemnon, another speech with a double meaning—the official message is about her dedication to waiting for him, but the implied meaning is that she awaited her opportunity for revenge. After inviting Agamemnon to enter the palace, Clytaemnestra has her maids spread tapestries of the gods across the floor for Agamemnon to walk on—an arrogant decadence, which he initially refuses until Clytaemnestra’s clever arguments convince him that the gods won’t mind him walking on their tapestries in the moment of victory. After the royal couple go into the palace, the chorus asks why their sense of unease remains even after Agamemnon has returned victorious. Clytaemnestra comes back out and addresses Cassandra—a Trojan priestess of Apollo, whom Agamemnon has brought back as a slave/lover—asking her to come inside, but Cassandra remains motionless in Agamemnon’s chariot, even as Clytaemnestra and the chorus try to get her to speak. Clytaemnestra gives up and returns to the palace, and Cassandra begins to cry out as the spirit of Apollo fills her with prophecy. She describes first the murder of Thyestes’ children and the brutal feast, then in a stylized and oracular fashion she describes the upcoming murder of Agamemnon. The chorus listens in confusion and dread as she describes a bull being tied down and slaughtered. Then Cassandra tells the chorus how Apollo gave her the gift of prophecy, but she pulled away from him and he cursed her to be rejected and ridiculed by her people in Troy, and finally to be killed. She describes Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus as loathsome beasts waiting in the darkness to murder Agamemnon, then she tells the chorus they will see the king and herself dead. Then Cassandra predicts that Orestes will return and kill his mother in revenge for the death of Agamemnon. She then says it is time for her to die and she enters the palace. We hear Agamemnon cry out as he is stabbed to death and the chorus panics and cannot decide whether to go seek help or run to the king’s aid themselves. They are spared the choice when Clytaemnestra enters with the bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra and announces that she has fulfilled the murderous plot that she has been planning for a decade. The chorus cries out and condemns Clytaemnestra as evil and a barbaric slayer of a brave man, to which she replies that Agamemnon has gotten what he deserved for sacrificing Iphigenia. The chorus condemns Clytaemnestra and she asks why they did not condemn Agamemnon for murdering his own child on the altar. After a long exchange, Aegisthus comes out celebrating his vengeance, and the chorus condemns him for murder and calls him a coward for letting a woman actually do the killing. Aegisthus threatens the chorus of old men with torture and being forced to row the ships, but they remain adamant about denouncing him. Finally Clytaemnestra steps in an reminds Aegisthus that they now rule Argos and there is nothing anyone can do about it, so there is no need to worry.