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Gender Issues in Aeschylus' Oresteia Trilogy

This research analyzes gender issues in Aeschylus's Oresteia trilogy, comprising the plays Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers (Choephoroi), and Eumenides. The relevance of gender-specific themes that emerge in the plays will be discussed.

The Oresteia cannot be understood without reference to the curse of the house of Atreus of Argos, which is bound up with the legend of the Trojan war. The curse began when Atreus killed sons of his brother Thyestes, who had seduced Atreus's wife. After a banquet in which Atreus fed Thyestes's children to him, Thyestes laid a curse on Atreus's descendants. Atreus's two sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus, married two sisters, Clytemnestra and Helen, respectively, and when Helen either eloped with or was abducted by Paris to Troy, Agamemnon, like Menelaus, assembled an army of Greeks and prepared to sail for Troy. But that was made possible only after Agamemnon succumbed to a demand by the goddess Artemis that he offer his daughter Iphigenia as a propitiating sacrifice. That sacrifice accomplished, the Greeks set sail, and spent some 10 years winning the war and reuniting Helen with Menelaus (Olson 171ff; Graves 50ff passim).

The end of the Trojan war and the return of Agamemnon to Argos begins the action of the Oresteia. In the Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, who is also Agamemnon's cousin, murder Agamemnon and his war prize-concubine Cassandra, of the royal house of Troy. In the second play, The Libation Bearers, Clytemnestra's exiled son Orestes conspires with his sister Electra to kill Clytemnestra and Aegisthus to avenge Agamemnon's murder, then exiles himself from Argos, intending to obtain justification from Apollo's oracle at Delphi and fleeing revenge-mad Furies who want Clytemnestra's death to be revenged. The Eumenides begins at Delphi, where Orestes intends to have his matricide guilt washed clean, then moves to Athens, where the goddess Athena presides over the trial of Oreste...

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Gender Issues in Aeschylus' Oresteia Trilogy. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:56, August 04, 2020, from