41 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 458

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Important Quotes

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“May it only happen. May my king come home, and I

Take up within this hand the hand I love. The rest

I leave to silence; for an ox stands huge upon

My tongue. The house itself, could it take voice, might speak

Aloud and plain. I speak to those who understand,

But if they fail, I have forgotten everything.”

(Lines 33-39)

The watchman sincerely hopes that Agamemnon will return, but he stops short of saying exactly why he longs so deeply for his return, couching his hopes in silence. The image the watchman adopts for this silence—“an ox stands huge upon / My tongue”—is evocative, similar to the saying, “A cat’s got my tongue” in modern English. It introduces the symbol of animals—specifically sacrificial animals—that will recur throughout the play. Ultimately, Agamemnon will be butchered like an animal, as his daughter was. The watchman’s words also introduce the idea of the “house” as an entity with a life and even a voice of its own.

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“It goes as it goes

Now. The end will be destiny.

You cannot burn flesh or pour unguents,

Not innocent cool tears,

That will soften the gods’ stiff anger.”

(Lines 67-71)

In these fatalistic lines, the chorus reflects on the inevitability of fate or destiny, what the Greeks called moira. Nothing can change destiny, or the will of the gods, not even prayers or offerings. This idea conveys a sense of hopelessness and resignation, suggesting that nothing that human beings do really makes any difference, as their fates are already written and unalterable. This idea informs the way that the “cursed” house of Atreus is presented throughout the play.