41 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 458

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Symbols & Motifs

Sacrifice and Sacrificial Imagery

Agamemnon, like the rest of the Oresteia, is full of sacrifice and sacrificial imagery. In the parodos, the chorus sings of the sacrifices that “blaze” (91) on the altars of the gods, referring to offerings from Clytemnestra. At the heart of the play is the murder of Agamemnon, rendered as a kind of sacrifice: Cassandra, for instance, characterizes him metaphorically as “the bull” (1125) who is to be slaughtered, and she is compared to a “driven ox of god” (1298) as she enters the palace where she and Agamemnon are to be killed. Similarly, Clytemnestra uses sacrificial language to describe her murder of Agamemnon, claiming that she “sacrificed” Agamemnon to “Wrath and Fury” (1433). Moreover, his murder—or “sacrifice”—is a response to other sacrifices: Atreus’s killing of Thyestes’s children and the sacrificial feast in which they were fed to their unknowing father; the eagles’ hunting of the pregnant hare at Aulis; and Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his and Clytemnestra’s daughter, whom he slaughtered “with no thought more than as if a beast were butchered” (1415).

The sacrificial imagery of the play extends beyond sacrifices to other proximate motifs and symbols.