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"Agamemnon" Summary

By Aeschylus

classics | 144 pages | Published in 457


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

The play "Agamemnon" by Aeschylus follows the return of King Agamemnon from the Trojan War and the tragic consequences that unfold.


"Agamemnon" is a Greek tragedy written by Aeschylus, one of the most prominent playwrights of ancient Greece. It is the first play in a trilogy known as the "Oresteia," which also includes "The Libation Bearers" and "The Eumenides." The story is set in the aftermath of the Trojan War and revolves around the return of King Agamemnon to his kingdom of Argos, his wife Clytemnestra's plot for revenge, and the consequences that unfold as a result.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

The play is set in the ancient city of Argos, shortly after the conclusion of the Trojan War. King Agamemnon, the victorious leader of the Greek forces, returns home to his wife Clytemnestra after a ten-year absence. However, his triumphant homecoming is overshadowed by the ominous prophecies and vengeful intentions that await him. The story unfolds within the palace of Argos, where the characters grapple with themes of power, justice, and the consequences of past actions.

Main Events

The play opens with the watchman on the roof of the palace, awaiting the signal that Troy has fallen. His report triggers the chorus of old men, who reflect on the sufferings of the past ten years. When Clytemnestra receives news of the fall of Troy, she orders the lighting of a beacon to signal Agamemnon's imminent return. The king arrives with his captive, the prophetess Cassandra, and is greeted by Clytemnestra, who lays out a red carpet for him to walk on. Cassandra foretells the doom that awaits Agamemnon, but her warnings go unheeded. Agamemnon and Cassandra enter the palace, and Clytemnestra murders them in their bath. The play concludes with the arrival of Orestes, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra's son, who vows to avenge his father's death.

Main Characters

AgamemnonThe victorious king of Argos who returns from the Trojan War and becomes a central figure in the tragedy.
ClytemnestraAgamemnon's wife who seeks vengeance for past grievances, driving the plot with her actions.
CassandraA Trojan prophetess and Agamemnon's captive, whose prophecies foretell the tragic events to come.
The ChorusComprising old men of Argos, the chorus provides commentary and reflects the sentiments of the city's people.

Themes and Insights

Justice and Revenge

The play explores the themes of justice and revenge, depicting the cycle of violence that unfolds as characters seek retribution for past wrongs. Clytemnestra's murder of Agamemnon is driven by a desire for vengeance, setting in motion a chain of tragic events that reverberate throughout the narrative.

Power and Authority

The dynamics of power and authority are central to the play, as Agamemnon's return to Argos raises questions about the nature of leadership and the consequences of wielding power. Clytemnestra's actions challenge traditional notions of kingship and authority, leading to a dramatic reconfiguration of power within the kingdom.

Guilt and Responsibility

The characters grapple with feelings of guilt and responsibility, particularly in relation to the consequences of their actions. Agamemnon's decisions during the war and Clytemnestra's quest for retribution raise profound questions about the moral obligations of individuals in positions of authority.

Reader's Takeaway

"Agamemnon" offers readers a compelling exploration of timeless themes such as justice, power, and the complexities of human nature. The play's enduring relevance lies in its nuanced portrayal of the consequences of actions driven by revenge and the moral dilemmas faced by its characters. Aeschylus' masterful storytelling and rich character development provide readers with a thought-provoking and impactful literary experience.


"Agamemnon" stands as a timeless work of Greek tragedy, delving into the complexities of human nature and the enduring themes of justice, power, and the consequences of actions. Aeschylus' skillful narrative and profound insights continue to captivate readers, offering a profound exploration of the human condition and the intricacies of moral responsibility.

Agamemnon FAQ

  1. Who is the author of Agamemnon?

    Agamemnon was written by Aeschylus, an ancient Greek tragedian.

  2. What is the genre of Agamemnon?

    Agamemnon is a classical Greek tragedy, known for its themes of fate, justice, and the consequences of human actions.

  3. What is the plot of Agamemnon?

    Agamemnon tells the story of the Greek king Agamemnon's return from the Trojan War, his murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra, and the aftermath of his death.

  4. What are the major themes in Agamemnon?

    The major themes in Agamemnon include the nature of justice, the impact of war on individuals and families, the power of fate, and the complexities of human relationships.

  5. Is Agamemnon part of a series or trilogy?

    Yes, Agamemnon is the first play in Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy, followed by The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides.

  6. What is the significance of Agamemnon in Greek literature?

    Agamemnon is considered one of the foundational works of Western literature and is often studied for its portrayal of moral and ethical dilemmas, as well as its influence on later drama and storytelling.