non sibi sed toti

Classics Teaching Resources


Agamemnon by Aeschylus For the full text click here.

The Story

Agamemnon was a king in Greece. He led a great army to fight against a city called Troy and left his wife Clytemnestra to rule his kingdom. Agamemnon was away at Troy for ten years.

Clytemnestra hated Agamemnon because he had killed their daughter as a sacrifice before the army sailed to Troy. She joined with a man called Aegisthus, and they plotted to kill Agamemnon when he came back from Troy.

The Play

The play opens when Troy has been defeated and Agamemnon is coming home. The Chorus of old men are glad that their king is coming back, but Clytemnestra is planning to murder him. Agamemnon arrives in a chariot, and Clytemnestra gets him to walk into the palace on a splendid cloth spread on the ground like a carpet.

Soon the old men of the Chorus hear Agamemnon cry out. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus are killing him as he gets out of his bath. The twelve Chorus members discuss what is to be done:
  1. I think we should call the people to a meeting.
  2. No, let's rush into the palace and catch them with blood on their swords.
  3. Yes, I agree. Now is the time to do something.
  4. If this is how they begin, they will end up bossing us about.
  5. Come on, we're wasting time, while they are doing things.
  6. I don't know who to agree with. We should think before we act.
  7. He's right. We can't call the King back to life by talking.
  8. Shall we save our own lives, and let these people become our bosses?
  9. No, I'd rather die than be bossed about by them.
  10. Yes, but are we quite sure the King is dead? We only heard him cry out.
  11. That's right. We must be certain before we lose our tempers.
  12. We'd better wait and see what has really happened to Agamemnon.

    1. The palace doors open, and Agamemnon's body is wheeled out on the ekkuklema. Clytemnestra explains what she has done, and she and Aegisthus tell the Chorus that they are going to be king and queen now. The Chorus complain, and hope that one day Agamemnon's son Orestes will come home and punish the murderers.


      It is very unusual for each member of the Chorus to speak alone like this. Usually the Chorus Leader is the one who speaks, and all the rest sing and dance together.

      Some Chorus members here suggest rushing into the palace, but in the end they decide to do nothing. The Chorus never takes an active part in a Greek play. The Leader can try to persuade a character to do this or that, but they never do anything themselves.
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