‘’It is mine to declare the omens of victory given to the princely men on the journey. For by God’s grace, old age, which grows with life, my life still breaths on my lips persuasion, the strength of song’’ (p 37-38, 103-107)
This quote simply sums up who the chorus are in Agamemnon. They are old men who were incapable of going to fight in the Trojan War which can been seen in “For by god’s grace, old age, which grows with life, my life”. There function as implied here is to be the declaration of “the omens of victory” which suggests that they recite the stories of war to the audience. By including the word omen it can be seen that they will retell the stories including both the good and the bad ones.
Within the Agamemnon the chorus can be seen to take a more traditional choral role in which they provide the audience with information to help them follow the story. The chorus sometimes intervene on the action or purposively chose not to intervene at important moments (Schein, 2009). At the start of the play the chorus sing a song about the causes of the Trojan War. Helen Menelaus’s wife has been taken by Paris of Troy and Menelaus’s brother Agamemnon commands the Greek army to go to Troy and get her back (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2014). The chorus are omniscient (Agamemonon Narrators, 2014) and can be seen as a minor part in comparison to Agamemnon and the others characters but in fact they are just as important. The chorus in Agamemnon are constantly filling in information for the audience and without them the audience would struggle to understand the narrative.
This speech can be seen on the recording page:
‘‘She was called Helen- through the wretched bloodletting of its citizens’’ (p 57-58, 680-710)
This passage refers back to the notion that the chorus are omniscient, they understand who Helen was and what happened. It also brings attention to the social connotations associated with the damage she has caused. Thousands of innocent citizens have died because of her, but was it her fault? It is questioned whether Helen was abducted by Paris or she willing left Menelaus and her nine year daughter Hermione to be with Paris (Encyclopedia Brittanica, 2014).
This passage also shows how the chorus have their own opinions on characters; Helen is death and destruction she has caused the war that has destroyed Troy. The chorus translate the mood and tone of the play to the audience. They depict how the audience should feel towards certain characters for example they shouldn’t like Helen or Clytemnestra Agamemnon’s wife but they should like and feel sympathy for Agamemnon as he is the victim who is killed by his wife upon his arrival back to Argos. The chorus are giving the audience are sense of foreboding throughout the play. They are skeptical after hearing the news that the Trojan War has ended because they get a sense that something bad will happen and they right.
‘’I am all bewildered about what road to take as the house falls; my wits are deserted by their skillfull carefulness. I fear the crash of the bloody torrent of rain that will shake the house to its foundation’’ (p 87, 1530)
The mood after the death of Agamemnon initiated by the chorus foreshadows the events to come. At the beginning of The Libation Bearers there is a sense of loss and bewilderment following the death of Argos’s leader and protector. This leads into the next section of The Oresteia where the people of Argos are fearing their new leader Clytemnestra. The Chorus are always leading the mood of the play and sometimes relates to the social norms of the time. In this case how Agamemnon’s death has turned Argos into turmoil which relates to how women are expressed in The Oresteia. Clytemnestra is their new leader but they are unhappy for they live in a patriarchal society where women should be doubted when ruling a city. When Clytemnestra tells the chorus that the argives have captured Priam the King of Troy they reply with:
“Chorus: what? I cannot believe you; I cannot understand.
Clytemnestra: Troy is the Greek’s city now. Are my words clear?
Chorus: Joy steals over me, and calls out tears, too.
Clytemnestra: Your eyes proclaim you a subject true and loyal.
Chorus: What makes you trust the news? Have you proof of it?’’ (P 42-43,260-270)
The chorus are questioning whether Clytemnestra and are unsure wherever she is telling the truth or not. This shows the audience that women shouldn’t be trusted and are no replacement for male leadership.
Aeschylus. ‘Agamemnon’. The Oresteia. Edited by David Greene and Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty. London: The University of Chicago Press.1989. Press.
Agamemnon Narrator. 2014. Web. 2nd April 2014.
Available at: http://www.shmoop.com/agamemnon/narrator-point-of-view.html
“Helen”.Encyclopedia Brittannica. Encyclopaedia Britanicca Online.2014. Web.
Available at : http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/259869/Helen