- Free Essays, Term Papers & Book Notes


Page 1 of 4

[pic 1]


Ancient Cultures 251 Assignment 2


Micha Phillips 17837766

Clytemnestra is a fascinating character. In Agamemnon, Aeschylus represents her as a woman who defies all conventional female gender roles. Clytemnestra in Agamemnon is complex as the role she adopts is ever-changing. She has been described by many other characters in a masculine way while still being referred to as a woman. She also uses language that is typically used by males. This masculinity continues in the behaviour and actions she adopts while planning the murder of her husband. Clytemnestra’s characterization and rejection of her gender roles are worth examining.

While the classification of femme fatale was not established officially until the 20th century, the image of a strong female using seductive charms for malicious purposes has for centuries been showcased in art, particularly in theater (Sneed, p.1). Clytemnestra is one of the earliest examples of deadly women who viciously murdered her husband to exact revenge for their daughter that Agamemnon sacrificed. She is portrayed in Agamemnon, as independent and intelligent. She is able to use this, coupled with her womanly wiles, to trick Agamemnon into a false sense of security, she does this by acting as a woman should, being submissive and coy to the superior gender, man. She neither physically attacks him when he returns home from war nor does she publically object his bringing home of another woman. She acts the part of the simpering wife until he enters the palace (Sneed, p.1).

In the first few lines of Agamemnon (line 11), Clytemnestra is described as a ‘woman in passionate heart and man in strength of purpose’ by the watchman. This clearly makes a distinction between gender roles simultaneously stating that Clytemnestra has manly qualities. Later the chorus reiterates this by stating, ‘Lady, you speak as wisely as a prudent man’ (Agamemnon 351). Her manly traits are best described in the use if Clytemnestra’s language, for example, “I stand where I dealt the blow, my purpose achieved. Thus have I done the deed, deny it I will not” and “You are testing me as if I were a witless woman” (Agamemnon 1379-80; 1402). Womanly behaviour was characterized then by being submissive and modest. Clytemnestra’s language eludes to neither. She adopts the dominant sex position to achieve her goals. Furthermore her character has the dominant stage presence who gives impressive speeches and uses manipulative language to garner power. This is evident in her welcoming speech given at the arrival of Agamemnon.

One of the reasons Clytemnestra murdered her husband was to avenge her daughter’s murder, she also sought recompense for his adultery. ‘Here lies the man who did me wrong… and her she lies… but to me she has brought for my bed an added relish of delight’ (Agamemnon 1439- 1445). The act of murder is uncharacteristic for females and the chorus’ reaction to the murder demonstrates that (Agamemnon 1453-4). Goldhill (1992, p.36) considers that ‘Clytemnestra’s pursuit of power… through her misuse of words and… of her body in adultery constructs a figure of a monstrous reveal of the female role’. This is excellently represented by Clytemnestra burying her husband. Here, specifically, she defies the female gender role. She says to the chorus that ‘Agamemnon’s funeral is not concern of yours. But our hands down he fell, down to death, and down below shall we bury him – but not with wailing from his household (Agamemnon 1551-5). Here she violates burial practices, those who commit murder are not allowed to be involved in the funeral, more importantly in normal circumstances. A female member of the oikos, regardless of her status, does not possess the authority to conduct funeral rites (Hame 2004, p.521).

Download as (for upgraded members)
Citation Generator

(2018, 11). Clytemnestra. Retrieved 11, 2018, from

"Clytemnestra" 11 2018. 2018. 11 2018 <>.

"Clytemnestra.", 11 2018. Web. 11 2018. <>.

"Clytemnestra." 11, 2018. Accessed 11, 2018.