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Ancient Greek Tragedies: Agamemnon, Antigone and Bacchae

The Agamemnon

Agamemnon, one of Aeschylus’ greatest work, is a classic Greek Tragedy. This play shows the extension of a curse that was on the house of Atreus. The time setting for this play is the end of the Trojan War, and King Agamemnon’s come back. The play entails the deaths of Cassandra and Agamemnon, who were murdered by Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife. The chorus in the play plays a great role in its overall structure. The chorus informs the audience of the outcomes of past events. This helps the audience further understand the play. The chorus informs the audience on facts about the Trojan War, the death of Iphigenia, and other key issues pertaining to the play. Phrases of the chorus like “But how can I betray my fleet and fail my allies? They are right in their fury-bound frenzy to imprecate the winds to calm by the blood of a virgin sacrificed… I hope it may be well!” (Aeschylus, 157) go a long way in explaining to the modern reader and audience the full story of Iphagania and the reasons as to why Agamemnon made a difficult choice that eventually led to his death. The chorus in this play also tries to connect the audience with the cast by presenting the idea of ordinary people with whom the audience can relate best so as to understand the concept of the play.

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The characters Agamemnon, a proud king and a cold husband, and his wife Clytemnestra, who is an adulteress and a murderer, demonstrate marital problems that affect day to day marriages, though they do not lead to murder in most cases, adultery is something many people even in the new age can relate to. The Trojan War displayed in the play can be compared to today’s Iraq conflict. The indecision of the King, Agamemnon, on whether to sacrifice Iphigenia to prove commitment to the war can also be taken to demonstrate the poor handling of the issues regarding the war in Iraq by today’s world leaders. Agamemnon, in the play, is brought forth as a man unable to deal with momentous events. Even in the heat of the pressure on the King to sacrifice his daughter, she, Iphigenia, remains calm as if she has accepted her fate to be a martyr. This demonstrates the kind of mindset that the suicide bombers of today are believed to have (Aeschylus, 177).

In the play, Agamemnon says that empires are brought down by themselves through their own actions that they believed to be good at the time. This can be compared with the revolutions bringing down governments that have ruled countries in the Arab world for decades. Though cast in the past, this play demonstrates the similarity of the past and the present in various ways (Aeschylus, 190).


Antigone starts off by displaying very clear sibling rivalry between Antigone and her sister Ismene. Ismene is more likable and beautiful, nothing compared to Antigone, who has a boyish physique and curses her girlhood. It is evident that Antigone is very jealous of her sister. This level of sibling rivalry is common even in today’s families, where one sibling is more successful than the other in one way or another. The concept of body image is brought forth when Antigone’s boyish physique is brought about. Body image is a very sensitive issue even in today’s society, and everyone tries to fit into what society expects them to look like (Aeschylus, 45).

The guards in the play are portrayed as indifferent, and they follow the orders of their master, whatever they may be. They are completely detached from the tragedy that unfolds before them. In the modern world, the guards can be equated to the members of today’s terrorist groups. They follow their leader and would do anything that their leader requires them to do. Most of their orders bring suffering to other people, but they are completely detached from this suffering. They have dedicated their lives to serve the course of their master (Aeschylus, 79).

The play demonstrates the birth of democracy in the land. Antigone is used to represent the French revolution; she is a young, strong-willed woman who stands against the ruling law alone. The play also displays the similarity of the status of women in society in the past and in today’s Traditional African and Muslim communities. Women are considered second to men, and their voices should not be heard in society. Antigone was a strong-willed woman who singles handedly disobeyed the law. She was later sentenced to death for her actions. This emphasizes the harsh judgment that women get when they go against the ruling men (Aeschylus, 86).

The Bacchae

Bacchae is a god who happened to be disrespected by the people of his own birth city. In the play, Dionysus is the god of letting go; he possesses the power of allowing humans to let go of their troubles through wine. His power of letting go through wine can be excessive and bring harm than good, causing humans to let go of their sanity, self-control, and judgment. This can be associated with the rampant alcoholism in today’s world. Most people get drunk to drown their sorrows. Excessive drinking eventually gets out of control, causing the destruction of the person (Euripides, 78).

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Pentheus, who is chosen to be the King of Thebes, is in conflict with Dionysus since their plans for Thebes are different. Pentheus is specifically repulsed by the “idea of women roaming freely in the world” (Euripides, 115). According to Pentheus, control over women was the right way to live. This portrays the position of women in society. Traditional rulers still hold on to the fact that women should not be heard in society and are often in conflict with their opposers (Euripides, 117).


All three plays have themes that reflect some of the problems we are facing in the world today. The characters used in these plays directly portray what certain people are doing in today’s modern world. The plays not only enlighten the audience on the events of the past; they also act as avenues to highlight the problems in today’s society. These three plays would be successfully produced because they touch on issues that affect the population of the modern world. For a play to be successful, it has to interest the audience by addressing pressing issues that the audience may be going through. The play that would enjoy the most successful products for a twenty-first-century audience is Antigone. It would be successful because its themes and characters touch on sensitive matters that affect everyone in the world today. Self-image and acceptance of oneself is a problem that affects everyone at one point in their lives or another. Everyone would identify with problems of fitting in society as Antigone does in the play. The play would be a successful product because it touches on matters of terrorism, trying to look into the mindset of suicide bombers. It is impossible for anyone today to ignore the rising threat of terrorism, and this would appeal to the audience.

Works Cited

Aeschylus. Antigone. Clayton, Delaware: Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Classics, 2005. Print.

Aeschylus. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus. Good Ridge Avenue, Gloucester, United Kingdom: Dodo Press, 2003. Print.

Euripides. Bacchae. New York: Classic Books America, 2009. Print.

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