Clytemnestra - Mythology

Mythology

After Helen went (or was taken) from Sparta to Troy, her husband, Menelaus, asked his brother Agamemnon for help. Greek forces gathered at Aulis. However, consistently weak winds prevented the fleet from sailing. Through a subplot involving the gods and omens, the priest Calchas said the winds would be favorable if Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis. Agamemnon persuaded Clytemnestra to send Iphigenia by deceptively telling her that the purpose of his daughter's visit was to marry her to Achilles. When Iphigenia arrived at Aulis, she was sacrificed, the winds turned, and the troops set sail for Troy. Clytemnestra learned of this event and grieved for her daughter.

The Trojan War lasted ten years. During this period of Agamemnon's long absence, Clytemnestra began a love affair with Aegisthus, her husband's cousin. Whether Clytemnestra was seduced into the affair or entered into it independently differs according to the respective author of the myth. Nevertheless, Clytemnestra, enraged by Iphigenia's murder (and presumably the earlier murder of her first husband by Agamemnon, and her subsequent rape and forced marriage), and Aegisthus, whose father Thyestes was horribly betrayed by Agamemnon's father Atreus, and who was conceived specifically to take revenge on that branch of the family, began plotting Agamemnon's demise.

In old versions of the story, on returning from Troy Agamemnon is murdered by Aegisthus, the lover of his wife Clytemnestra. In some later versions Clytemnestra helps him or does the killing herself in his own home. The best known version is that of Aeschylus: having arrived at his palace with his concubine, the Trojan princess Cassandra in tow and being greeted by his wife, he entered the palace for a banquet while Cassandra remained in the chariot. Clytemnestra waited until he was in the bath, and then entangled him in a cloth net and stabbed him. Trapped in the web, Agamemnon could neither escape nor resist his murderer. In some versions Cassandra has twin sons by Agamemnon (whether Clytemnestra was jealous of Cassandra is unknown. It was quite normal at the time for men to take concubines, usually acquired as war prizes, when on campaign).

Meanwhile, Cassandra saw a vision of herself and Agamemnon being murdered. Her attempts to elicit help failed (she had been cursed by Apollo that no one would believe her prophecies). She realized she was fated to die, and resolutely walked into the palace to receive her death.

After the murders, Aegisthus replaced Agamemnon as king and ruled for seven years with Clytemnestra as his queen. In some traditions they have three children: a son Aletes, and daughters Erigone and Helen. Clytemnestra was eventually killed by her own son Orestes. The infant Helen is also killed. Aletes and Erigone grow up at Mycenae, but when Aletes comes of age, Orestes returns from Sparta, kills his half-brother, and takes the throne. Orestes and Erigone are said to have had a son, Penthilus.

Clytemnestra's personality differs between tellings, as weak and submissive (Homer's Clytemnestra), or ruthless and manipulative (Aeschylus' Clytemnestra). This affects her role in the affair with Agamemnon.

Clytemnestra has been the subject of many artistic works.

  • She is one of the main characters in Aeschylus's Oresteia, and is central to the plot of all three parts. She murders Agamemnon in the first play, and is murdered herself in the second. Her death then leads to the trial of Orestes by a jury composed of Athena and 11 Athenians in the final play.
  • The American modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham created a two-hour ballet, Clytemnestra (1958), about the queen.
  • Most recently, playwright/actor Corey Allen wrote a contemporary adaptation of Aeschylus' earlier work entitled Clytemnestra.
  • The story has also been adapted into an opera; Cromwell Everson a South African composer wrote the first Afrikaans opera, "Klutaimnestra", in 1967. It is an opera in four acts and premiered on November 7, 1967 in Biesenbach Hall, Worcester, Western Cape, South Africa.
  • Clytemnestra Sutpen was the daughter of Thomas Sutpen and his negro slave in William Faulkner's work Absalom, Absalom!
  • Rhian Samuel composed a 1994 work for voice and ensemble adapting Aeschylus' work from Clytemnestra's viewpoint.
  • John Eaton composed an opera in one act entitled The Cry of Clytemnestra recounting the events leading up to and including Clytemnestra's murder of Agamemnon.
  • Ismail Kadare in his novel The Successor draws upon the Clytemnestra myth while sardonically commenting on the political climate of communist Albania.

Read more about this topic:  Clytemnestra

Other articles related to "mythology":

Blood Brother - Mythology
... In the mythology of northern Europe, Gunther and Högni became the blood brothers of Sigurd when he married their sister Gudrun in Wagner's Ring Cycle, the same occurs between ...
Modern Mythology
... of the Titans, Immortals or Thor continue the trend of mining traditional mythology in order to directly create a plot for modern consumption ...
Harold Shea - The Original Series
... story, "The Roaring Trumpet," Shea intends to visit the world of Irish Mythology, and instead ends up in Norse mythology ... the Kalevala in "The Wall of Serpents," and finally (at last), Irish mythology in "The Green Magician." With "The Green Magician" the original collaboration ended, Pratt's early death precluding any ... A final planned story set in the world of Persian mythology was never written, nor was a projected response to L ...
Knowledge Deity - List of Knowledge Deities - Celtic Mythology
... Ogma, a figure from Irish and Scottish mythology, said to have invented the Ogham alphabet Lugh,a figure from Irish mythology,said to be skilled in all ...

Famous quotes containing the word mythology:

    Love, love, love—all the wretched cant of it, masking egotism, lust, masochism, fantasy under a mythology of sentimental postures, a welter of self-induced miseries and joys, blinding and masking the essential personalities in the frozen gestures of courtship, in the kissing and the dating and the desire, the compliments and the quarrels which vivify its barrenness.
    Germaine Greer (b. 1939)

    One memorable addition to the old mythology is due to this era,—the Christian fable. With what pains, and tears, and blood these centuries have woven this and added it to the mythology of mankind! The new Prometheus. With what miraculous consent, and patience, and persistency has this mythus been stamped on the memory of the race! It would seem as if it were in the progress of our mythology to dethrone Jehovah, and crown Christ in his stead.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    In the United States there’s a Puritan ethic and a mythology of success. He who is successful is good. In Latin countries, in Catholic countries, a successful person is a sinner.
    Umberto Eco (b. 1932)