Agamemnon

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Cassandra Character Analysis

The slave Agamemnon has taken back to Argos as his prize for winning the Trojan War. She is the daughter of Priam, king of Troy. A priestess of Apollo, she has the gift of prophecy, and she predicts the events of the play as well as those to come later in The Oresteia.

Cassandra Quotes in Agamemnon

The Agamemnon quotes below are all either spoken by Cassandra or refer to Cassandra. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Revenge Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harvard University Press edition of Agamemnon published in 1926.
Lines 1034-1330 Quotes

Up there on that roof there sits a chorus—
it never leaves. They sing in harmony,
but the song is harsh, predicting doom.
Drinking human blood has made them bold—
they dance in celebration through the house.
The family’s Furies cannot be dislodged.
Sitting in the home, they chant their song,
the madness that began all this, each in turn
cursing that man who defiled his brother’s bed.

Related Characters: Cassandra (speaker), Agamemnon, Atreus, Thyestes, The Furies
Page Number: 1185-1193
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Trojan slave Cassandra, who's been cursed with the ability to see the future and have no one listen to her, talks about the future of Agamemnon's family (the House of Atreus). Agamemnon's father has done some horrible things--murdering children in his own family and feeding them to his brother, in revenge for his brother stealing his kingdom and wife ("the man who defiled his brother's bed"). The gods, Cassandra predicts, will punish Agamemnon, both for his father's sins and for his own.

Cassandra alludes to a chorus, but this is not the chorus of old men that we've met previously. Rather Cassandra is talking about the Furies, the monstrous goddesses who punish the wicked for their sins. The Furies personify the cycle of "blood for blood" that Cassandra has alluded to: as the cycle goes on, generation after generation, the Furies develop a craving for more blood--a gory metaphor that suggests the way that revenge has a way of perpetuating itself over time.

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But we’ll not die without the gods’ revenge.
Another man will come and will avenge us,
a son who’ll kill his mother, then pay back
his father’s death, a wanderer in exile,
a man this country’s made a stranger.
He’ll come back and, like a coping stone,
bring the ruin of his family to a close.
For gods have made a powerful promise—
his father’s stretched out corpse will bring him home.

Related Characters: Cassandra (speaker), Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Orestes
Page Number: 1279-1287
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the Trojan prisoner Cassandra goes quietly to be murdered, knowing that nothing she does can prevent her inevitable death. Cassandra sees a "light at the end of the tunnel," however. Even if she herself will be killed, there will eventually come an end to the cycle of death and "blood for blood" that has cursed the House of Atreus. After Agamemnon and Cassandra's death, Orestes will come to avenge his father's murder by killing Clytemnestra. Somehow, Cassandra claims, Orestes' actions will not set off any further cycles of revenge.

Cassandra's allusions to Orestes would be well-known to Aeschylus's original Greek audiences. What's equally interesting is the way Cassandra accepts her fate--all her knowledge of the future isn't enough to save her from murder. Cassandra sees the future, but can't change it; and that's her curse.

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Cassandra Character Timeline in Agamemnon

The timeline below shows where the character Cassandra appears in Agamemnon. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 783-1033
War and Its Aftermath Theme Icon
Fate and the Gods Theme Icon
Agamemnon enters riding a chariot. With him is the prophet Cassandra – a Trojan princess, Paris’ sister, and Agamemnon’s prize from the war. (full context)
Lines 1034-1330
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate and the Gods Theme Icon
Clytemnestra comes out of the palace and orders Cassandra to descend from the chariot and go inside, but Cassandra remains silent. At first, Clytemnestra... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate and the Gods Theme Icon
The Chorus gathers around Cassandra, and she falls into a trance-like state. Her disparate phrases and thoughts begin to form... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate and the Gods Theme Icon
Next, Cassandra envisions a woman bathing and then murdering a man in the palace, and she senses... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate and the Gods Theme Icon
The Chorus asks Cassandra how she came to be a prophet, and with a little probing, Cassandra admits that... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate and the Gods Theme Icon
...returning to the image of the man (Agamemnon’s uncle Thyestes) eating his own cooked children, Cassandra explicitly declares that Agamemnon will be murdered. The Chorus, however, cannot seem to make the... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate and the Gods Theme Icon
The Chorus asks Cassandra what man would possibly murder the king—they are completely unable to imagine that a woman... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate and the Gods Theme Icon
In a frantic state of trance, Cassandra tears her clothes off and announces that a man will come, murder his mother, and... (full context)
Lines 1331-1675
Revenge Theme Icon
War and Its Aftermath Theme Icon
Fate and the Gods Theme Icon
The Chorus considers Cassandra’s prophecy. They conclude that if the prophecy is indeed true, and that if Agamemnon can... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...palace doors open, revealing a blood-soaked Clytemnestra standing over the dead bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra. Clytemnestra openly confesses to killing Agamemnon and details how she murdered him by stabbing him... (full context)