skip to main | skip to sidebar
Home » , » Bring out the dramatic significance of the first Choral Ode in Agamemnon

The dramatic significance of the first Choral Ode in Agamemnon

The Chorus plays a very significant role in ancient Greek plays. Aeschylus (523-456 B.C) kept tragedy close to its ritualistic roots by keeping his Chorus on the stage. The Chorus in his tragedy was not general populace or priests or devotees, but a group of people who fitted appropriately to the enacted narrative pattern of the tragedy. Through their choral odes or dithyrambs the Chorus served. As an important vehicle to convey the mythical background and suggest the pattern in which the human action spoken and enacted as the scene before the audience could properly be understood. Aeschylus gave the Attic tragedy its structure its opening in the prologue in which the immediate background of the story is established. It was followed by the entry of the Chorus in parodos who chanted a lyric which has some relation with the main theme of the play. Then there was the Episodes whose modern equivalent is the Act. Each of the Episodes has the actors interacting amongst themselves and sometimes with the Chorus in form of a lyrical  passage called kommus or commus. Each episode ended with a stasimon or choral ode, and the play ended with the Exodus. where after the last Stasimon there was the ceremonial exit of all players.
dramatic significance of choral ode in Agamemnon

The first Choral ode in Agamemnon or the first stasimon(83- 269) comes after the parodos (40-82) which sees the entry of the Chorus, who are the 'Elders of Agros'. The parodos has the chorus talking about the ten years war at story. Agamemnon and Menelaus the loving sons of Atreus, have led the military expedition of thousand Argive ships fitted with the 'youth of Hellas' to 'settle scores with Priam'. The name of Arteus is significant for the audience can immediately think of the curse lying on the House of Atreus for his unnatural crime. Mention of the Trojan War would in the same way attune the reader to Troy, where the Greeks along with the Trojans suffered and died to materialize the Will of Zeus. What they established is that Agamemnon is the commander of the Greek army to Troy and he is an instrument of Zeus sent to seek justice for Paris's elopement with Helen, the wife of Menelaus. In the long ongoing war the Greeks are sure that Priam and the Trojans in spite of their bravery and efforts to appease the gods would not escape the 'wrath of heaven'. The Chorus ended their parodos by referring to their old and feeble state that had kept them in Argos.

The first stasimon begins when they see Clytemnestra. They are citizens interested in the public affairs, and so with a dramatic appropriateness they ask her why there are sacrifices taking place throughout the city. They implore her to tell them the reason-the reason that would lift the loads that gall their souls 'by night and day. They narrate the event of two eagles devouring the pregnant hare-a sign seen by the army as it stood at Aulis ready to embark for Troy. They then narrate how Calchas prophesied on this omen, saying that Troy's violent doom is sealed, but the Greeks must be careful so that no 'anger of gods' blithe their strength before even putting out on sea. The seer Calchas speaks of the bloody sacrifice that the Greeks should offer to propitiate Artemis and secure good winds to sail to Troy. He speaks of bloodshed that is to be needed at this hour, the shedding of kindred blood which in turn would poison a house with darkness, treachery and strife. Calchas's prophecy spoke of a curse hovering on the royal house.

Like everyone the Chorus too had thought deeply about this idea of a supernatural idea of Justice. No other thought of comfort or aid, no other belief to lift the fear of divine justice had occurred to them save only-Zeus'. This part of the choric speech is perhaps the most philosophical discourse of the play. Aeschylus's effort to show the changing course of the concept of justice, from a belief 'killer must be killed to the concept of a justice tempered with mercy and accepted by all as Divine disposition (as found in Eumenides) from the haze of myth becomes clear in this part of the choral ode. It is Zeus who has marked for man the sole way where wisdom lies and that is the eternal plan 'Man must suffer to be wise Wisdom, they say, come to man against his will, for gods themselves are merciless, not kind when they make men wise.

Agamemnon as a king of kings could not admit the error of his decision to take the army to Ilium to retrieve a wanton woman. His pride forbade him to retire; he waited allowing frustration to grow in his army. Calchas, the official prophet finally offered a suggestion-a suggestion which made Agamemnon more helpless:

 Disaster follows if I disobey 
Surely worse disaster if I yield".

To slaughter his daughter to appease Artemis for his army was a choice which to him was as terrible as the thought of being brandeda a coward.On the other hand, to disband his army, and betray the lliance was an act totally out of policy out of policy. But Agamemnon decided as a king and not as a father "There must be sacrifice, a maid must bleed" and his army demands it. He thought of public good and thus justified his act calling necessity. His decision once taken changed the turmoil of his soul towards Troy. But the unnatural blasphemous cruelty turned his good to bad. This was his 'reckless wrong' setting into motion the wheels of downfall

Agamemnon's choice according to the Chorus was more than an error of judgment. But from this incident in context of Zeus's eternal  law they know of justice that always falls equally. The killer will be killed-this is the foreknowledge which the wisdom of the Elders of argos has given them. They know that sometime in the future this law  would operate and Agamemnon would have to suffer for what he hed done- the reckless wrong.

The Chorus ends their Choral Ode with a degree of resignation. They know what is fate destined cannot be altered, so to lament troubles before they occur is fruitless. Events will occur as foreseen by the prophet yet like all ordinary men they can only hope Let good prevail. The dramatic suspense of what will happen next is thus maintained, and the Chorus after artieulating and thereby expressing the thought of the play, now prepare the audience for the audience for the action of the character about to unfold.

From the above discussion it is evident that the first choric speech or stasimon is very important one, where Aeschylus's thought which he had constructed out of the myths and rituals and is known to all, is set out. The power of Zeus as the personification of Justice and Justice as the scale that falls equally is conveyed to the audience with the background information and their interpretation in. this context.


Post a Comment

Back To Top