Aristotle's The Poetics InAristotle's The Poetics Essay, Research Paper In Aristotle's The Poetics, tragedy is stated as being "an imitation not only of a complete action but, also of incidents arousing pity and fear (137). ' As Agamemnon, one of the works of Aeschylus, begins, pity is immediately brought into play. Although the audience does not see it, Agamemnon makes a difficult decision. He is a great leader and must make a sacrifice to please the Gods in order for them to produce the wind he needs to continue his voyage. Agamemnon's dilemma is that he must sacrifice his daughter Iphigeneia. He would be doing so for the good of the state.
It is his duty to save and protect his people. He puts the state above his personal interests and makes the sacrifice and the reader (audience) immediately feels pity for Iphigeneia and Agamemnon. Iphigeneia was a young innocent child that did nothing to deserve death. Aeschylus makes the audience feel pity for Agamemnon who lost his daughter (although he was the person that made the choice to sacrifice her) by making it know that he was thinking of his people's welfare. By making that choice, Agamemnon becomes a tragic hero. Page 2 Aeschylus makes the audience feel for the tragic hero because Agamemnon had to endure the pain and suffering of sacrificing his daughter and then watch, his people die at a war fought over a woman.
The tragedy of the war is briefly described in the beginning of the play. The audience feels a great deal of pity for the young men that died and the families that suffered the loss of a loved one. The reason for the war was meaningless. It was fought to win back a woman. The arousal of fear is provoked in the audience when Cassandra gives the description of the murdered of the children of Thyestes being eaten by their father. It also illustrates the magnitude of the tragedy.
Fear is induced in the reader when Cassandra describes the scene. Their hands filled with their own flesh, as food to eat. I see them holding out their inward parts, the vitals, oh pitiful, that meat their father tasted of. (44) The children were described as being eaten by "those who were most dear to them (Aeschylus 44) ' (their father Thyestes). They were innocent children that loved and trusted their father, just as Iphigeneia did Agamemnon. Both fathers betrayed that trust.
Thyestes did not know that he was eating the bodies of his children though. Agamemnon knew that he was killing Iphigeneia because it would save many more lives if he offered her as a sacrifice. This evokes pity in the reader (audience) for the children and for Thyestes. Page 3 When Agamemnon returns from the war, Clytamenstra has a red carpet sprawled out between the chariot and the door.
Agamemnon tells the servants not to bow down to or idolize him because that would be too god-like. Agamemnon says: I am a mortal, a man: I cannot trample upon these tinted splendors without fear thrown in my path. I tell you, as a man, not god, to reverence me. (33) This is connected to how he displays his fear of the gods. If Agamemnon were to walk on the carpet, that would be hubris. He would be acting as if he was on the same level as the gods and they would punish him (the red carpet is like a net that will bring this great tragic hero's downfall).
Clytaemestra on the other hand is beginning to display signs of hubris. She tells Agamemnon that it is his right to walk on the carpet in line 943. "Oh yield! The power is yours. Give way of your free will' (34). It seems as if she were daring him to walk on this carpet (the net that will bring about his death).
The chorus mentions the fear of the gods when it says: Man's fate that sets a true course yet may strike upon the blind and sudden reefs of disaster. But if before such a time, fear throw overboard some precious thing of cargo, with deliberate cast, not all the house, laboring with weight of ruin, shall go down. (36) Page 4 This passage is backtracking to the beginning of the play when it the reader is told that to appease the gods, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter. It describes Agamemnon's fear that Zeus would bring ruin to his people and destroy his city if it were not for the sacrifice of Iphigeneia. The reader can gather from the passage that the killing of Agamemnon is going to be because of this sacrifice. His fate, though he is blind to it, is death.
He thinks that he pleased the gods and his fate was already determined (he won the war, returned a hero, and is alive). The chorus is foreshadowing the murder. The tragic hero that deliberately sacrificed his daughter will be killed because of it. This passage is not the only time that the foreshadowing of Agamemnon's death is show to the audience. There is a double meaning behind Clytaemestra's words when she says: "Let there spring up into the house he never hoped to see, where Justice leads him in, a crimson path' (32).
Clytaemestra is describing both the death of Iphigeneia and foreshadowing the murder of Agamemnon. The "crimson path' is the blood that has been shed (Iphigeneia) and the blood that will be shed (Agamemnon). At the very end of the play, the audience can see the hubris in Clytaemestra. The Chorus says: "Crow and strut, brave cockerel by your hen; you have no threats to fear' (60). The Chorus is warning Aegisthus that he should fear the gods. Page 5 The Chorus is saying, do you (Aegisthus) think that Clytaemestra can always protect you, that the gods cant harm you?
Clytaemestra shows her hubris by saying to Aegisthus: These are howls of impotent rage; forget them, dearest; you and I have the power; we two shall bring good order to our home at least (60). The audience has already begun to look at Clytaemestra as having hubris and not being pitiful anymore. She got revenge for the daughter that was taken from her but she has been putting herself at the same level or above the gods. This makes the reader feel more pity for Agamemnon. In the Poetics, Aristotle says that tragedy invokes fear and pity in the reader (137). From the examples given in this paper, it is proven that tragedy does arouse fear and pity in the reader.
Aeschylus. Agamemnon. Trans. Richmond Lattimore. Greek Tragedies, Vol. 1. Ed. David Gene and Richmond Lattimore. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1969.
1-60. Aristotle. "From the Poetics. ' Trans. Ingram By water. Tragedy: Plays, Theory and Criticism. Ed. Richard Levin. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1960.