Both Agamemnon and Jason share intrinsic similarities in that they are both the tragic heroes of their plays: Aeschylus’ ‘Agamemnon’ and Euripides’ ‘Medea’ respectively. However, they do not share the same fate. Agamemnon is killed for what he has done, whereas those close to Jason emotionally and politically are killed to spite Jason.
Both characters are detested by their wives, but for different reasons. Agamemnon has sacrificed his daughter and Jason has left his wife to marry entirely for personal gain.
Agamemnon’s motives were that he had to fulfil his oath to help the husband of Helen should she ever leave/be taken. His motives were better than Jason’s, who left his wife for his own gain. Medea had two sons so he could not justify leaving her because of childlessness. However, Jason has not killed anyone, which Agamemnon has. Also, leaving a wife would not have been uncommon, and so it is not as significant as it would be had the events taken place today.
Both characters thank the gods for their successes. When Agamemnon first arrives on stage he thanks the gods for his victory and safe return home. When Medea challenges Jason and attacks him for what he has done to her, despite all she has done to help him, he claims that although she did do some things, the one who helped him the most was Aphrodite. Both Jason and Agamemnon are either not arrogant or stupid enough not to thank the gods for their achievements.
All four parties, Jason, Agamemnon, Medea and Clytemnestra have deceived their counterpart at some point. Agamemnon sends for Iphigenia without telling her or Clytemnestra what he plans to do. Jason does not tell Medea about his marriage to Glauce until after it has happened. Medea has to lure Jason into a false sense of security and so apologises to him, telling him he is right and she wrong and that she was angry. This prevents him from suspecting her. Clytemnestra deceives Agamemnon by welcoming him home. Even Agamemnon thinks she is exaggerating, saying that she is “grovelling” and that the “speech to suit (his) absence, (was) much too long”.
Both Agamemnon and Jason are insensitive. Neither refers to his wife by name. Agamemnon only refers to Clytemnestra as “Leda’s daughter”. They expect everything they have done to their wives to be ignored and everything to be left without any mention of what they have done. Jason goes as far as saying that Medea should be thanking him when she confronts him. He says that she lives in Greece, rather than “an uncivilised country”, and had also “won renown.” In saying that he would rather not have “gold in (his) house) or the skill to sing a song lovelier than Orpheus sang” unless a famous name came with it, he reveals a part of his character.
He wants to be famous; he wants his name to be known, at the expense of other things. Medea has noticed this. During her argument with Jason she says that “it was marriage to a foreigner that you would detract from that great name of yours”. Jason also shows his insensitivity by claiming that he married Glauce entirely out of his wanting to look after Medea and their sons. He claims that he did this so that they could “live comfortably and not go without anything.” If there were any good intentions of Jason, he then loses any chance of Medea genuinely agreeing and calming down when he says that he can “ensure (his) prosperity by “joining (their) two families”. This shows that he is prepared to use his family in order to preserve his comfort and wealth, and indicates that Jason can be selfish.
The greeting of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra is ironic. Among the first things she says to him is that “(their) child is gone” and that “by all rights (their) child should be (there)”. She means Iphigenia of course, but covers this up by quickly adding after a pause, “…Orestes”. Later on in the same speech she simply says the sentence “Our child is gone.” She hints about her anger but covers them up, Agamemnon not specifically referring to them.
The sympathies of the chorus change in both plays. In Medea, the chorus of Corinthian women strongly supports Medea at the beginning of the play, sympathising with her. However, they begin to pity Jason and no longer support Medea when Medea says she is going to kill her own children to spite Jason. In Agamemnon, the chorus is made up of old men who are too old to fight in Troy. They, if grudgingly, admire Clytemnestra. They respect her plan with the beacons so she would know when Troy had fallen, saying after she told them it was her that it was “spoken like a man”. However, they lose this respect when they find out that Clytemnestra has killed Agamemnon, their king who they admire for destroying Troy.
Because of the action of Jason and Agamemnon, many innocent people are killed. In ‘Agamemnon’, Cassandra is killed by Clytemnestra, despite the fact that Cassandra is a captive and had nothing to do with the death of Iphigenia. In ‘Medea’, Glauce, Creon and Jason and Medea’s sons are killed by Medea. These innocent victims in both plays are certainly not deserving of what happens to them. Because of what Jason and Agamemnon have done to hurt their wives, five people have been needlessly killed.
Both Agamemnon and Jason care about their children. In ‘Agamemnon’, Clytemnestra says to Agamemnon, “you seem startled”, upon hearing the news that Orestes is gone. Additionally, in Euripides ‘Iphigenia in Aulis’, Agamemnon tries to send a message to Iphigenia to tell her to return home. When the message fails to get through, he tells Menelaus that he “will not kill (his) daughter.” After being persuaded to change his mind, realising he has no choice, he is still pained to do it, saying that her “hand’s touch brings swift tears flooding from (his) eyes.” Jason, after hearing the news that his sons are dead and during his confrontation with Medea he reveals how he longs “to clasp them, to kiss (their) dear lips”.
What have Medea and Clytemnestra sacrificed? Clytemnestra has lost a daughter, and this is her sole motivation for killing Agamemnon. Medea, however, has betrayed her family, left her home and killed her own brother to help Jason in every way she can. Jason has abandoned her after she has had two sons when she is in a foreign land with no friends or family to fall back on entirely for his own personal gain. She has then been told she has to leave the country, and she has been forced to flee to another foreign country at some point. Medea is more justified in wanting revenge. She is a far worse position than Clytemnestra, who still lives in her home with friends and family close by in the palace at Mycenae and has a new husband. Medea has also been very poorly thanked for her role in making sure Jason escapes Colchis with the Golden Fleece.
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