Stereotypes of women in the play Essay
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Woman in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon are perceived as untrustworthy and ignorant characters. The role of women in ancient Greek life, was considered to be insignificant compared to that of Greek men. And yet, in tragedies, women were often written as major characters, revealing insights on how women were treated and thought of in society. Many well-known Greek plays contain several well-written, complex, female characters. Each female character takes upon herself, the role of villain, the role of victim, and the role of heroine.
Drama and theatre in the ancient Greek world expresses the communities’ concerns in regards to their ambitions, fears, hope and their deepest sympathy. In Greek drama, playwrights often included pivotal female roles, despite the fact that the cast was strictly male. The role of women in ancient Greek life is deemed irrelevant compared to that of Greek men, however, in tragedies, women are often written as major characters, revealing important insights on the perceptions and treatment of women in society.
For a woman to possess qualities such as leadership and strength is not typical, in fact it is seen as masculine and un-ladylike. Many Greek plays contain several complex female characters; Aeschylus is a playwright whom incorporates a very complex female character, Clytemnestra in his play Agamemnon. Although Clytemnestra is one of the most recognizable and noted female villains due to her involvement in the murder of her husband and his concubine, one can argue that her actions are justifiable.
Whether her vengeful actions are triggered by the death of her daughter Iphigenia, her love for Aegisthus or the jealousy of her husband’s mistress Cassandra, either is motive enough to make her turn to evil. There is a quote made by the chorus that suggest evidence that women are incompetent and over emotional for leadership, “It is very like a woman in command to concede gratitude before the facts appear: too ready to persuade, a female ranges beyond her boundary, quick to move; but doom is quick for rumour when a woman spreads it, and it is destroyed. ” (483-487)
With these words, the Chorus expresses a stereotyped view of women as emotional and irrational. From my reading of the play as a whole, I asked myself the question did the female characters in the play actually live up to this stereotype? As I pondered upon this I knew the answer was No. The women in this play are fierce and merciless, and do as they wish. Even though they have a dark cloud of gender prejudice overhead they go against this and stand above all. As for the male characters, their are clearly some who are very rational and don’t get their hopes up too early; both the Watchman and the Herald seem to fit this description.
Based on the way all of the characters in the play are depicted I personally think Aeschylus does not agrees with the Chorus’s opinion of women. Just like many explore argumentative themes, Aeschulus decided to explore gender inequalities and hierarchies in a time when this topic was importantly relevant. In a patriarchal society like that of ancient Greece, it would be pretty hard to have a play with a fearsome female villain like Clytemnestra and not have the issue of gender play a prominent role.
At many points in Agamemnon, we hear characters utter stereotyped views about women, but it isn’t clear how much Aeschylus endorses these. For example, the Chorus frequently remarks on how women are irrational and don’t pay attention to the facts. The Chorus members intend this as a criticism of Clytemnestra, but do we really see her being irrational or making factual mistakes? Evil though it is, Clytemnestra’s murder plot definitely required careful (i. e. , rational) planning, and she was right about the signal fire from Troy, which the Chorus doubted.
Also, the Chorus is majorly wrong in mistaking the appearance of Clytemnestra for what it really means, when they can’t believe she will be Agamemnon’s killer. Clytemnestra’s actions do, however bear out another cultural stereotype in the play: that women are untrustworthy. (Of course, it could also be said that Agamemnon is untrustworthy, since he sacrificed his own daughter. ) At the end of the play, when the Chorus makes fun of Aegisthus by calling him a woman for not going to war and using deception to get back at Agamemnon, does this question or reinforce stereotypes?
Absolutely. There is many similarities between Aeschules’s Play on gender inequality and stereotyping and experiences of those of the 1950’s. The role of women in the 1950 was repressive and constructive in many ways. Society placed high importance and many expectations on behavior at home as well as in public. Women were supposed to fulfill certain roles, such as a caring mother, a diligent homemaker, and a obedient wife. The mother was supposed to stay at home and nurture so society would accept them.
The basics of the inept woman were: the “woman driver,” the “over-spender” who cannot budget, and the basic downfall of man. This all ties back to the women in Agamemnon, despite the male characters never ending humility and doubtfulness of intelligence the women, there is a strong prevalence and honor for the female sex among woman. Here is a poignant example of strong clystamnestras femininity… “I cried out my joy long ago, when the first night-messenger of fire came telling of Ilion’s capture and destruction.
And someone said in reproof, ‘Have beacon-watchers persuaded you to think that Troy is now ransacked? Truly like a woman to let her heart be lifted! ‘ Words such as those made me seem astray; nevertheless I went on sacrificing, and people in all parts of the city shrilled cries of joy in women’s custom, in grateful triumph, lulling the fragrant flame that devoured their sacrifice at the gods’ seats. And now, for the longer account, what need have you to give it me? I shall learn the whole story from my lord himself; and I must hasten to give my revered husband the best of welcomes now he has come back.
For what light of day is sweeter to a wife to see than this, with the gates opened up when god has brought back her husband safely from campaign? Take this message away to my husband, to come as soon as possible; he is the city’s beloved darling. As to his wife, I wish he may find her when he comes just as faithful in his home as the one he left behind, the house’s watch-dog to him while hostile to ill-wishers, and similar in everything else, with no seal broken in the length of time; and I know no more of pleasure from another man, nor talk of blame, than I do of dipping bronze.
There you have my boast; its fullness with the truth makes it no shame for a woman of my nobility to proclaim. ” (587-614)| | I’ve quoted this entire long speech by Clytemnestra because of the sheer wealth of conflicting images of femininity it offers. At the beginning of the speech, we see her offering a counterargument to the sexist stereotypes presented by the Chorus in the previous quotation. Contrary to how they claim women typically behave, Clytemnestra says that she was right about the fact that Agamemnon was coming home, and so hadn’t gotten her hopes up for no reason.
She drives this point home by saying that she doesn’t want to hear any more secondhand information, but will wait to hear what her husband has to say when he gets home. For the rest of the speech, she interweaves various ideas of traditional femininity, pointing out how much she loves her husband, and how faithful she has been to him while he was gone. Aeschylus’s Greek tragedy, Agamemnon stereotypes of women in the play are quite evident.
There is no rug sweeping of this topic at all, instead the reader is greeted with this issue at the beginning of the play. It seems like every male character especially the chorus are brash on the females and encounter them is unworthy, unintelligent and forgetful subhuman. Male characters in Agamemnon do not in the slightest take anything women say seriously and believe the right place for them in caring for baby and the home, similarity to that of the stereotypical housewife of the 1950’s. To much astonishment the women in the play prevail against all preconceptions about them.
Probably the most is Clytamnestra, who killed her husband because he sacrificed her beloved daughter to succeed his army. Clytamnestra was a strong woman and never apologized for what she did, but admitted to it with dignity and honor. Women of Agamemnon serve as a fine example to the idea that even though women might be placed in a situation that has placed in a unfair hierarchy of gender, we women must triumph and overcome biases just like our sisters have done for millenniums; we must be brave and endure so we can succeed and show that we can do and be just about anything.