45 pages 1 hour read


Iphigenia in Aulis

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 410

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Important Quotes

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“I envy you, old man,

I am jealous of men who without peril

Pass through their lives, obscure,

Unknown; least of all do I envy

Those vested with honors.”

(Lines 16-19)

Summoning the Old Man to his tent in the middle of the night, Agamemnon cryptically expresses envy for those who are not burdened, as he is, with power. With power, after all, come duties that are often unpleasant. In Agamemnon’s case, this is a duty to lead the Greek army to Troy at any cost, even his daughter’s life. Those without power need not shoulder such heavy responsibilities, though they also cannot hope for the same glory that the powerful may win (as the Old Man promptly reminds Agamemnon).

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“No mortal man has happiness

And fortune in all ways. He is

Born, every man, to his grief!”

(Lines 160-162)

Agamemnon gives voice to a sentiment that would have been familiar to the ancient Greeks of Euripides’ time, the idea that all mortals must experience happiness as well as happiness throughout their lives. Agamemnon may be fortunate in his lofty position and power, but for this loftiness he must pay an equally lofty price, for to retain his position and power he must sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia.

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“Through the sacrificial grove,

Artemis’ grove, I came swiftly running;

In my eagerness, my cheeks

Blushing with young modesty—in my yearning to see

The Danaans’ wall of shields,

The war gear by each tent,

And the great host of their horses.”

(Lines 185-191)

Here, the Chorus embark upon their rich description of the Greek camp—a description that engages closely with earlier literary treatments of the subject and thus becomes highly metaliterary.