45 pages 1 hour read


Iphigenia in Aulis

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 410

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Symbols & Motifs


Sacrifice stands out as one of the central motifs of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis. The sacrifice of Iphigenia is just the most obvious example, but the play also explores the sacrifices—literal or otherwise—that all people must make. Agamemnon, for instance, remarks in the prologue that

No mortal man has happiness
And fortune in all ways. He is
Born, every man, to his grief! (Lines 160-62)

This idea—so popular in ancient Greek literature and thought—informs the play’s depiction of universal sacrifices. Agamemnon must sacrifice his daughter in exchange for the glory of conquering Troy, while Iphigenia must let herself be sacrificed to become a savior of Greece. Clytemnestra, on the other hand, makes a very different kind of sacrifice, leaving behind her identity as a dutiful wife when she vows to avenge her daughter’s death on her husband. The characters have different motivations for their sacrifices. Some, like Agamemnon, are motivated by the whims of the gods and duty to the state. Others, like Iphigenia, are motivated by a sense of familial duty. The play explores the many ways in which people must make sacrifices to uphold the duties and values they hold dear.