45 pages 1 hour read


Iphigenia in Aulis

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 410

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Human Inconsistency

One of the central themes of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis is the inconsistency exhibited by nearly all the characters of the play. Iphigenia herself represents a particularly notable example of this inconsistency of characterization. In the first part of the exodos, when Iphigenia begs her father Agamemnon to spare her life, she declares that “it is better that we live ever so / Miserably than die in glory” (1252). Not much later, though, Iphigenia resolves to die “well and gloriously” (1376) for the sake of Greece. This jarring change of opinion was noted over two millennia ago by Aristotle, who wrote in his Poetics that the Iphigenia who implores Agamemnon to spare her life in the first part of the exodos “is not at all like her later character” (Aristotle, Poetics 1454a (translated by W. H. Fyfe in the 1932 Loeb Classical Library edition of Aristotle’s works).

Iphigenia’s inconsistency, though particularly obvious, is not the only inconsistency of characterization in the play. Agamemnon, for instances, changes his mind about the sacrifice of Iphigenia, resolving not only to go through with the sacrifice but deciding over the course of the play that the sacrifice benefits all Greece by enabling their Panhellenic war against Troy.