Clytemnestra in Agamemnon and Medea are both strong women. Compare these two characters in terms of the amount of power each has and the limited ways in which they can demonstrate it.  

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Both women are shown as extremely strong.  However, their strength is limited by the conditions in which they live.  Their demonstrations of power are not active solutions based on strength.  Rather, they are acts of negation, almost a reflection of the challenging conditions that they experience as women in the time periods.

For Clytemnestra, her act of strength is actually brought on by a series of events that show her weakness. Her entire marriage to Agamemnon is predicated upon her victimization.  Her first husband was killed, presumably by Agamemnon and she is raped and take as his wife.  Her victimization continues when Agamemnon conspires to take Iphigenia away under false pretenses in order to sacrifice her for his own gain.  Clytemnestra is shown to possess little in way of power and is placed in a significant power disparity.  While she does exert strength in the murder of her husband and is able to serve as ruler for seven years, it is not really a statement of strength.  Clytemnestra is unable to generate anything substantive from her power.  She still finds herself having to play queen to Aegisthus and suffer violence from her son.  The momentary instant of strength is constrained by limitations on it.

Medea experiences the same limitations.  While she possesses intense powers of sorcery, she is lulled into believing that Jason loves her.  She finds herself victimized by Jason's own ego and sense of pursuit, causing her jealous and vengeful rage to emerge.  Her action of killing their own children is the only real power she has.  Afterwards, she seems more weakened than anything else. Medea does not acquire any condition of strength after her act of negation. She is unable to demonstrate her strength into anything lasting or substantive.  In the end, Medea is reduced to a creature of rage and reaction.  Jason weeps at what she has done, but, even as the Chorus indicates, there is little in way of recognition that her actions are reflective of consensus- building strength. Medea's anger and her act of negation are indicative of the limitations placed on her.  The manner in how she acts is almost a confirmation of the constraints that she must endure at Jason's hands.

Both Clytemnestra and Medea are shown to demonstrate qualities of intense passion and energy.  They are seen as women who exact some level of revenge on the men who have done them wrong.  Yet, it becomes clear that both women act out of a place of hurt.  They act because they have been victimized by men in their lives.  They do not act in a strong manner that reflects transcendence of hurt into another and more elevated notion of consciousness. Both women react with intensity and vengeance.  It is here in which one can legitimately say that their strength is a reflection of the limitations that are placed on them.  Their strength is more of a statement about the condition of women in the historical context.

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