How does the character of Cassandra in Agamemnon demonstrate the themes of the play?

1 Answer | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The character of Cassandra in this play is one of the more memorable characters, especially as she is one of the characters who, like Agamemnon, is trapped by fate and circumstances beyond her control. However, what makes her different from other characters is the way that she is fully aware of her imminent death and her lack of control over her life, whereas Agamemnon goes to his death gloating in his victory at Troy and thinking he is safe. Cassandra is a character that engages the sympathy of the audience through firstly her status as a princess of Troy who has been seized and taken by Agamemnon back to his homeland, but secondly because of her identity as a prophetess, who is unable to convince those around her of the truth of her visions. She therefore is under no illusions about the fate that awaits her, and is able to identify the fickle nature of fate. Note, for example, the following speech she gives as she reflects on her upcoming death:

And now, no more shall my prophecy peer forth from behind a veil like a new-wedded bride; but it will rush upon me clear as a fresh wind blowing against the sun's uprising so as to dash against its rays, like a wave, a woe far mightier than mine. No more by riddles will I instruct you.

There is intense irony in her use of the sun as part of the imagery of this quote, as she had been the lover of the god of the sun, Apollo, but when she refused to bear his child she was cursed with being able to see the future but not being believed by those around her. Having the gift of prophecy, which is something that originally was positive, is now described in profoundly negative terms, as the use of words such as "dash" and "woe" indicate. This of course encapsulates some of the central themes of the play in the way that strength, abilities and power do not give characters any real safety, and can be overcome very quickly resulting in death. There is no security in fame, fortune or bravery, as Agamemon himself tragically discovers.

We’ve answered 318,979 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question