What is Agamemnon’s hamartia?

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Agamemnon's hamartia, or "fatal flaw," is presented in Aeschylus's play Agamemnon as hubris . Hubris is an Ancient Greek term that can have a somewhat fluid meaning depending on its interpretation. Sometimes it is described as simply an excess of pride or arrogance, but it can also carry with...

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Agamemnon's hamartia, or "fatal flaw," is presented in Aeschylus's play Agamemnon as hubris. Hubris is an Ancient Greek term that can have a somewhat fluid meaning depending on its interpretation. Sometimes it is described as simply an excess of pride or arrogance, but it can also carry with it specific religious connotations. Within a religious context, hubris describes a person who believes themselves to be above the gods and therefore does not accord the gods the respect they deserve in the form of offerings, thanksgivings, and deference. Agamemnon embodies hubris in both of these meanings and contexts. His excessive pride, resulting from his glorious victory over Troy and position as the commander of all the Greek forces, leads him to believe himself untouchable and therefore to underestimate those around him. This of course applies most specifically to Clytemnestra, his wife, whom he expects to welcome him with open arms after ten long years of war. In this way, Agamemnon's pride and narcissism blinds him to the possibility that Clytemnestra not only might harbor ill-will toward him but also might actually succeed in doing him harm. In the stricter definition of hubris, Agamemnon, while outwardly demonstrating piety with elaborate speeches of thanks to the gods for his victory over Troy, betrays these words to be empty niceties. This is demonstrated in his wholesale destruction of Troy, including its many temples, and this sacrilegious pillaging is embodied by the character of Cassandra. Agamemnon claims Cassandra as his spear-prize and takes her back to Argos; yet, as Cassandra is a priestess of Apollo, Agamemnon's actions belie his false piety and reveal his true hubris. Aeschylus also calls attention to Agamemnon's hubris in the critical moment when he walks on the purple tapestries meant only for the gods, thus elevating himself to the level of godhood and sealing his own doom.

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In Aristotle's Poetics, one of the most important works of Classical dramatic theory, the philosopher discusses harmatia as a tragic flaw or error in judgment that leads to a hero's downfall.

Agamemnon, the legendary king of the Mycenaen Greeks and the commander of the Greek army during the Trojan Wars, appears in both The Iliad and The Odyssey. In The Iliad, he is a great general; by the time of The Odyssey, he is a shade wandering in the Underworld. How does he get to this point?

When Odysseus meets Agamemnon in the Underworld, he finds out that the former king was murdered by Aegisthus, with whom Clytemenstra, his wife and queen, had been having an affair. In a state of permanent despair, Agamemnon cautions Odysseus against trusting women.

Such a reversal of fortune is caused by the hero's harmatia. Agamemnon, like many heroes in Greek literature, is possessed by pride or hubris.

In Seneca's adaptation of the Greek myth, the Chorus explains Agamemnon's fate:

The swarthy Furies stalk the man
gone rich beyond all rights—with a twist
of fortune grind him down, dissolve him
into the blurring dead—there is no help.

Agamemnon's pride and obsession with his worldly accomplishments cause fortune to come crashing down on him. Although he is murdered by an outside force—in this case, wicked people—this outside force is a punishment brought upon him by Fate.

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Hamarta, as detailed by Aristotle in Poetics, is defined as a fatal flaw, or more commonly a mistake.

Agamemnon showed hamartia in many things.

1. Agamemnon showed hamartia by walking on the tapestries which depicted images of the gods.

2. Agamemnon accepted honors which many deemed extravagant.

3. Agamemnon asks for men to show him reverence even though his declares himself to be a mortal man and not a god.

4. Even though he stands on the tapestries showing the images of the gods, Agamemnon declares that he should not be struck down by the wrath of the gods.

Overall, Agamemnon declares himself to be more powerful than that of the gods. His outright disdain for the power of the gods, and his claiming to be held up like a god, proved him to be filled with a fatal flaw, or hamartia.

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