The house of Atreus was accursed because in the great palace at Argos the tyrant, Atreus, had killed the children of Thyestes and served their flesh to their father at a royal banquet. Agamemnon and Menelaus were the sons of Atreus. When Helen, wife of Menelaus, was carried off by Paris, Agamemnon was among the Greek heroes who went with his brother to battle the Trojans for her return. On the way to Troy, however, while the fleet lay idle at Aulis, Agamemnon was prevailed upon to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to the gods. Hearing of this deed, Clytemnestra, his wife, vowed revenge. She gave her son, Orestes, into the care of the King of Phocis, and in the darkened palace nursed her consuming hate.
In her desire for vengeance she was joined by Aegisthus, surviving son of Thyestes, who had returned from his long exile. Hate brought the queen and Aegisthus together in a common cause; they became lovers as well as plotters in crime.
The ship of Menelaus having been delayed by a storm, Agamemnon returned alone from the Trojan wars. A watchman first saw the lights of his ship upon the sea and brought to his queen the news of the king’s return. Leaving his men quartered in the town, Agamemnon drove to the palace in his chariot, beside him Cassandra, captive daughter of the king of Troy and an augeress of all misfortunes to come, who had fallen to Agamemnon in the division of the spoils. She had already warned the king that some evil was to befall him.
Agamemnon, however, had no suspicions of his homecoming, as Clytemnestra came to greet him at the palace doorway, her armed retainers about her, magnificent carpets unrolled for the feet of the conqueror of Troy. Agamemnon chided his queen for the lavishness of her reception and entered the palace to refresh himself after his long journey. He asked Clytemnestra to receive Cassandra and to treat his captive kindly.
After Agamemnon had retired, Clytemnestra returned and ordered Cassandra, who had refused to leave the chariot, to enter the palace. When Cassandra persisted in remaining where she was, the queen declared she would not demean herself by bandying words with a common slave and a madwoman. She re-entered the palace. Cassandra lifted her face toward the sky and called upon Apollo to tell her why she had been brought to this cursed house. She informed the spectators in front of the palace that Clytemnestra would murder Agamemnon. She lamented the fall of Troy, recalled the butchery of Thyestes’ children, and the doom that hung over the sons of Atreus, and foretold again the murder of Agamemnon by his queen. As she entered the palace, those outside heard the death cry of Agamemnon within.
A moment later Clytemnestra appeared in the doorway, the bloody sword of Aegisthus in her hand. Behind her lay the body of the king, entangled in the rich carpets. Clytemnestra defended herself before the citizens, saying she had killed the king for the murder of Iphigenia, and had also killed...
(The entire section is 1224 words.)