Close Reading: Agamemnon - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Close Reading: Agamemnon

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  1. Close Reading: Agamemnon

  2. The Passage “There is the sea and who will drain it dry? Precious as silver, inexhaustible, ever-new, it breeds the more we reap it – tides on tides of crimson dye our robes blood-red. Our lives are based on wealth, my king, the gods have seen to that. Destitution, our house has never heard the word. I would have sworn to tread on legacies of robes, at one command from an oracle, deplete the house – suffer the worst to bring that dear life back! When the root lives on, the new leaves come back, spreading a dense shroud of shade across the house to thwart the Dog Star’s fury. So you return to the father’s hearth, you bring us warmth in winder like the sun – And you are Zeus when Zeus tramples the bitter virgin grape for new wine and the welcome chill steals through the halls, at least the master moves among the shadows of his house, fulfilled. --Agamemnon, ll. 957-974.

  3. Words we might not know • inexhaustible: “Incapable of being exhausted, consumed, or spent; exhaustless.” • reap: “To cut and (usually) gather a grain or similar crop, orig. (and typically) using a sickle or scythe. Freq. fig. or in figurative context” • destitution: • “Deprivation of office; discharge; dismissal.” or • “The condition of being abandoned or left helpless, of being deprived or bereft (of anything).” or • “The condition of being destitute of resources; want of the necessaries of life.”

  4. General sense of the passage, and who is speaking • Don’t worry about walking on these expensive, possibly sacred tapestries, Agamemnon. We’re so rich, it doesn’t matter – and I would do it if I were you. Come on in, your return is great, for several metaphorical reasons, and you’re basically Zeus. • Clytaemnestra (the queen) is speaking to Agamemnon (the king) in front of the chorus and Cassandra. Her relationship to Agamemnon remains to be seen; she is probably not too fond of Cassandra, and her previous tone towards the chorus has been somewhere between defensive and defiant.

  5. Diction “There is the sea and who will drain it dry? Precious as silver, inexhaustible, ever-new, it breeds the more we reap it – tides on tides of crimson dye our robes blood-red. * Why blood red? Our lives are based on wealth, my king, the gods have seen to that. Destitution, our house has never heard the word. * Not poverty, or lack, but destitution I would have sworn to tread on legacies of robes, at one command from an oracle, deplete the house – suffer the worst to bring that dear life back! When the root lives on, the new leaves come back, spreading a dense shroud of shade across the house * A shroud – associated w/death to thwart the Dog Star’s fury. So you return to the father’s hearth, you bring us warmth in winter like the sun – And you are Zeus when Zeus tramples the bitter virgin grape for new wine * Are grapes usually bitter? and the welcome chillsteals through the halls, at last * Not creeps, not moves, but steals the master moves among the shadows of his house, fulfilled. * Not halls, rooms, people - shadows --Agamemnon, ll. 957-974.

  6. Figurative Language “There is the sea * Metaphor and who will drain it dry? Precious as silver, * Simile inexhaustible, ever-new, it breeds the more we reap it – * Personification tides on tides of crimson dye our robes blood-red. Our lives are based on wealth, my king, the gods have seen to that. Destitution, our house has never heard the word. I would have sworn to tread on legacies of robes, at one command from an oracle, deplete the house – suffer the worst to bring that dear life back! When the root lives on, the new leaves come back, *Metaphor spreading a dense shroud of shade across the house to thwart the Dog Star’s fury. So you return *Personification / Symbolism to the father’s hearth, you bring us warmth in winter like the sun – *Simile And you are Zeus when Zeus tramples the bitter virgin grape for new wine and the welcome chill steals through the halls, at last the master moves among the shadows of his house, fulfilled. --Agamemnon, ll. 957-974.

  7. Rhetorical Language “There is the sea and who will drain it dry? Precious as silver, * Rhet. Q inexhaustible, ever-new, it breeds the more we reap it – tides on tides of crimson dye our robes blood-red. Our lives are based on wealth, my king, *Direct Address the gods have seen to that. Destitution, our house has never heard the word. I would have sworn to tread on legacies of robes, at one command from an oracle, deplete the house – suffer the worst to bring that dear life back! *Deliberate ambiguity – Ag or Iph?! When the root lives on, the new leaves come back, spreading a dense shroud of shade across the house to thwart the Dog Star’s fury. So you return to the father’s hearth, you bring us warmth in winter like the sun – And you are Zeus when Zeus * Allusion? tramples the bitter virgin grape for new wine and the welcome chill steals through the halls, at last the master moves among the shadows of his house, fulfilled. --Agamemnon, ll. 957-974.

  8. Imagery “There is the sea and who will drain it dry? Precious as silver, * Pay close attention to colors inexhaustible, ever-new, it breeds the more we reap it – tides on tides of crimson dye our robes blood-red. Our lives are based on wealth, my king, the gods have seen to that. Destitution, our house has never heard the word. I would have sworn to tread on legacies of robes, at one command from an oracle, deplete the house – suffer the worst to bring that dear life back! When the root lives on, the new leaves come back, * Describes a withered tree spreading a dense shroud of shade across the house * A contrast of shade/light to thwart the Dog Star’s fury. So you return to the father’s hearth, you bring us warmth in winter * A contrast of heat/cold like the sun – And you are Zeus when Zeus tramples the bitter virgin grape for new wine * New sense: taste and the welcome chill steals through the halls, at last the master moves among the shadows of his house, fulfilled. --Agamemnon, ll. 957-974.

  9. Structure “There is the sea and who will drain it dry? Precious as silver, inexhaustible, ever-new, it breeds the more we reap it – tides on tides of crimson dye our robes blood-red. Our lives are based on wealth, my king, the gods have seen to that. Destitution, our house has never heard the word. I would have sworn to tread on legacies of robes, at one command from an oracle, deplete the house – suffer the worst to bring that dear life back! When the root lives on, the new leaves come back, spreading a dense shroud of shade across the house to thwart the Dog Star’s fury. So you return to the father’s hearth, you bring us warmth in winder like the sun – And you are Zeus when Zeus tramples the bitter virgin grape for new wine and the welcome chill steals through the halls, at least the master moves among the shadows of his house, fulfilled. --Agamemnon, ll. 957-974.

  10. Speaker and audience “There is the sea and who will drain it dry? Precious as silver, inexhaustible, ever-new, it breeds the more we reap it – tides on tides of crimson dye our robes blood-red. Our lives are based on wealth, my king, the gods have seen to that. Destitution, our house has never heard the word. I would have sworn to tread on legacies of robes, at one command from an oracle, deplete the house – suffer the worst to bring that dear life back! When the root lives on, the new leaves come back, spreading a dense shroud of shade across the house to thwart the Dog Star’s fury. So you return to the father’s hearth, you bring us warmth in winter like the sun – And you are Zeus when Zeus tramples the bitter virgin grape for new wine and the welcome chill steals through the halls, at last the master moves among the shadows of his house, fulfilled. * Sudden shift to 3rd person --Agamemnon, ll. 957-974.

  11. Syntax “There is the sea and who will drain it dry? Precious as silver, inexhaustible, ever-new, it breeds the more we reap it – * Repetition of description tides on tides of crimson dye our robes blood-red. Our lives are based on wealth, my king, the gods have seen to that. Destitution, our house has never heard the word. * Moved to the front: thematized I would have sworn to tread on legacies of robes, at one command from an oracle, deplete the house – suffer the worst to bring that dear life back! When the root lives on, the new leaves come back, spreading a dense shroud of shade across the house to thwart the Dog Star’s fury. So you return to the father’s hearth, you bring us warmth in winter like the sun – And you are Zeus when Zeus tramples the bitter virgin grape for new wine and the welcome chill steals through the halls, at last the master moves among the shadows of his house, fulfilled. --Agamemnon, ll. 957-974.

  12. Punctuation “There is the sea and who will drain it dry? Precious as silver, * Question inexhaustible, ever-new, it breeds the more we reap it – * Pause tides on tides of crimson dye our robes blood-red. Our lives are based on wealth, my king, the gods have seen to that. Destitution, our house has never heard the word. I would have sworn to tread on legacies of robes, at one command from an oracle, deplete the house – * Pause suffer the worst to bring that dear life back! * Emphasis When the root lives on, the new leaves come back, spreading a dense shroud of shade across the house to thwart the Dog Star’s fury. So you return to the father’s hearth, you bring us warmth in winter like the sun – * Pause / Line Break And you are Zeus when Zeus tramples the bitter virgin grape for new wine and the welcome chill steals through the halls, at last the master moves among the shadows of his house, fulfilled. --Agamemnon, ll. 957-974.

  13. Sound Oops, it’s translated. So we can’t do much here.

  14. Meter Again, the translation keeps us from making very specific comments. It seems to be in some sort of meter, which would indicate a formal context.

  15. Tone • Clytaemnestra is exhorting, persuading, and attempting to flatter Agamemnon. There is a dangerous, dark undercurrent to her pleasant words, though.

  16. Context • Immediate context: Right after Agamemnon returns and reveals Cassandra, and only a little before before Clytaemnestra kills Agamemnon. • Larger context: End of the Trojan war, Agamemnon’s homecoming, history of the house of Atreus • Feast of Thyestes

  17. (hypo)thesis: Clytaemnestra is using language that simultaneously 1) appeals to Agamemnon’s desire to see himself as a conquering, triumphant king, and 2) incorporates an undertone of intense hatred. • Her language – on the surface – is encouraging, flattering, etc. but her use of contrasting imagery and ambiguous reference (the hinge of the passage is “that dear life”) – allow a careful reader to see the irony (and dramatic irony) in her description. • In doing so, she is describing the conditions of possibility for the continuing cycle of violence in the house of Atreus.