Envisaging the Past Behind Aeschylus’ Agamemnon
This paper looks at the ways that Aeschylus’ Agamemnon conjures up the past – the ‘back-story’ – and asks how, or how far, this can be conveyed for modern audiences. The two most prominent episodes, evoked in very different ways, are the feast of child-flesh served up to Thyestes by Atreus, and Agamemnon’s sacrifice of Iphigeneia at Aulis. Generally speaking productions from the last 50 years have made little of the Thyestean feast, and much of the figure of Iphigeneia. This is illustrated from the productions directed by Ariane Mnouchkine in Paris in 1991 and by Katie Mitchell in London in 1999. While it is not obvious why so little Thyestes’ feast is evoked beyond its repellent ‘Senecan’ horror, the emphasis on Iphigeneia is clearly related to an increasing (and in my view justified) concentration on the figure of Clytemnestra.