Against Articulation: The Implications of Female Silence and Incoherence in Agamemnon College
Within contemporary culture, it is generally assumed that to speak for oneself is an exercise of inherent power – while speech signifies autonomy, silence implies subjugation. Yet Aeschylus’s Agamemnon complicates this dichotomy through its treatment of Iphigeneia, Clytemnestra, and Cassandra, the play’s central female figures. Iphigeneia is silenced both literally and figuratively within the text, and Clytemnestra’s verbosity initially seems to support her role as the most forceful character in the narrative – yet Cassandra’s presence, which declares itself initially through her refusal to speak and later through disjointed prophecies, upsets the binary that imagines silence as helplessness and speech as clear-headed action. Through a comparative examination of how Aeschylus inscribes vocality (or its lack thereof) across these three women, one can read Cassandra’s refusal to produce “intelligible” female speech not as a form of weakness, but rather as an instrument of defiance and knowledge.
Firstly, Iphigeneia’s persistent hold on the narrative is directly contingent on her inability to speak. When the chorus describes her murder at her father’s hands, they note his instruction to “slip this strap in her gentle curving lips...
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