Cassandra's Final Monologue

Cassandra's final monologue in Aeschylus's Agamemnon plays a transformative role in terms of the movement of the plot and, upon close examination, functions as a key for many of the tragedy's larger themes. She begins by equating prophecy, be it the physical act or the emotional ramifications of foreknowledge of events, with intense pain. ³Oh, flame and pain that sweeps me once again!² she cries, then appeals to Apollo, the god at her prophecies' origin, for help. Here, she names him ³King of Light² (ln 1256, ln 1257). This is an interesting paradox: Apollo, the source of the prophecy, is equated with light, which is a result not a source of fire. The metaphors are operating in reverse directions. Perhaps, then, Aeschylus is highlighting not only Apollo's connection to the prophecy but also to the actual events, in that he observes them, ruler of the reflected light from the fire of Cassandra's pain. This is illustrative of the role the gods play in the Oresteia in general. While at some level responsible for the events of the human sphere, they are also spectators and, by the conclusion, adjudicators. This tension between the active and passive roles of the gods is fundamental to the development of the...

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