Agamemnon’s Change of Mind in Euripides’ Iphigeneia at Aulis


This paper argues that, in spite of all appearances, Agamemnon never changed his mind in regard to Iphigeneia’s sacrifice. His alleged conversion in the prologue of the play and his wish to save Iphigeneia’s life by sending a second letter to rescind his deceptive message to Clytemnestra to fetch their child to Aulis, is undermined both by the incompetence of the Old Man, whom Agamemnon has appointed as a “courier”, and by the servant’s belated departure to carry out his pressing mission. The ironic gap between Agamemnon’s words (urgent mission) and reality (old man messenger) calls into question the king’s sincerity. Agamemnon’s ambivalent attitude at the outset foreshadows his later giving up any effort to avert Iphigeneia’s death. Such a conduct would appear clumsy and unwarranted without the prologue scene. Taking into consideration this scene and the context of the play, we may assert that the various kinds of “compulsion” Agamemnon conjures up to justify his firm decision to sacrifice his child are shown to be merely sham.

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