AESCHYLUS’ PANDORA — HELEN IN THE AGAMEMNON

A. Doyle

Abstract


The myth of Pandora forges the identity of the Bad Wife, the Deathly Bride who brings calamity to the peaceful society of men. The construction of the first Woman who is also the first Bride and therefore the prototype for all Brides, contributes to the ancient Greek conception of Woman as Other. As a manufactured artefact designed as a trap for men, her origins ensure her difference and her purpose as a beautiful but necessary evil. Her myth provides justification for the necessity of female subjugation. This article examines Aeschylus’ treatment of Helen in the Agamemnon. I will discuss how the playwright uses the Hesiodic Pandora to frame and influence his portrayal of the famous Helen of Troy. Helen is a character in the Oresteia in the same way that Iphigenia is — she is a presence evoked by the memory of other characters. One could say that Aeschylus’ treatment of her recalls the tradition of the Phantom of Helen.1 This phantom presence of Helen is a powerful and terrible one that figures her as the Bride of Destruction who renders soldiers into ashes returning in funerary urns to their fatherland, having fought for her release.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/54-0-24

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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