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Question: Defending Clytemnestra's Position in Agamemnon's Absence: Agamemnon is away at war for 10 years and Clytemnestra ends up having an affair

24 Sep 2023,7:07 PM


Part A: Reaction Questions

1. Agamemnon is away at war for 10 years and Clytemnestra ends up having an affair.  How would you defend her position?


2. In contrast, Odysseus is away from home for 20 years and Penelope remains faithful! How would you defend her decision?



Part B: Reading Questions

For this week, please read The Essential Odyssey books 11-24.

1. Drawing on specific passages in book 11, what does Odysseus learn from his mother and Achilles in the underworld?


2. Describe the reunion between Odysseus and Telemachus (book 16). What is Odysseus’ plot to kill the suitors? (book 16).


3.  How is Odysseus treated by Melanthius? (book 17) How do Antinous and the other suitors treat him?  (book 17)


4.  Describe the reunion between the disguised Odysseus and Penelope?  (book 19) What is the challenge that Penelope sets up for a potential new husband? (book 19)


5.  How well do the suitors do in stringing the bow and who wins the contest? (book 21) How does Odysseus get revenge on the suitors? (book 22)


6.  How does Penelope test Odysseus? (book 23)

7. To satisfy the lecture portion of this course, please view the Spotlight Lecture posted in the Week 6 folder. Demonstrate by answering the following: Cite three characters who display bad Xenia in the Odyssey and explain what is the ultimate outcome of characters who transgress Greek hospitality.  


8. Please read over the midterm paper prompts. Identify which topic you plan on writing about. Identify which side of the debate you plan on defending and briefly explain (2 sentences) why?



Defending Clytemnestra's position in the context of the Greek mythological story of Agamemnon requires understanding her actions from a complex and empathetic perspective. It's important to remember that Clytemnestra's character and her actions have been interpreted and analyzed in various ways over the centuries. Here are some arguments that could be used to defend her position, although it's worth noting that this does not necessarily justify her actions:

  1. Loneliness and Isolation: Clytemnestra was left alone for a decade while Agamemnon was away at war, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Her affair might be seen as a way to cope with the emotional void left by her husband's absence.

  2. Betrayal: From Clytemnestra's perspective, Agamemnon was responsible for the sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, to gain favorable winds for the voyage to Troy. This act could be seen as a profound betrayal of trust and a heinous crime. Her affair may have been her way of seeking solace or revenge.

  3. Gender Roles and Power Imbalance: In ancient Greek society, women often had limited power and were subject to the decisions of their male counterparts. Clytemnestra's affair might be viewed as an assertion of her own agency and an attempt to regain some control over her life.

  4. Divine Justice: Clytemnestra's actions could be seen as a form of divine justice. In some interpretations of the story, she believes that Agamemnon's actions, such as the sacrifice of Iphigenia, had angered the gods. Her affair and subsequent actions might be seen as a way to restore cosmic balance.

  5. Influence of the Furies: In Greek mythology, the Furies were deities associated with vengeance and retribution. Some interpretations suggest that Clytemnestra may have been influenced or driven by these forces, making her actions less a matter of choice and more a result of divine intervention.

  6. Personal Suffering: Clytemnestra endured considerable hardship and emotional turmoil during Agamemnon's absence. She may have experienced trauma and distress that contributed to her actions.

  7. Cultural Context: It's essential to consider the cultural and societal norms of ancient Greece. While not justifying her actions, understanding the limited options available to women in that era can provide context for her behavior.

Ultimately, defending Clytemnestra's position requires acknowledging the complexity of her character and the circumstances she faced. However, it's important to remember that her actions, including her affair and the subsequent murder of Agamemnon, are still considered morally and ethically problematic in most interpretations of the story.



Defending Penelope's decision to remain faithful to Odysseus for 20 years while he was away from home is a testament to her loyalty and dedication. Her actions can be understood and admired in several ways:

  1. Love and Devotion: Penelope's unwavering loyalty to Odysseus reflects her deep love and commitment to her husband. She held onto the hope that he would return, even in the face of uncertainty and adversity.

  2. Faith in Her Husband: Despite the long duration of Odysseus' absence, Penelope maintained her trust in him. She believed in his resourcefulness and intelligence, which were evident in his past adventures, and had confidence that he would find a way to return to her.

  3. Preservation of Family and Home: Penelope's loyalty was not only for Odysseus but also for their family and home. She recognized the importance of keeping their household intact and ensuring a stable environment for their son, Telemachus.

  4. Cultural Norms and Values: In ancient Greece, fidelity in marriage was highly valued. Penelope adhered to these cultural norms and upheld the societal expectations of a faithful wife, which could also have been a source of personal pride.

  5. Clever Stratagems: Penelope's famous ruse of weaving and unweaving Laertes' shroud to delay her suitors exemplifies her cleverness and resourcefulness. She used her intelligence to resist pressure from unwanted suitors while waiting for Odysseus's return.

  6. Moral Integrity: Penelope's fidelity can be seen as a demonstration of her moral integrity. She chose to remain faithful to her marriage vows and her husband, even when it might have been easier to give in to temptation or societal pressures.

  7. Hope and Patience: Penelope's decision to remain faithful was a testament to her enduring hope and patience. Her belief in Odysseus's return sustained her through years of hardship and uncertainty.

It's important to note that Penelope is often celebrated as a symbol of marital faithfulness and endurance in classical literature. Her character serves as an example of virtuous qualities such as loyalty, love, and patience. While different cultures and eras may have varying expectations regarding fidelity, Penelope's actions continue to resonate as a powerful portrayal of marital commitment and devotion.

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