Theme of hereditary guilt in Agamemnon

Question: Discuss the theme of hereditary guilt in “Agamemnon.” Theme of hereditary guilt in Agamemnon


The term hereditary guilt is derived from Greek Mythology it stands for the curse is going from generation to generation for committing a heinous crime.  Hereditary guilt was started to base on an apple of discord between the two brothers regarding the succession to the throne of Argos. Agamemnon” is a famous Greek tragedy in the history of Greek literature is designed by the classic tragedy writer Aeschylus based on the theme of hereditary guilt. We can evaluate the theme of hereditary guilt in the following way.

History of hereditary guilt

According to Greek mythology, the hereditary guilt is originated by the character Tantalus who is the son of Zeus and father of Pelops.  He was invited the Gods and Goddess for a banquet and serve them man’s flesh to happy them. But the Gods and Goddess got furious at such crime and gave him unbearable sufferings and cursed on this hereditary guilt. The unbearable sufferings and sorrows of Tantalus are called tantalize. Thus, the hereditary guilt is going from generation to generation.

Subject matter based on the hereditary guilt

Aeschylus has vehemently taken the subject matter for his tragedy from the legends of the house of Atreus and his tragedy is the direct example of hereditary guilt of the third generation of Tantalus who was the originator of such heinous crime or hereditary guilt. In Aeschylus’s tragedy, we find the hereditary crime by killing Agamemnon’s innocent daughter Iphigenia for the purpose of favorable wind during the journey of Troy. This superstitious killing had wide the path of Agamemnon’s tragic death.

“Disaster follows if I disobey

Surely worse disaster if I yield”

Agamemnon as a victim of the hereditary guilt

In the tragedy “Agamemnon” Aeschylus has taken the elements of hereditary guilt from the legends of House of Atreus. Pelops had two sons named Atreus and Thyestes. They are twin brothers. There was an apple of discord regarding the succession of the throne of Argos. Moreover, Thyestes had seduced the wife of Atreus. At this Atreus became very angry and decided to punish Thyestes.  Atreus secretly murdered Thyestes’s two sons and served their flesh Thyestes at a banquet. Thyestes wished for the destruction of Atreus generation.  After the death of Atreus his eldest son, Agamemnon inherited the throne of Argos. This is the wave of hereditary guilt that is run through generation after generation.

Hubris as the besetting sin

According to Oresteia Trilogy (a group of three tragic dramas related to the themes of hereditary guilt), hubris is sometimes considered the sign of hereditary guilt.  Agamemnon is neither a man of unblemished goodness nor is he an unmitigated villain. He can be exonerated from the charge of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, he can be exonerated from the charge of Hubris, which was the besetting sin. Agamemnon was the victim of the curse of Thyestes which has been hovering all over the members of the House of Atreus.

“To me is a thing by no means void of fears

I seek for human honours, not divine.”


To sum up, we can be concluded that the tragic play Agamemnon does not get a proper shape without the hereditary curse. It is clear that Agamemnon is the victim of a hereditary curse. Aeschylus showed his skill successfully in “Agamemnon” and made it an everlasting piece of great tragedy for its subject matter.

Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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