Essay: Cassandra Written by Christa Wolf to Aeschylus

Pages: 4 (1455 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper

Cassandra Written by Christa Wolf to Aeschylus's Agamemnon

Christa Wolf's Cassandra: A woman finally believed?

Aeschylus' ancient Greek tragedy Agamemnon is a work told from the point-of-view of male eyes. It was explicitly designed to be performed before an all-male audience. In the mythological drama, the great leader of the Greeks, General Agamemnon, comes home after fighting the Trojan War. He expects a warm welcome and instead meets death at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra and her lover. Clytemnestra's anger, even her infidelity, seems understandable to a modern reader. Agamemnon tricked his wife into bringing their daughter Iphigenia to be slaughtered at the temple of Apollo, so he could keep his obligation to fight for Helen of Troy and lead the Greek forces. But in the Aeschylus play, Clytemnestra is portrayed as evil and vengeful. Her decision to take a lover stands in marked contrast to good, faithful wives in Greek mythology, like Odysseus' wife Penelope, who patiently waits for her husband to come home.

By usurping her husband's authority and taking a lover, Clytemnestra is a threatening figure to male power, although she treats her own daughter Electra cruelly, and kills Agamemnon's unwilling concubine Cassandra. Feminist Christa Wolf, in her retelling of the story in a novella fittingly titled Cassandra, relates the tale through the point-of-view of Cassandra instead of Clytemnestra, as the sympathetic reader might initially expect. Instead, Wolf states that Clytemnestra is a woman who tries to integrate herself into the prevailing systems of power and patriarchy, by allying herself with men, rather than questioning the system of male authority and war altogether. The loss of Iphigenia motivates the queen to 'best' her husband at his own 'game' of violence, not to opt out of the Greek economy of revenge and hate. Clytemnestra's jealousy of Cassandra, who is forcibly brought home as a concubine of war, reveals the queen to be less of a friend of women than the reader might suspect. But in Christa Wolf's version, the tale of the Trojan princess, doomed to foretell the future and never to be believed, is brought into sharp focus as a critique of the way patriarchy turns women against other women. Cassandra, unlike the powerful Clytemnestra, has resisted gaining power through men, and suffers for it.

Cassandra plays a relatively minor role in the Greek version of the story, but even her original persona gives a feminist potentially fertile material. According to legend and Wolf's text, the Greek god Apollo tried to violate Cassandra's chastity. When she refused him, he gave her the paradoxical gift of useless prophesy. Cassandra admits that she desired the gift of foresight, but when he was unable to overpower her, he spat into her mouth, which meant that she could see all (including her own impending demise, as well as the demise of her homeland) but no one would ever believe her. Like so many women, deprived of males of authority, Cassandra, by rejecting a conventional sexual existence, will never be trusted, despite the clarity of her vision about the foolishness of fighting for Helen, and Agamemnon's foolish belief that all will be forgiven by his wife.

Apollo's violation of Cassandra by spitting in her mouth highlights Wolf's stark illustration of how war results in the rape of innocent women, something that is alluded to in the Aeschylus drama, but not viewed with horror, simply accepted. The reader of Cassandra is forced to experience viscerally how unlike Helen, who was brought home in triumph after war, Cassandra is treated like an object. The Trojan prophetess never harmed anyone. But she is raped by Ajax at the fall of Troy, enslaved by Agamemnon, and brought home to her demise. In her mind, she resists, even though her words and deeds have little impact on the external, material world. For example, Cassandra identifies with the Amazons, but her own desire to have a powerful; effect upon history is continually thwarted. She longs to stand beside Aeneas and to fight with the Amazon queen. Throughout the text, Cassandra admires strong women -- warrior-queens, followers of Sappho, even though her own role as a truth-teller about war is denied. And sadly she dies the victim of a woman, as well as to men's decisions to sacrifice and rape women.

Cassandra is killed history, killed by another woman for being in a relationship she… [END OF PREVIEW]

Cassandra the Novel Cassandra by Christa Wolf Term Paper


Wolf v. Ford Term Paper


Aeschylus and Homer Term Paper


Cassandra -- a Woman Scorned Term Paper


Writing as Therapy Essay


View 999 other related papers  >>

Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Cassandra Written by Christa Wolf to Aeschylus.  (2009, October 16).  Retrieved October 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cassandra-written-christa-wolf-aeschylus/783480

MLA Format

"Cassandra Written by Christa Wolf to Aeschylus."  16 October 2009.  Web.  15 October 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cassandra-written-christa-wolf-aeschylus/783480>.

Chicago Format

"Cassandra Written by Christa Wolf to Aeschylus."  Essaytown.com.  October 16, 2009.  Accessed October 15, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cassandra-written-christa-wolf-aeschylus/783480.