How does Aeschylus build intense dramatic suspense around Agamemnon’s home coming in the play Agamemnon?

Answer: Agamemnon is treated as the masterpiece of Aeschylus. In it the action takes place before the palace of Agamemnon in Argos at the time of his victorious return from the Trojan War. Besides, the grand theme of the play based on sin, murder, punishment and a fatalistic conception of human life’, the intense dramatic suspense around Agamemnon’s homecoming occupies an important theme of the play. In order to create this dramatic suspense, Aeschylus imposes his creative and dramatic genius and we see how he was interested to represent this dramatic suspense. Although this dramatic suspense operates no serious purpose for the main action of the play it enhances our dramatic interest to a great extent. The suspense is created before Agamemnon’s arrival by the speeches of Watchman, Elders of Argos, Herald and so on. There is hope and also forbidding in the speeches.

The dramatic suspense is firstly created by the Watchman who waits in the dead of night and suddenly sends out a cry of joy as the signal blazes forth announcing the imminent return of Agamemnon. The Watchman strikes the first note of approaching calamity by guarded hints and allusion to Clytemnestra’s adulterous relation with Aegisthus, Agamemnon’s mortal enemy.


Dramatic suspense lies among the mixed feeling in the expression of Chorus. The Chorus’ emphasis is stronger on foreboding. It is not only Clytemnestra who arouses their fear – they trust Agamemnon to find a way to deal with her when he returns, but they know that the King himself is burdened with guilt. They recount in detail how Agamemnon, inheriting the family curses from Atreus; found himself faced with a fearful dilemma, and made the wrong choice to sacrifice his daughter. However, Aeschylus and Sophocles contain excellent dramatic motivation. Oracles, divinities and sooth Sayers as well as the chorus and main actors were frequently used in the foreshadowing. Foreshadowing (giving intimation or hints of action yet to come,) which helped to achieve both suspense and dramatic irony was employed.

The Watchman of this play feels sway in his condition for the suspense of situation. The Watchman describes that sleep’s enemy ‘fear’ stands beside him to forbid his eyes one instance closing. As the beacon shines out, before the Watchman the suspenseful circumstance further deepens:

“0 welcome beacon, kindling night to glorious day,
Welcome! You’ll set them dancing in every street in Argos
When they hear your message. Ho there! Hullo! Call

 The Watchman descends and another dramatic suspense starts by a cry of triumph from Clytemnestra and is echoed by other women. The hurried coming of a messenger followed by the attendants, going in various directions, and carrying jars and bowls with oil and incense for sacrifice increase the suspenseful situation. There is suspense in the circumlocutory speeches of the chorus and their conversations and interrogation with Clytemnestra. Clytemnestra creates confusion and suspicion by her speeches when she herself says that the victors would avoid being vanquished in their turn. Clytemnestra says that only, let no lust of unlawful plunder tempt the soldiers’ hearts with wealth, to their own harm.


Clytemnestra finishes her words by saying that these are a woman’s words while the chorus says that your words are like a man’s. After the finishing of chorus’ speech suspense arises when the sound of women voices excitedly begins the shout and cheer. One or two Elders go out, and return immediately to report the following remarks as made severally by various members of the chorus;

“Since the beacon’s nears was heard
Rumour flies through every street.
Ought we to believe a word?
Is it some inspired deceit?”

All doubts that remain about the truth of the beacon message are now dispelled by the arrival of the herald from the Trojan expeditionary force. This herald concludes the precious suspense but loads immense suspense in his speeches. The herald announces that Agamemnon, homeward bound has been separated from the rest of his fleet He salutes, in touching words, his country and her gods, and the palace of Agamemnon, which now shines its best to welcome its monarch, who comes like dawn out of darkness. The herald’s speech brings dramatic suspense to the audience because they know the mischievous revengeful attitude of Clytemnestra. As the time of Agamemnon’s reaching shortens, our suspense begins to enhance in every moment. When Agamemnon reaches Argos all the suspense are dissolved and he is heinously butchered by his wife.

Agamemnon’s arrival in the palace in confirmed by the Chorus’ welcome to him as it says:

“…you have come victorious home;
Now form our open hearts we wish you well.”

The opening scene of Aeschylus’s “Agamemnon” prepares the audience psychologically for the events to come later. It introduces Clytemnestra, the most dominant character of the play, as a female having male traits. The watchman, through his representation of the Argive people, informs us of the unrest inside and outside the Argos palace at the prolonged absence of Agamemnon. Considering everything, it may be said that the opening scene is not a necessary, rather a preparatory part of the play. Thus, Aeschylus in his tragedy “Agamemnon” creates dramatic suspense around Agamemnon’s homecoming and it enhances the dramatic brilliance of the tragedy to a great extent.