The Role of Feminine Rhetoric in The Oresteia Assignment

The Role of Feminine Rhetoric in The Oresteia Assignment Words: 1940

Since the power Of physical strength is no longer a driving force in Greek culture, as war no longer dominates society, this art of the omanly deception of speech evolves into the most powerful means of control in Greek society. The fervor of speech retains a feminine connotation because women were deemed duplicitous and conniving on a much broader level than men ever were. Masculine speech encompassed more political or public matters. Aeschylus develops this notion through Clytaemestra’s character by offering her a voice of intelligent deception, so illusory to the point of being masculine.

In each play of The Oresteia, Clytaemestra employs specific rhetorical devices tailored to the audience she intends to cajole in her avor. She effectively alters the mode of her persuasion depending on the gender of her audience and her audience’s personal relationship witha her. Although Clytaemestra eventually meets her downfall due to a lapse in poise, her rhetoric introduces to the audience the idea that the confident and clever manipulation of words can play a pivotal role in influencing others’ decisions.

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Clytaemestra first employs her art of deception as she convinces Agamemnon, her husband, to traipse on the holy tapestries that are meant only for the gods. Although Agamemnon retains the dominant masculine role n their relationship, Clytaemestra’s subterfuge of words connotes that she truly possesses the power in their marriage. After her husband initially refuses her suggestion of stepping foot on the tapestries, Clytaemestra tailors her persuasion to erode her husband’s willpower.

She preys upon the qualities that make Agamemnon who he is, a proud warrior, by asserting her mental autonomy, revoking from Agamemnon the comfort of having a subordinate and submissive wife. Her diction is notably direct in stating, “Yet tell me this one thing and do not cross my will” (Agamemnon. 931). Phrased s a mandate instead of a question or a mere request, this statement suggests female dominance uncharacteristic of a Greek warrior’s supposedly subservient wife. In response, Agamemnon asserts, “My will is mine. shall not make it soft for you” (Ag. 932).

With this, Clytaemestra savors the challenge of inducing her husband to fulfill her wish. She targets her persuasion at Agamemnon’s pride by asking him, “Might you in fear have vowed to do such things for god? ” (Ag. 933). This mention of “fear” taps into Agamemnon’s intrinsic avoidance of dishonor, thus compelling him to continue the conversation in an effort to protect his honor. Clytaemestra resumes her interrogation by questioning Agamemnon’s valor in comparison to the king of Troy’s valor by asking, “If Priam had won as you have, what would he have done? (Ag. 935). This question serves as a point at which Agamemnon has no choice but to lay foot on the tapestries; he may either submit to being lesser in heroism than Priam would have been if Troy had won or he may walk on the tapestries as a man of god-like nobility. The final reinforcement of Clytaemestra’s persuasive power over her husband is revealed as Clytaemestra proclaims, “Oh yield! The power is yours. Freely give way to me” (944). Seemingly a type of convoluted oxymoron, this contradictory statement illustrates Clytaemestra’s devious means of convincing.

Clytaemestra ingeniously inveigles her husband into a rhetorical trap, in which she knows he will notjeopardize his honor. Her use of rhetoric, which is so artfully customized to the mechanisms Of her husband’s mind, substantiates the notion that in the new Greek world of peace after war, the shrewd manipulation of language to gain the upper hand is becoming culturally more prevalent than physical strength. Throughout the play, Clytaemestra’s rhetoric takes new forms; each method s specifically distorted to destabilize each person’s established stance based on each person’s personality.

As she speaks to the men of Argos following her husband’s slaughter, Clytaemestra retains her manner of assertive speech. As she declares, “… my dearest, dearest of all men, we have done enough” (Ag. 53) she subtly claims that she is of the same hierarchal level as the men of the city. Clytaemestra employs this rhetorical scheme of equating herself to those who would ordinarily be of societal superiority in order to display a faqade of legitimacy, or trustable verisimilitude.

Since she begins her brief monologue y first asserting her oratorical authority to convince the men of Argos that justice has been achieved by Agamemnon’s death, she effectually quells the possibility their dissention. Thus, she sets up a platform to deliver the rest of her persuasion without discord. She then notes that “there is pain enough already (1656) and to “let us not be bloody now” (1656) in order to further discourage any behavior that could threaten the new tranquility that she believes she has achieved in her household.

Clytaemestra follows by reinforcing the nobility that the chorus of men holds immediately before she ismisses them to her homes by stating, “Honored gentlemen of Argos, go to your homes now and give way to the stress of fate and reason” (1657-1658). Her diction remains respectful while still retaining an air of dominance. Congruous with her persuasive technique while convincing Agamemnon to step upon the tapestries, she deceives these men into believing that they are making choices themselves and that Agamemnon’s death was fated, when in actuality Clytaemestra wholly entertains the current power in her household.

Aeschylus further develops Clytaemestra’s rhetorical power in the latter portion of The Libation Bearers play. In the scene where Clytaemestra attempts to dissuade her son from avenging his father by killing Clytaemestra, the woman transforms her persuasion to suit her new audience – her son. For the first time in the play, she resorts to tactics of persuasion that imply a plea for pity and mercy. Nowhere else in the play does she allow herself to be seen as vulnerable.

She begins her attempt at beguilement by appealing to the inherent relationship between mother and child. Clytaemestra utilizes this new maternal diction as she supplicates, “Hold, my son. Oh take pity before this breast where many a time, a drowsing aby, you would feed and with soft gums sucked in the milk that made you strong’ (Lib. 896-898). Since her new victim of deception is so intimately close to her in blood and in heart, she disassociates herself from the masculine authoritative role that she renders with Agamemnon and the Argive men.

She draws upon Orestes’s emotions, reminding him of his childhood, attempting to convince him that she Was a loving mother. However, her pathos is flawed. She endeavors to convince her son of facts that he knows are wholly untrue. Though she continues tying, part of Clytaemestra begins to realize that her hetoric can only go so far; she cannot convince her son otherwise of what he knows is false. In panic, she struggles with various other rhetorical ploys, such as scapegoating, by stating, “destiny had some part in that, my child” (Lib. 10) in reference to Agamemnon’s murder. When this proves ineffective, Clytaemestra downplays Orestes’s accusations of transgressions. She tells her son that she never abandoned him; she simply sent him to a friend’s house. Lastly, when all else fails, Clytaemestra threatens her son with, “Take care. Your mother’s curse, like dogs, will drag you down” (Lib. 924). Her unwavering onfidence in her oration falters as her own life is at stake, thus transforming her into a rhetorically mortal being, instead of one capable of manipulating all who stands in her wake.

As she realizes that her sense of control is fleeting, she frantically runs through each type of persuasion that she has ever known; however, all prove futile. Although Clytaemestra’s persuasion is still effective enough to cause Orestes to consider backing down from his destiny to kill her, prescribed to him in the oracle, her power of words ultimately does not beguile him. Clytaemestra’s failure to persuade indicates the power Orestes’s will. So far, he is the only character to remain so fervently devoted to his cause to overcome Clytaemestra’s rhetoric.

Although the feminine act of persuasion is infiltrating Greek culture, Aeschylus reminds his audience that immortals are immortals and that there comes a time when tragedy overcomes all, including artful rhetoric. This scene also attests to Aeschylus’s notion that persuasion must be delivered well and with careful thought if intended to be effective and Clytaemestra’s folly in speech serves as a testament to the perils of obtuse persuasion. Aeschylus reveals the last of Clytaemestra’s attempts at persuasion in The

Eumenides, where she berates the furies in an effort to secure revenge against her son. At this point in the play, Clytaemestra’s motives are skewed. She no longer has a meticulously thought-out plan for addressing her dilemmas, so her rhetoric is far too emotional and unreasoned. She begins her call upon the Furies by insulting them. She says, “You would sleep then? And what use are you, if you sleep? ” (Eu. 94). Clytaemestra’s diction is noticeably frantic; the repetition of her questions indicates her impatience with the Furies.

Her initial address to these ancient figures does not begin ith rhetorical strength because she introduces her case without respect, an integral entity when speaking to figures of authority. The devolution of her persuasive poise both parallels and foreshadows her ultimate downfall. Clytaemestra continues her imploration to the Furies by further insulting them, telling them that “It is because of you I go dishonored thus among the rest of the dead” (Eu. 95-96).

She then follows this insult by reminding the Furies of the offerings she gave them over her lifetime, attempting to convince them that it is their ethical obligation to fulfill her wishes. Instead of sing laudatory rhetoric to persuade the Furies, as Athene later demonstrates as much more effective in lines 824 through 869, Clytaemestra devotes her speech to negativity. She attempts to humiliate the Furies by comparing Orestes to a fawn that slips out of their nets, laughing cynically at them.

This simile serves as a means for Clytaemestra to directly offend the Furies’ honor. Instead of inciting them to take action against Orestes, Clytaemestra’s speech triggers the Furies’ irritation. She does not take into account their impending authority and the fact that they do not give weight to the opinions of mortals. Thus, this rhetorical device lacks stratagem. As foreshadowed by her rhetoric’s lack of quality, Clytaemestra’s pleas remain unfulfilled and the being with the more tactical persuasion, Athene, triumphs.

Athene effectively concedes to the Furies, praises them, and offers them recompenses for their compliance in allowing Orestes, Clytaemestra’s son, to live free of punishment despite committing matricide. Thus, Aeschylus asserts that the development of feminine persuasion and rhetoric, when used intelligently, is replacing the esteem of physical strength as the dominant culture in the new Greek society. Clytaemestra represents an important vessel for the development of a new Greek culture following the Trojan War.

The diversity of her use of rhetoric in various situations, directed at various different people, highlights the true power of the spoken word. Clytaemestra tailors each of her arguments to infiltrate the inner workings of her audience’s minds. As she persuades her husband, she utilizes duplicity of language, asserting her power while making sure her husband believes he is in control. As she speaks to the chorus in The Libation Bearers, she appeals to their honor, but maintains the same tactic of etting the males retain their mindset of dominance.

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