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Exchanging Glances: Vision and Representation in Aeschylus' Agamemnon.

Drama and the plastic arts are different manifestations of the mimetic impulse, each in its own way bringing about a form of visual pleasure. (1) It seems obvious that ancient Greek theatre and vase painting drew on the same repertoire of visual conventions, although ceramic art seldom represents particular scenes from dramatic productions. (2) Yet when one form of mimesis imitates another, there is great potential for self-reflexivity. References to painting, sculpture, or drawing in a tragedy take advantage of the audience's shared cultural experience and ability to visualize such artifacts. It is this phenomenon, specifically the art motif in Aeschylus' Agamemnon, that I examine in this paper.

Although Greek has no single word for art per se, the Agamemnon clearly sets up a distinction between reality and representation. Implicated in the Agamemnon's various allusions to representational art is another recurring image, the gaze or the "bolt from the eyes." These intertwined motifs, I believe, have something to tell us about the experience of watching tragedy. It is my hypothesis that the relationship between viewers and viewed objects within the dramatic world can serve as a paradigm for the audience's interaction with the tragic spectacle. In this article, after a preliminary discussion of theoretical issues, I examine four figures in the Agamemnon who are in some way conceived as or associated with objects of art: Iphigenia, Helen, Agamemnon, and Cassandra. As I shall demonstrate, the play treats vision and representation as gender-related categories. Initially, viewing is presented as a voyeuristic activity in which woman is assigned a passive role--that of the viewed object--while man takes on the active roles of viewer and displayer. This binarism suggests a male subject-position for the drama's audience whose voyeurism helps to produce meaning for the play. The characters of Agamemnon and Cassandra, however, call into question any simple binary code, and in the final analysis the audience's engagement with the tragedy turns out to be much more complex than a unilateral, voyeuristic activity.

My study of the Agamemnon hinges on the cultural context of its production, in particular, on Greek society's understanding of the process of sight. Ancient theories of perception suggest that sight involves a physical connection between the viewer and the viewed. As Frontisi-Ducroux puts it, vision for the Greeks was a type of "long distance touch" (97 n. 33). Optic theories, apparently dating from the early Pythagoreans, were based on the premise that sight is effected by an active beam of light from the eyes which connects with eidola or images emanating from the perceived object. (3) Myth and poetry reflect the popular idea that viewing is an active process and that the gaze has a performative power. (4) The fear of the evil eye and the myth of Medusa exemplify this belief in extra-mission: active bolts of light come from the viewer's eyes and illuminate the viewed object like a "deer caught in the headlights," to borrow Andrew Stewart's trenchant phrase (19). The erotic gaze has the special transformativ e power of instilling desire in its recipients; hence, pottery depicts respectable young women (whose gazes can be devastatingly powerful) with their eyes downcast. It is important to recognize that for the Greeks a woman should never be the instigator of the gaze, and that Greek art, myth, and literature were unanimous in their uneasiness about a woman's glance. (5) Conversely, the depiction of a phallus endowed with an eye on various ceramics signifies a congruity between vision and masculinity (Frontisi-Ducroux 93). This culturally inflected way of looking, or "scopic regime," is informed by a patriarchal ideology that determines the everyday looking of both men and women in public situations. The gaze of the polis at large is filtered through a lens of male dominance. (6)

Even though Greco-Roman concepts of vision were culturally shaped, there exists a significant continuity between the ancient and modern worlds. (7) The Age of Enlightenment, of course, was a watershed point in terms of optic theory; by the seventeenth century, Johannes Kepler had shown that vision depends on the eyes' function as receivers, not transmitters, of light. But as Teresa Brennan (224) suggests, the idea of extramission has its modern counterpart (psychic rather than physical) in psychoanalytic and feminist theories that equate looking with power. (8) Freud isolated pleasure in looking (scopophilia) as a component of sexuality and the drive for mastery. Looking at another person as an object can be a form of erotic stimulation that, taken to its extreme, produces obsessive voyeurism or fetishism. (9) The concept of the voyeuristic or fetishistic gaze informs a number of postmodern critiques of the arts. Kate Linker 9392-98), who analyzes the tradition of the female nude in European painting, views t he depiction of women as sex objects constructed for the male gaze. For her, the viewing process has become an act of domination and thus, according to prevailing cultural norms, masculine, while to be an object of representation signifies passivity and femininity. Laura Mulvey's seminal essay (1998a) on the representation of women in mainstream Hollywood cinema states tha same principle. Her theory of visual pleasure is based on the Freudian-Lacanian analysis of sexual difference in which woman, defined as "non-male," is a signifier of the absent phallus. The beguiling female image is threatening because it evokes castration anxiety in the male viewer. In order to avoid the threat posed by the image of woman and her "lack," the cinematic camera resorts to a number of devices that invite the spectator to adopt a male subject position. This male point of view allows the spectator to penetrate, possess, and punish the female through the voyeuristic gaze, or to possess and adore her through the fetishistic gaze. As mulvey puts it, women is image, and man bearer of the look. (10) Women are displayed for "erotic contemplation," and this display in effect stops or freezes the narrative; men, on the other hand, are active and make the story happen.

Such modern cultural poetics offer useful heuristic tools for the investigation of fifth-century Greek thought. Cinema and ancient Greek tragedy are both visual expressions of the same patrichal imagery the conceives of looking as an act of power and equates power with masculinity. In this respect cine-psychoanalysis helps to reveal the psychic mechanisms operating beneath the surface of dramas such as Aeschylus' Agamemnon. (11) Nancy Rabinowitz, for example, uses film theory to suggest that Greek tragedy, like cinema, demands or creates a male subject position, regardless of whether there were women in the original audience. In her survey of the treatment of women's sexuality and desire on the Athenian stage she concludes: "Tragedy participates in a pornographic structure of representation, accomplishing the solidification of the male subject at the expense of and through the construction of the female as object" (1992: 51).

While gaze theory confirms the gendered subjectivity available to the spectator of Greek tragedy, it also explains the significance of the gaze of characters, such as Iphigenia and Helen, at Agamemnon 240 and 741. If indeed the gaze is an act of domination and thus stereotypically masculine, what does it mean when the object, woman, looks? There is a consistent anxiety from antiquity to the present day about meeting a woman's eyes. Since women's culturally determined role is a passive one, the active gaze of a woman must be contained in some way if the scopic regime is to remain intact. As we shall see, the Agamemnon sustains and exploits anxiety about the female spectator, yet there is an important moment when the gaze of the audience becomes fused with the gaze of a female character within the play. The longest episode of the tragedy, the Cassandra scene, is devoted to the visions of a woman; indeed, the gaze of Cassandra is so similar to that of the audience that their experience of watching tragedy is at this point configured as feminine.

There is more to tragic spectatorship, then, than a controlling male gaze. Such looking, whether voyeuristic or fetishistic, maintains a distance between subject and object, but the representation of a tragic action has a profound emotional effect on its audience which identifies with certain characters, male and female alike. (12) Although the precise significance of Aristotle's theory of tragic catharsis (Pol. 134Ib; Poet. 1449b) is still a matter of debate, it remains an influential analysis of tragedy's provocative capacity for eliciting "pity and fear" in its viewers. (13) Even within the narrative structure of a tragedy there are moments when the viewed object exerts power over the viewing subject, for example, the horrific effect of the Erinyes on Orestes and the Pythia at the end of the Choepliori and at the beginning of the Eumenides, respectively. Considering this power of the spectacle over the spectator, are we justified in treating tragedy as if it were in essence a form of pornography that allays the castration anxiety of the masculine subject? To put the question in more general terms: Does tragedy necessarily support the dominant power structure, or does it contain at least a potential for subversion? (14) There is, I shall argue, a symbiotic relationship between audience and spectacle in this play--a relationship that d evelops slowly through the course of the drama, but one in which both viewing subject and viewed object exert a complementary influence over each other. In other words, while the equivalence of vision and power does help us to understand the significance of extramission within the play, and even certain aspects of the audience's relationship to the spectacle, it fails to explain the reciprocity between audience and spectacle. As I have already noted, ancient optic theory suggested that vision is not entirely an active process on the part of the beholder, and that the viewed object can emit effluences or eidola that contribute to the processes of sight. It is uncertain whether the beginnings of such atomistic theories belonged to the scientific discourse of Aeschylus' time, but Ruth Padel (61) shows that vision, in popular thought at least, could be a reciprocal activity.

The glances exchanged by lovers are an obvious example of such reciprocity. The beauty of the object of desire can exert a power over the viewer. Mutual attraction depends on the lovers' meeting gazes: power is set aside for the moment, or the lovers have equal power over each other. Bonnie MacLachlan (65-67) discusses this reciprocal gaze as an aspect of charis, or a mutually enjoyed pleasure that elides self and other. Francoise Frontisi-Ducroux, in her analysis of the representation of the gaze on Greek ceramic art, notes the importance of the mutual gaze in erotic scenes. (15) Uncooperative objects of desire do not meet their admirers' eyes, while acquiescence and mutual arousal are signified by the mutual gaze. Still, we must bear in mind that the only truly acceptable or safe instance of the feminine gaze is when the woman looks into the eyes of her husband or lover as he looks at her. Even when she is allowed to look, a woman must be contained in some way by the patriarchal gaze.

II. Iphigenia

In several instances in the Agamemnon, the mutual gaze is subverted. A series of bolts from the eyes ricochet throughout the tragedy until they come to rest on their final victim, Agamemnon. The first of these glances occurs at the sacrifice of Iphigenia:


And pouring dye of saffron to the ground, she hit each of her sacrificers with a piteous bolt from her eye, conspicuous as if in a picture, wishing to address them by name, since many times at the men's banquet of her father she sang...(16)

Iphigenia, bound by her robes and gagged to suppress any ill-omened word, communicates by casting a bolt from her eyes. (17) The preceding phrase, "pouring dye of saffron to the ground," is significant. The lines are highly controversial, but the most persuasive interpretation reads the dye of saffron as the wedding veil of Iphigenia, who was lured to Aulis on the pretext that she was to marry Achilles. (18) Accordingly, the "bolt from her eye" refers to the unveiling of the bride, or anakalupteria, when the couple would look into each other's eyes for the first time. Iphigenia's sacrifice thus becomes a horrible parody of a wedding. Her saffron veil is not lifted by her new husband, but falls to the ground. She glances, not into her husband's face, but into the eyes of her sacrificers.

The following simile--Iphigenia looks like, or stands out like, a picture ([LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])--perverts even more the idea of the mutual gaze. Nuptial ceramics (a form of [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) depicting the anakalupteria and the bride's gaze at her husband would have been familiar to the ancient audience. Certainly modern readers of these lines can visualize Greek vases showing men and women exchanging glances, and while it is fruitless to wonder which particular painting we are supposed to visualize, we do well to ponder the significance of this simile. (19) As the scholiast writes, Iphigenia is like a picture "because of her beauty and because she cannot speak." True enough, but there is surely something more to the image. James Holoka (228-29) suggests that Iphigenia maintains eye contact with her sacrificers just as a figure in a painting (e.g., the Mona Lisa) stares unflinchingly and perpetually at the viewer. But ceramic art of this period, influenced by larger panel p ainting, avoids letting representations of women meet the spectator's eyes, (20) and so it is unlikely that any contemporary audience, hearing that Iphigenia was like a picture, would imagine her staring out at the viewer. (21) A similar convention exists in profile portrait painting of fifteenth-century Italian women. Patricia Simons argues that this mode of representation enables the display of women while avoiding the "Medusa effect": "The de-eroticized portrayal of women in profile meant female eyes no longer threaten the seeing man with castration. Her eyes cannot ward off his, nor send 'arrows to the lover's heart'" (53). Of course Simons is considering individual portraits of women, while the "picture" of Iphigenia which I envisage shows her staring at her sacrificers. The participle [pi][rho][euro][pi][omicron][nu][sigma][alpha] ("standing out," "conspicuous") suggests the tendency of Greek painting to depict panoramic scenes with special emphasis on certain individuals. Thus we see Iphigenia, not thr ough the consciousness of her sacrificers, but through the first-hand report of the Chorus who, like a cinematic camera, control and filter what we "see"; to use a narratological term, they are the focalizers of this scene.

The transformation of Iphigenia into a picture exemplifies how women who look are nonetheless enmeshed more deeply in the patriarchal structures of vision. Modern cinema articulates and resolves this problem in a similar way. Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window (1944), for example, expresses the invariable anxiety about the potent female gaze. In a significant early scene, we see a middle-aged professor (Edward G. Robinson) leering at a portrait of a beautiful woman in the window of his men's club. Suddenly he realizes that the real woman, the subject of the portrait, is right beside him on his side of the window. As it turns out, she has been looking at him, and so she tells him. Unlike Iphigenia, who became a portrait, this woman separates from her image--first as a reflection in the glass looking back at the professor, then as a flesh and blood woman beside him--to become very real and very dangerous. A mere image no longer, the woman controls the look. Needless to say, the professor's fortunes take a dis tinct turn for the worse after this. Such are the dangers of a woman's gaze, and it is essential that she be kept in the visual realm. Stephen Heath, in his refinement of Mulvey's thesis, observes: "If the woman looks, the spectacle provokes, castration is in the air, the Medusa's head is not far off; thus, she must not look, is absorbed herself on the side of the seen" (92; italics mine).

Heath's analysis explains why the gazing Iphigenia must be turned into a picture. (22) The same principle is at work in the conclusion of The Woman in the Window. The professor awakens to discover that his ill-fated encounter with the woman has been a dream. He leaves his club, goes to the window to look at the portrait again, and scurries off when a common looking woman asks for a light. In other words, the beautiful woman of his dream now remains safely "on the side of the seen." The fundamental principle, then, is that the danger of a woman's look can be mitigated by situating her in the visual register. The concept of Iphigenia as a picture creates a psychic distance between her and her audience (the Chorus, and indirectly the Athenian audience), a device that puts her a least one remove from reality into the realm of the symbolic. Indeed this distance and objectification mark the act of looking as voyeuristic. What is intriguing about the simile is how it changes the act of looking from a type of visual discourse--Iphigenia's attempt to communicate (with its subtext of the lover's gaze)--to this voyeuristic gaze of the onlookers. A displacement or triangulation of the gaze occurs. What should be a symmetry in the discourse of lovers-the female looking, the male looking back--is actually a dissymmetry: Iphigenia looks only in order to be looked at while looking. It is no husband or lover who looks back at her, but the Chorus of onlookers whose gaze we appropriate. (23) The simile is thus a perfect expression of her victimization and objectification: the woman is captured, as it were, by the picture. Euripides uses a similar figure to describe the sacrifice of Polyxena at Hecuba 560, where the young woman tears open her robes to reveal her breasts "like a statue ([LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) most beautiful." The emphasis here is clearly on the visual impact of Polyxena, who, like Iphigenia, becomes a thing to be looked at by male spectators. (24)

The homology of representation and passivity fits well with the image of Iphigenia who is looked at, objectified, and controlled. She is, for a brief moment before her death, invested with the power of the gaze, but the text strips her of this potency by accentuating her status as an object to be viewed. The audience takes on the subject position of the Chorus of male spectators, and although the presentation of Iphigenia's sacrifice is diegetic, it has a particularly visual quality. There is a flurry of motion as Agamemnon orders his henchmen to bind his daughter and lift her above the altar, but the simile of Iphigenia like a picture freezes the narrative. As we contemplate the victim in our mind's eye, as we see her through the memories of the male spectators, the story stops. This division of labor, with the male as the agent and the female as the object of contemplation, is consonant with the binarism of Hollywood cinema. As Mulvey puts it, "The presence of woman is an indispensable element of spectacle in normal narrative film, yet her visual presence tends to work against the development of a story-line, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation" (1988a: 62).

The remainder of the strophe presents yet another image of Iphigenia, a memory, and this imaginary Iphigenia is also on display, singing before her father's dinner guests. (25) The old men turn away from the actual slaughter and so control what they and we see: "What happened then I did not see and cannot tell" (248). We are aware that the sacrificers of Iphigenia, including her father, have been smitten by darts from the eyes of a woman, but as we look through the eyes of the Chorus we are able to enclose the victim in a frozen moment, and to double frame her fetishized image by superimposing one memory of her upon another.

II. Helen

The Chorus' memories combine the themes of art, the gaze, and marriage into a nexus of ideas that recur throughout the tragedy. The sacrifice of Iphigenia epitomizes the dynamics of dominance and submission by assigning complementary and culturally normative gender roles to master and victim. Agamemnon is an exaggeration of the active male, while his daughter takes the ideal of female passivity to its extreme. Helen, however, inverts the active/male :: passive/female dichotomy. Put in the simplest formula, Iphigenia must die in order for the Atreidae to retrieve Helen--one woman in exchange for another. (26) Helen is all that Iphigenia is not. While Iphigenia is bound, constrained, and killed, Helen steps lightly out of the gates of Argos (407-08) to sail for Troy and a consummated marriage. In contrast, her husband Menelaus is silent and passive after her departure (412-13). (27) The first stasimon describes his sorrowful state: he is surrounded by imperfect substitutes for Helen, none of which can satisfy him. Hallucinations rule over his household and


The charm of beautiful statues is hateful to the man. And in the emptiness of the eyes all desire is gone. (416-19)

The nature of these kolossoi is enigmatic. Are they korai, totemistic effigies, or a type of herms? (28) Whatever their precise form, the statues indubitably represent Helen and thus underscore the absence of the real woman. Iphigenia is like a picture, and woman and representation collapse into the same concept; but Helen is one thing, her representations are another. The art motif accentuates Iphigenia's victimization, but the separation of Helen and her representations draws attention to her mobility, absence, and freedom. Helen is a powerful narrative agent whose departure precipitates a disastrous course of events. She moves, she makes things happen, thereby deviating from the idealized passive woman. She is not simply a possession stolen from her husband, for although the Chorus condemn Paris for defiling the sacred bonds of the guest-host relationship by taking Helen to Troy (40001), they are equally condemnatory of Helen. (29) The presentation of Helen and Menelaus in the first stasimon inverts that of Iphigenia and her captors in the parodos. Now it is the abject male who cannot speak and whose gaze is impotent. The qualities of silence, immobility, and powerlessness actually classify Menelaus with the statues (Steiner 182). Certainly there are no glances from Helen, and the lifeless, perhaps even eyeless statues cannot make visual contact. The phrase [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is ambiguous and can mean that Helen is absent in the eyes of Menelaus, or that her statues lack real eyes. Both interpretations suggest that once again the mutual gaze is not possible. (30)

At Troy Helen casts her glances, and they are devastating. The second stasimon describes her marriage to Paris:



And I would say that then there came to Ilium a spirit of windless calm, and a gentle ornament of wealth, a soft bolt of the eyes, a hears-grating blossom of desire. But having laid them down beside each other, she accomplished a bitter fulfillment of marriage, an evil presence, sped to the sons of Priam by the guidance of Zeus Xenius, the Erinys who makes brides cry. (31)

The power of the woman's gaze, when it is not contained or defused, is baleful. The strophe above alludes not only to the gestures and iconography associated with marriage (Rehm 44), but to images of violence and retribution as well. There is a [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("a soft bolt of the eyes"), reminding us of Iphigenia's marriage with death and her pitiful [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The beginning of the strophe describes the effects of Helen's arrival amongst the Trojans, and given the context of this passage, it is evident these erotic glances emanate from Helen. Yet, although she is "a gentle ornament of wealth," that is, a signifier of prestige, her ornamental function is quickly undercut by the "heart-grating" power of her sexuality. Nothing in this ode suggests that Helen is possessed by anyone's gaze at Troy. It is she, and only she, who does the looking. The remainder of the strophe focuses on the role of the Erinys as a supernatural bridal attendant, a role usually attribute d to Eros on vase paintings Lloyd-Jones 104). (By an alternate interpretation, Helen herself becomes the Erinys.) We have now another allusion to the anakalupteria, but the consummation of this marriage is the devastation of war, and the look that Helen sends is deadly.

Although this event is prior to the sacrifice of Iphigenia, the structure of the play and the flashback technique of the choral odes suggest an increasingly powerful female gaze. By presenting the piteous gaze of Iphigenia prior to the potent gaze of Helen, the text invests the act of looking with a complex significance. Helen functions as a counterpoint to Iphigenia by illustrating the power and danger of the woman who has been freed from the restraints of iconic representation. Menelaus' statues are representations of women and thus the female is still associated with the realm of images, but Helen denies Menelaus the erotic pleasure of looking at her as an object. Like Fritz Lang's woman in the window, Helen separates from her representation to become the active controller of the look. Although looking is still equated with power, the gender of the empowered looker is now feminine. The corresponding disempowered male object of the gaze, we are soon to discover, is king Agamemnon.

III. Agamemnon

So far I have dealt only with the sexual aspect of the look, but we should bear in mind that the erotic gaze is really a subset of the gaze of power. A hint of Agamemnon's status as the object of the gaze had already occurred at the end of the first stasimon. The Chorus reflect on the retributive power of Zeus against the hubristic man and remark that the gods are not unwatchful ([LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 462) of those who cause so many deaths. The Elders contemplate the Erinyes stalking and punishing the man who has prospered without justice, a category into which Agamemnon falls, and then say: "For a thunderbolt from Zeus is cast by his eyes" ([LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 469-70). (32) Thematically this is very apropos. Agamemnon ignored his daughter's pitiful glances and killed her anyway; now more forceful bolts from unseen eyes are aimed in his direction. This is by no means a sexual look, but it certainly involves the dynamics of dominance and submission implicit in the erotic gaze; beyond this, it presages the feminization of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra. It seems perfectly fitting, then, that the man who put his daughter on display so improperly becomes himself an object of the gaze.

At first, Agamemnon's arrival promises to reinscribe the male in the position of power. The conquering hero returns with a captive woman, Cassandra, whom he displays as evidence of his supremacy. The man who had created the spectacle of his daughter's death now presents another woman to be looked at, a "chosen blossom of great wealth" (955). Greece was very much a display culture in which masculine prestige was measured by public exhibitions of wealth and status, (33) but it quickly becomes very evident that Agamemnon will not be in charge of this display. The anapests after the second stasimon foreshadow his impending role as an object to be viewed. The Chorus greet him with a memory of Aulis: "I won't hide it, but when you gathered the army for the sake of Helen, you were painted in a very inartistic way ([LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in my mind" (801). (34) By foregrounding the pictorial motif, the text suggests that Agamemnon belongs "on the side of the seen." Now, if being a represented object s ignifies victimization and feminization, and if being looked at signifies passivity, then Agamemnon must be turned into art as well. So far, allusions to artistic representation and boltlike gazes have existed within the narratives of the choral odes; objects of art are viewed by internal spectators. But now the action represented in the theatre and the gaze of the external audience gain a collaborative significance.

When Clytemnestra lures her husband onto the deep red fabrics strewn before the palace, we remember Iphigenia's veil fallen to the ground and soaked with the maiden's blood. Perhaps we should remember her piteous bolts as well, for as Agamemnon unwittingly prepares for the symbolic reenactment of his hubris at Aulis, he says: "May no envy of the eye hit me ([LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) from afar as I walk on these purple cloths of the gods" (946-47). It is appropriate for a war hero to show himself before the admiring gaze of the polis and to elicit its citizens' narcissistic identification. But by walking on the precious fabrics Agamemnon takes his display too far, just as he had done at Aulis. There the bolts from his victim's eyes were disempowered, but now he knows that he is exposing himself to the active jealous glances of the citizens, to the evil eye. The internal gaze of these unseen observers fuses with the external gaze of the spectators who sit in the theatre and watch him step on the cl oth, and so the audience has become a signifier in the syntax of display. Their active viewing now has meaning within the context of the dramatic world. When the audience next sees Agamemnon, he is dead, a spectacle displayed by Clytemnestra, who opens the doors of the palace to reveal her husband's corpse wrapped in the robe used to trap him, just as Iphigenia was bound by her robes. As the audience looks upon Agamemnon their gaze makes Clytemnestra's revenge and Agamemnon's emasculation complete. (35)

The display of Agamemnon skews the alignment of sexual difference with a subject/object dichotomy, but the objectified male is symptomatic of a profound cosmic disorder. The implications of femininity in the display of Agamemnon are consistent with film theory's understanding of the spectacle of the passive male. In her discussion of the representation of gladiators in Spartacus, Ina Rae Hark (151-52) comments on the specularization of men who "symbolically if not biologically lack . . . the signifying phallus," a description that suits Agamemnon perfectly at this point. This passive condition, writes Hark, is only possible "because the rightful exercise of masculine power has been perverted by unmanly tyrants." Such is Clytemnestra whose "man-counselling heart" has distorted the conventional relationships between men and women, and who has made her emasculated husband into an object of display--an essentially (according to patriarchal thought, at least) feminine condition. (36)

IV. Cassandra

At the end of the first stasimon, where we are reminded of the punitive gaze of Zeus, there was a suggestion that the eye's rays could punish the transgressor. It might seem that the audience in the theatre would now enact Agamemnon's punishment by looking at him. His arrival implicates the audience in the creation of meaning, but does their voyeurism really grant them power? The vocabulary of extramission enforces the equivalence of vision and power, but women's appropriation of the gaze and the objectification of the male problematize this symmetry. Yet the tapestry scene seems to empower the audience who participates in the display by standing in for the unseen viewing subjects whose jealous gaze makes Agamemnon so nervous. When the king's corpse is revealed, it is the audience in the theatre who grants this moment its full significance. But is this all there is to the theatrical experience--a punishing, voyeuristic gaze at a feminized man? How do we fit the female gaze into this regime? And what of Cassan dra who, as it turns out, is more than just a visible symbol of Agamemnon's prestige, an object to be viewed? As we shall see, she defines an important bond between viewer and viewed, and so occludes the assimilation of tragic spectatorship into sadistic voyeurism. Of course when Agamemnon's corpse is revealed, Cassandra lies beside him, a point to which I shall return; but for now, let us examine how she fits into the drama's economy of looking. The active controlling gaze, a unilateral visual transaction, has been the model of spectaborship both for the characters within and for the audience outside the play. This analysis presumes a kind of Brechtian "distanciation" whereby the audience keeps the spectacle at arm's length, although its look becomes part of the symbolic register of the drama when Agamemnon enters the acting space. The spectators can watch Agamemnon's brief time in the theatre with a kind of fascinated horror--perhaps some might even feel a certain kinship with this doomed, arrogant mortal c aught in the web of necessity--but for many, their deepest emotional identification would be with Cassandra. (37)

Let us examine this process more closely. There is a certain nobility to this slave-princess who is immune to Clytemnestra's persuasion and walks to her death knowingly and in her own time. She earns our compassion and respect to be sure, but so do Euripides' willing sacrificial virgins who, as Rabinowitz (1993: 25-27) points out, still function as the fetishized objects of a male subjectivity. Cassandra is different, however, for unlike such unblemished offerings as Macrobia and Polyxena, she incurred her fate by rejecting Apollo as a lover (Leahy 160-64). The trajectory of her life, from ate and hubris to nemesis, follows the course of the tragic hero with its telos of recognition. Significantly Cassandra shares this recognition with the audience, which makes it difficult to objectify her. Of the major characters in this play she reveals the deepest inner life. While Clytemnestra and Agamemnon assume their various postures of blandishing wife or conquering hero, they never reveal their true thoughts. But C assandra offers us the startling images that pass through her mind, the web of events linking her fortunes to the dark history of the house of Atreus. Like the audience she feels pity and fear at the spectacle before her. Yet although her profound emotions arouse an empathetic response in the spectator, even more compelling reasons exist for an audience to identify with her. Her possession of (or by) a certain type of vision replicates the experience of the tragic spectator. Cassandra's most important function is to look; she is, in the fullest sense of the word, a seer. Seth Schein (12) observes that Cassandra is not like other seers and prophets who simply interpret signs and omens. Instead she sees the whole story of the house of Atreus from beginning to end in a sequence of vivid hallucinations sent by Apollo.

This type of sight is distinctly different from everyday modes of perception. What Cassandra sees are actions and agents situated beyond the here and now, in the past and future, although for her they are very much a present reality. How do ancient theories of perception and the mind accommodate mental images? It is not until Aristotle (De An. 432a7) that an explanation of such phantasmata appears in scientific discourse, but Cassandra's second sight identifies the concept of mental pictures. Her visions delineate two levels of perception: the material and the psychic. This distinction is implicit in the Chorus' description of the sacrifice of Iphigenia with its shift from the real to the imaginary. I shall return to the distinctions between the imaginations of the Chorus and Cassandra, but my immediate concern is the duality of Cassandra's reality. When Bernard Knox says that Cassandra's prescience brings her "close to reality" (114), he means the otherwise unperceived reality of events yet to happen which fuse with the events of the past, but as he goes onto say, there is another real world of time and space represented by the stage events. A dual world exists for the spectators too, who live and breathe in the material world of fifth-century Athens and yet must accept that the spectacle of ancient deeds by long dead agents is taking place before them. But perhaps a more appropriate analogy for Cassandra's visions is the audience's imagination. They have been invited to visualize events that have not taken place in the theatre: the troops at Aulis, the sacrifice of Iphigenia, Helen's arrival at Troy. Recent scholarship on the contribution of the ancient audience's imagination in the reception of tragedy stresses this visual aspect of memory and cognition. (38) It appears, then, that Cassandra's relationship to the spectacle narrativizes or internalizes the extra-diegetic experience of the audience. The visions Apollo sends through her recapitulate the visions sent by the poet through the audience.

Cassandra's privileged knowledge of events also aligns her with the spectator. No character in the drama has such a comprehensive understanding of the fortunes of the house of Atreus. Agamemnon is simply purblind; Clytemnestra and Aegisthus are limited to understanding events directly connected to their revenge; the Chorus can only think back to the immediate events surrounding the Trojan War. Even during their encounter with Cassandra, the Argive elders are incapable of understanding what she has to tell them. Brian Vickers aptly describes this episode as "one of the finest examples of indirect communication in all drama" (377), for while the Chorus blink in confusion, every member of the audience, and even modern readers, know that these events are linked in a much farther-reaching web of vengeance and retribution. Cassandra too can see the linkage between the murdered children of Thyestes, the revenge of Clytemnestra, and her punishment by Orestes. This special sight, over which she holds no control, glan ces at first like a new bride's gaze through her veils, (39) but then leaps forth like a wind to illuminate the prime cause of the sequence of horrors visited upon this accursed family. The sight shows the adultery of Thyestes and Aerope, as well as the Erinyes "bred in the family" (1190), the incarnations of the familial curse.

This reference to the bride's gaze is reminiscent of Iphigenia, and perhaps of Helen too. But in both those cases the woman's gaze is represented as a threatening power, an active look that needs to be contained. Cassandra's vision, of course, is anything but active: "Like a fire ... it goes through me," she says of the oracle (1256). Hers is a new kind of looking in this tragedy--not an active gaze, like the fiery glare of Zeus or the erotic glances from Helen, but a passive gaze. This is what distinguishes her mental images from the Chorus' memories of Aulis. The Chorus could look away, for they controlled the looking. But for Cassandra the viewer does not control the spectacle; instead, the spectacle now exerts a power over the viewer. This unique feature of Cassandra's oracular gaze calls into question the relationship between vision and power, and ultimately the entire notion of a gendered subjectivity for the spectators of this play, for this passive mode of looking is in many ways similar to the exper ience of the audience. Plato and Aristotle may have held diverse opinions on the precise nature of tragedy's power, but they did agree on one thing: tragedy has an influence, whether for good or bad, over the people who watch it.

Cassandra, then, shows us that the relationship between subject and object is not perfectly symmetrical with action and passivity. Viewers can be passive, spectacles can exert control. Film theorists Gaylyn Studlar and Tania Modleski make similar observations with respect to contemporary cinema. Studlar argues that Mulvey and her disciples oversimplify the cinematic experience by presenting the male controlling gaze as the only position of spectorial pleasure. She objects that the ascendancy of the Freudian-Lacanian model has created a very narrow range of responses to the issue of subjectivity. As an alternative she offers a model of visual pleasure based on a masochistic impulse of submission rather than domination:

The spectator becomes the passive receiving object who is also subject. The spectator must comprehend the images, but the images cannot be controlled. On this level of pleasure, the spectator receives, but no object-related demands are made. (785)

Studlar's understanding of the psychology of visual pleasure is eminently suitable for the audience of a tragedy. Although theories of the masochistic pleasures of watching tragedy are not new, her focus on the visual aspects of power and domination have a special relevance for the emphasis on spectatorship in Agamemnon. (40)

Looking is not an act of domination on Cassandra's part either, but rather something that happens to her. I suggested earlier that the reciprocal power of the lover's gaze becomes curiously distorted in the description of Iphigenia's sacrifice, and again with the separation of Menelaus from Helen's glances. For Cassandra, whose oracle peeks like a bride through her veils, the lover's glance is distorted in another way. (41) Cheated of sexual union, Apollo penetrates Cassandra with an oracular gaze that grants her pain rather than power. In Studlar's terminology Cassandra is both passive receiving object and subject, precisely the position of the audience. The spectacle exerts a power over the spectators, and the emotionally charged scene with Cassandra draws them into the dramatic world by inviting identification with her. This identification, and the passivity of the spectators (who are in no position to control what happens), suggest a feminine subject position for the audience, at least in the essentialist terms of Athenian culture. Cassandra's painful visions become a metatheatrical expression of the masochistic pleasures associated with watching tragedy, and a strong corrective to any illusions of power created in the tapestry scene. Thus, just at that very point in the drama when Clytemnestra is about to commit her terrible deed, Cassandra reinforces the audience's sense of impotence: she represents the spectator who knows what is going to happen but can do nothing about it.

This passive form of looking assuages anxiety about the potency of the female gaze, but it generates new problems for male subjectivity. Cassandra creates a space for feminine spectatorship within the play which implicates the audience. Her vivid descriptions of Thyestes' children holding their own entrails and the murder of Agamemnon stimulate the production of mental images. The imagination of the spectator now sees through Cassandra's eyes. The pleasures of viewing tragedy are associated with her feminine, masochistic gaze. This is not to say that masochism is essentially a feminine experience, yet in a signifying system that links passivity with femininity, masochism becomes gendered. Moreover, in my application of this model I am examining Cassandra as the spectator, and she is of course a woman. (42) By identifying with her, a passive spectator whose condition mirrors their own experience, the audience is lured into a feminine subject position as easily as Agamemnon is lured into his own emasculation.

The suggestion that the spectator is "feminized" presumes an intrinsically masculine subjectivity for the audience, while the equation of passivity with femininity is an essentialist binarism. So it is that the Agamemnon conforms to the patriarchal ideology of fifth-century Athens, while arousing concomitant anxieties through an exploration of the experience of the female spectator. (43) Even this specular gaze, the audience seeing itself in Cassandra, is inscribed as feminine, for Cassandra too can see herself. This is the price to be paid for the look, the way of situating Cassandra's sight within the scopic regime. One striking feature of her prophetic sight is that she can actually see her own death (1137, 1260) in a self-reflexive gaze that dissolves the boundaries between spectator and spectacle, self and text. The woman looks at herself; she is both image and bearer of the look.

This unique ability, however, keeps Cassandra well within the gendered conventions of seeing. (44) It is yet another way of containing the female gaze, of the sort that exists in modern cinema. In Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1963), for example, a psychopath films his victims as he kills them with a knife attached to the camera stand. Also attached to this apparatus is a mirror that enables his victims to see themselves being killed. Perhaps in reference to Powell, the futuristic thriller Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995) features a virtual reality device that a murderer-rapist compels his victims to wear so that they can experience his sensations as he violates them. Besides being wry commentaries on the nature of cinematic spectatorship, both films illustrate the conventions that attach to the woman's gaze. (45) Linda Williams' analysis of the female gaze in thrillers such as Peeping Tom explains this device: "The woman's gaze is punished ... by narrative processes that transform curiosity and desire in to masochistic fantasy" (563). Thus Cassandra, who looks at a "text" only to see herself in it, may seem to have a privileged insight into past and future events, but her own role in that narrative counterbalances whatever knowledge she appears to have. It is Apollo after all who sends these visions through her.

Cassandra's overidentification with the text is a salient feature of woman's different construction in relation to the processes of looking. While the voyeur needs to maintain a distance between self and image, women's looking eliminates that gap. Mary Anne Doane observes:

For the female spectator there is a certain overpresence of the image-she is the image, Given the closeness of this relationship, the female spectator's desire can be described only in terms of a kind of narcissism--the female look demands a becoming. It thus appears to negate the very distance or gap specified by Metz and Burch as the essential precondition for voyeurism. From this perspective, it is important to note the constant recurrence of the motif of proximity in feminist theories (especially those labelled new French feminisms) which purport to describe a feminine specificity. For Luce Irigaray, female anatomy is readable as a constant relation of the self to itself, as an autoeroticism based on the embrace of the two lips which allow the woman to touch herself without mediation. (762-63)

This close relationship with the text is also expressed spatially in the Agamemnon, for not only does Cassandra look at herself but, like Lisa Freemont in Hitchcock's Rear Window, she physically enters the "text" when she goes into the palace. (46) Her preternatural gaze has focused on the feast of Thyestes, Clytemnestra's crimes, the retributive murders by Orestes, and the ever-present Erinyes. The site of these spectacles has been the palace throughout, and in her final moments of life the audience watches as Cassandra enters this hall of horrors to take her place "on the side of the seen." Just before she enters the palace to meet her doom and be displayed, Cassandra laments her misfortune and prays that her murder be avenged. Her very last words are:


Alas for mortal affairs. One could liken the fortunate person to a shadow-painting; but if one is unfortunate, a wet sponge destroys the picture with its bolts. And I lament this condition much more than the former. (1327-30) (47)

As she is about to assume her role as an object to be viewed and close her eyes forever, Cassandra suggests that unfortunate persons, like herself, are nothing more than pictures wiped off a slate. Her remark helps to situate her within the world of images, but it is after all a transitory world. The gnomic quality of her lament suggests that really all of humanity is nothing more than a [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], an insubstantial chalk drawing. Some of us are wiped from the text of life, others remain; but none of us is anything more than a frail image.

V. One Last Look

Cassandra entered the drama as an object displayed by Agamemnon, a symbol of his conquest at Troy; but when she makes her exit, Agamemnon, as she well knows, has himself been conquered. She then walks into the palace from which she will be exhibited by Clytemnestra. These two situations of display bracket a remarkable interlude that reconfigures the relationship between spectacle and audience. Cassandra's role as spectator undermines the homology of dominance and looking, for she has been a passive spectator. Although her sight is circumscribed by conventions that attend a woman's look--her vision of her own death in particular--these conventions reproduce the experience of the audience in such a way that the concept of voyeuristic dominance becomes unraveled.

Before proceeding, a summarization of the process of identification is in order. In addition to provoking an affective response in the audience, Cassandra speaks in a language that only the audience can understand. She shares an epistemological privilege with them who also know the full story. Her knowledge and perception span two realities, mental and physical, just as the audience's do. She mimics the tragic spectator by the act of looking and by her emotional response to the spectacle. Importantly, her gaze underscores the spectator's passivity and thereby impairs the notion of a masculine subjectivity. Could the spectacle of her death restore any potency to the male subject? Or, perhaps we should ask, does it restore any masculinity to the viewing subject? The transfixed female, "an object of erotic contemplation," to use Mulvey's terms, is supposed to relieve the spectator's castration fear by allowing him to possess her through a punishing gaze; but beside this transfixed female lies Agamemnon, a symbo lically castrated male--hardly a reassuring sight. This double display is unusual; in fact, the only other surviving occurrence is Orestes' exhibition of the corpses in the Choephori. The revelation of women who died within the house (usually by suicide) is common enough in tragedy. Occasionally dead or dying men will be brought into the acting space from somewhere beyond, but a dead man and a dead woman together is an uncanny scene. If the original performance of the Oresteia introduced the ekkyklema, then the visual impact of this moment on the play's very first audience must have been tremendous. [48]

We need not imagine, however, either an original performance or an ekkyklema to appreciate the significance of this display, although that significance is anything but simple. I have already established that the audience's gaze upon Agamemnon is voyeuristic, but then subsequently argued that since we identify with Cassandra, our gaze upon her is one of masochistic identification. The audience exerts a kind of power over the spectacle of Agamemnon, but the spectacle of Cassandra holds a power over the audience who feels pity and fear. Yet the interactive process of the theatrical spectacle is paradoxical, for the audience's voyeuristic gaze upon Agamemnon suggests a psychic distance between subject and object, while identification with Cassandra requires a denial of that distance. This unsettling contradiction invites a fractured set of responses to the display of Agamemnon and Cassandra, even in the "theatre of the mind." We recognize their status as figures of representation, yet we recognize ourselves in C assandra. Furthermore the drama itself has set up an internal distinction between representation and reality. There is the visual realm of pictures and statues, and there is the "real" physical presence of characters in the drama. But the conceptual barriers between representation and reality never seem to be entirely stable. People like Iphigenia and Agamemnon become art, and Cassandra's parting words (1327-30) universalize this condition to suggest that all humanity exists in a world of images. There is also, of course, the distinction between the sphere of imagination and material reality. Cassandra envisages the image of her death, and the spectators behold its material manifestation in the final episode. How then are we to read the tableau of corpses--as representation or as reality? I would suggest that this dualism gives the final episode of the play its peculiar power, even as it also captures the very essence of tragedy. Jean-Pierre Vernant's discussion (1988: 242-44) of tragedy's presentation of a " world of fiction, alongside the world of reality" articulates this paradoxical quality. As Vernant explains, tragedy differs from epic poetry in that the latter professes to be a revelation of reality, while the former must confront its status as a mimesis of a praxis. The heroic characters portrayed on stage existed in some bygone age, but "[b]y being set on stage, they are made to seem present, characters truly there, although at the same time they are portrayed as figures who cannot possibly be there since they belong to somewhere else, to an invisible beyond" (1988: 243). The mimetic nature of a tragic performance gives it a visceral quality that aids in the suspension of disbelief. On one level of response the audience identifies with the text and sees Cassandra, and by extension Agamemnon, existing in the same material reality as themselves; but such a response alone would be too painful to give pleasure, the oikeia hedone that Aristotle recognizes as tragedy's gift. As Vernant realizes, "A consciousnes s of the fiction is essential to the dramatic spectacle; it seems to be both its condition and its product" (1988: 244). Part of this consciousness involves the audience's acknowledgment of its own role as spectator. Their active gaze upon Agamemnon, the completion of Clytemnestra's vengeance, is predicated on this acknowledgment. Thus, the tableau of the corpses simultaneously evokes two responses: one is the spectators' acceptance of the mimesis as "real"; the other is their awareness of their own separation from that mimesis, and hence its symbolic status. (49)

I began this study by suggesting that motifs of vision and representation suffer an initial displacement in the sacrifice of Iphigenia. What should have been a reciprocal activity, the lovers' gaze, was never consummated; instead, looking was turned into a unilateral voyeuristic activity that seemed to reproduce the initial response of the audience to the spectacle. We can actually envision the sacrifice through the enquiring gaze of the Chorus who maintain their distance from the display and who avert their eyes when the looking becomes too painful. Although the concept of extramission dominates the construction of vision for the first half of the play, there is a gradual shift in the dynamics of spectatorship. The audience can feel a certain sense of power in their relationship to the spectacle, and their participation in the punishment of Agamemnon. Yet the unsettling reality that subtends this transcendent controlling gaze includes the remembrance of that gaze of Iphigenia. Yes, it was enclosed, containe d, and defused, but then Helen's look was not. The feminine thus becomes linked with the look, while the masculine assumes the properties of the object. Although we must bear in mind that Aeschylus is describing different artistic media--drawing, sculpture, and shadow painting--these media do fall into the larger category of image, and image is associated with passivity and containment in this play. Yet Cassandra reassembles these components--vision and image--in a different configuration: through her agency the audience becomes aware of the potent force of spectacle. Hence there is an exchange of glances, so to speak, between subject and object; vision becomes a two-way street. The displaced gaze now achieves the mutuality denied in the first part of the play.

While the spectacle deploys the audience's bifurcated responses to tragedy, it has nonetheless a disorienting effect. A man is displayed; the audience identifies with a displayed woman; and the spectacle is controlled by a woman who has appropriated the male prerogative of displaying the victims of his triumph. But the dramatic praxis is not yet complete. The remainder of the trilogy sustains the themes of display and vision, a topic in itself worthy of detailed analysis. For now I merely sketch out some preliminary observations. Orestes' display of his mother and her lover in the Choephori is a suitable punishment for Clytemnestra, and one that suggests the male is now the controller of the spectacle; but the play ends with Orestes acting the part of the passive spectator, much like Cassandra, over whom the images of the female Erinyes exert control. The Eumenides opens with dramatic evidence of the spectacle's power over the spectator: the Pythia, nearly prostrate with fear, is obviously deeply affected by what she has seen. The Ennyes, she tells the audience, resemble a picture of creatures she once saw; but they are not quite like that picture (Eum. 50-51). Once again the female refuses to be contained within the constraints of artistic representation. Instead these females have a frightening gorgon-like power over those who look. They are "terrible for the eyes to behold" (Eum. 34). Eventually, however, they too are contained within the scopic regime. Athena comes to the rescue, first as the bretas Orestes clutches so desperately, then as a real presence. The trilogy ends with a procession that perhaps alludes to that in the Great Panathenaea. The newly tamed Erinyes don crimson robes and recede from the theatre under the approving gaze of Athens.

But who watches the spectator? For this trilogy, with its emphasis on looking and its disarming capability for convoluting and mirroring the gaze, does not leave us with a neatly tied package at its conclusion. Who can forget the panoptic surveillance of Zeus who strikes down the unjust with his eye, or the gaze of Apollo who watches Cassandra? Indeed the tragic festival was an offering to Dionysus whose ancient wooden image watched the proceedings. To look at an object or spectacle thus implies that the viewer is viewed in return. While the gaze of the spectators is focused on the mimesis, they are encompassed themselves by the all-seeing gods. Like Iphigenia they look only in order to be looked at while looking. (50)

JUDITH FLETCHER is Assistant Professor in the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. She has published articles on Aeschylus and on Homer and the classical tradition. She is currently working on a book on oath-taking scenes in ancient Greek drama.

(1.) For mimesis as an aesthetic term covering both tragedy and the visual arts. see Vernant 165. Vernant provides an important background to our understanding of the reception of art during the classical period in his historical survey of the development of attitudes towards images.

(2.) Wiles 1997: 188-89: "Vase paintings do not illustrate tragedy." Taplin 1997: 90 points out that while Athenians seemed to be reluctant to depict drama on ceramics. perhaps because it was "too close to the day-to-day political life of the city to be suitable." there is nevertheless a rich body of material depicting scenes from the theatre from Magna Graeca. See also Green 51-56.

Zeitlin 1994: 139-41 explores the possible reciprocal influences of theatre and the plastic arts. While she recognizes that the two art forms cannot be treated as "commensurate simply on the grounds that both are visual phenomena," she notes that both "share the requirement of an attentive gaze, as a stylized and informed mode of viewing, which not only arouses spectators' affective responses but also engages their cognitive skills in learning how to recognize, evaluate, and interpret the visual codes of what they see."

(3.) Aristotle's De Sensu and Theophrastus' De Sensu are the major sources for pre-Socratic notions of sense perception. See Phinney 456-57 for a discussion of optic theory until Euclid. MacLachlan 65 n. 20 cites Alemacon of Croton for the earliest surviving theory of perception involving fire from the eyes. Padel 60 discuss the interpretive problems of Empedocles' theory of vision. Aristotle, Sens. 437b-438a, seems to regard it simply as extramission, although modern editors prefer Theophrastus' interpretation that sight involves the reception of effluences. See von Fritz for a discussion of a similar problem in Democritus.

(4.) Menelaus describes the glances of Odysseus as bolts from his eyes ([LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Od. 4.150). Similar expressions recur throughout Greek literature. For other examples see Deforest 132-34 (also her bibliography at 144-45 n. 15). Moreau 50-64 treats the theme of the evil eye in Aesehylus, while DeForest looks specifically at [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and the evil eye in the Oresteia. Padel 59-63 discusses the eye as "an external sign of internal feeling," especially in tragedy. As she notes, expressions for looking frequently suggest that something inside a person comes out through the eyes. Examples from the Agamemnon include the eyes of the Chorus which announce their joy at the fall of Troy (271) and the account of the departure of Dike from the house of the wealthy man: [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("with eyes that turn away," 777-78). See Stewart 19 for a beief survey of the significance of the various verbs for looking, all of which signify a glance that "was always tactile, always inflected, and always carried a libidinal supplement."

(5.) For examples of the darts of love: Aeschylus, frag. 242, 2N; Prom. 649; Sophocles, frag. 157P. See Reeder 124-26 for a discussion of the downcast eyes of parthenoi on Greek ceramics. A young woman must also turn her gaze downwards to avoid receiving the gaze of men. As Griffiths 131-34 indicates, representations of lole and Leto on fifth-century vases show this process in a very concrete manner: physical bolts emanate from male suitors and hit the women. The male gaze is normative and does not carry any of the anxiety associated with the female gaze.

(6.) For a survey of the relationships between vision and culture, see Brennan and Jay's 1996 collection of essays, Vision in Context: ef. Stewart 13. Stewart notes that "[M]ost Greek women will have subscribed so the values of the patriarchy in most public situations" (15). Fox Keller and Gronkowski present an incisive analysis of how Western thought since the Greeks privileges a logic of the visual. According to this logic, vision is a "higher" sense with a historically phallic association, while women are associated with the "lower," more tactile senses.

(7.) Goldhill 17, on the other hand, takes a Foucauldian approach in examining a series of "moments" in ancient theories of vision, rather than an unbroken tradition. He identifies a classical athenian concept of vision that situates Democritean optic theory within the social and political context of democracy.

(8.) Belief in extramission still prevails, not only with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern societies' fear of the evil eye, but also apparently among college educated North Americans. According to recent studies by Ohio State University, a third of American college students believe that some kind of wave or ray from the eyes is responsible for sight (The Globe and Mail, 18 February 1997, A16).

(9.) In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), Freud discusses the "less organic drives" for domination, of which active seeing is a component. See also Lacan 81.

(10.) Mulvey's analysis of classical cinema, first published in 1975, assumes that the viewer is male. In a later article (1988b), she responds to criticisms of this assumption by arguing that most mainstream films are constructed with a male spectator in mind. Women must go through a kind of "transvestitism" by assuming a male subject position in order to gain pleasure by identifying with the male heroes of the film.

(11.) The differences between ancient Greek theatre and modern cinema are numerous. We watch a film through the "eye" of a camera, which gives us point of view shots, tracking shots, or more panoramic and objective views of the action. The camera may follow a character's gaze, or we may be aware of characters gazing at each other. Tragedy, on the other hand, is like all theatre in that it cannot direct the spectator's gaze by means of the camera. Furthermore, in classical Greek productions the convention of the mask prevents us from seeing the gaze of the characters. And since the theatre of Dionysos where the Agamemnon was originally produced held thousands of people, many members of the audience would be too far away to see small details or subtle gestures. There are, however, ways of directing the gaze of the spectator which correspond to the cinematic camera; the most obvious would have been the explicit invitation of the Chorus or a character to look at a particular person or object.

(12.) I acknowledge the problematics of the term audience. Van Erp Talmann Kip's monograph stresses the importance of reading a play as if seeing it for the first time, yet Wiles 1987: 149 has a perfectly valid point when he writes: "There is no reason to assume that the pursuit of an original staging is, necessarily and by definition, a strategy for fixing an immutable meaning upon a plural text." I am dedicated, however, to deriving the most meaning from the play by understanding it in the context of the culture that produced it. Along with Taplin 1978: 178, I visualize a tragedy in the theatre of the mind," even as I try to reconstruct the reception of an ancient Athenian audience and see and understand through their eyes. The application of film theory is not inconsistent with this approach, since both Hollyweod and fifth-century Athens are patriarchal display cultures.

At this point, a question presents itself: Even if we try to read a play through the lens of Athenian culture, can we treat the audience as a homogeneous entity? When Aristotle considers tragedy's effect on the audience, which audience does he mean? Hall 295 argues that Aristotle does not seem to have a particular audience in mind, while Segal notes Aristotle's focus on the individual spectator rather than on the audience as a group. Easterling 173, in response, suggests that this may be attributed to the plays' independent existence as written texts in Aristotle's time. My analysis of the reception of the Agamemnon presupposes a generalized spectator thoroughly indoctrinated in the prevailing ideology. Tragedy's consistent concern with gender roles, and its anxiety about women, have been well documented and obviously must have resonated with a large segment of the population.

(13.) Aristotle introduces catharsis at Pol. 1341b39 where he promises to explain the term in his future book on poetry. The passage in Poetics has elicited various interpretations. Although Else 439 suggests that catharsis happens within the play itself. I agree with the majority (e.g., Vickers 59-99 and Nuttall), who argue that members of the audience experienced some type of emotional release. I part company with Rabinowitz on this issue; she does not account for tragic catharsis per se, except to dismiss the theory that pornography is a safety valve for violent emotions: see 1992: 38.

(14.) Gellrich raises important issues in her critique of current approaches to tragedy: Does tragedy affirm the cultural hegemony by subsuming the feminine within the male, or does it subvert cultural norms? "Because [tragedy] is constituted by and represented in forms that are culturally stereotyped as feminine, it already contains within the sediments of its social formation the very properties that characterize its supposed opposite. Theater thus lays open as a social fiction the internal coherence of gender in Greek society" (48).

(15.) Padel 62-63 notes tragedy's simultaneous development with fifth-century vase painters' use of the "meeting gaze" (i.e., eye contact) rather than the old convention of a ground-line to show figures' spatial relationships. Tragedy, therefore, is contemporary with "Western painting's first portrayal of human figures in free space, connected only by their eyes." For the significance of the meeting gaze on pottery also, see Shapiro 70-72.

(16.) Unless otherwise indicated, I use Page's Oxford Classical Text. All translations are my own.

(17.) There is considerable disagreement about the meaning of [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (233). I follow Maas 94 in understanding that Iphigenia is "wrapped in her own garments in such a way that she cannot move arms or legs."

(18.) See Cunningham. and Armstrong and Ratchford; Rehm 50-51 demurs on the grounds that there is no evidence for Greek brides wearing saffron. But such evidence can be found on the Douris lekythos (from the Palermo Museum. NI 1886) showing Iphigenia, holding her veil in front of her face like a bride, and being led by the wrist by Agamemnon. According to Reeder 331, traces of saffron-colored paint remain on Iphigenia's peplos. See Thalmann 145-47 for a judicious discussion of the varying interpretations of this phrase.

(19.) Maas 94 offers BM 1897 (the sacrifice of Polyxena) as a visual representation of these lines; Stieber 96 suggests that the lines "may have been inspired by something like, but not necessarily, the Achilles and Penthesileia amphora by . . . Exckias" (BM B 210). As she points out, [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] could refer to either free-painting or vase-painting. See also Prag 65-66, who suggests that a panel painting of Polyxena's sacrifice in the Propylaea (described by Pollianus in the Anthology) could have been the painting that inspired Aeschylus.

(20.) Frontisi-Dueroux 87-88, Stewart 177.

(21.) The obvious exception is the apotropaic gorgon face whose stare wards off the evil eye. Korshak 41 observes that while frontality is a rare phenomenon in archaic Attic pottery, there is a "continuing restraint governing its use." She enumerates the types of figures who are portrayed frontally, but notes that "for every one of the types that can be represented with frontal faces, in the vast majority of cases, the depiction is in profile." The description of Iphigenia does not fall into any of her categories of frontal faces.

(22.) Doane's comments on the symbolism of women who wear glasses in classical Hollywood cinema are also appropriate. As Doane notes, such women by usurping the gaze "pose a threat to the entire system of representation . . . There is always a certain excessiveness, a difficulty associated with women who appropriate the gaze, who insist upon looking" (767).

(23.) As Wohl 75-76 recognizes, this "secondary audience, the chorus" also experiences the sadistic eroticism of the scene: "The desire that diffuses outward in concentric circles from the act itself implicates an ever-expanding audience: the brabes, the chorus, and finally the Athenian spectator."

(24.) Rabinowitz 1993: 59-60 discusses the pornographic aspects of this scene. It should be noted that Polyxena stages the display of her own body, while Iphigenia is completely passive. Yet as Thalmann 144-48 suggests, Euripides surely alludes to Aesehylus' Iphigenia while emphasizing the erotic overtones of Ag. 239-43 in order to create "a scene that was frankly pornographic," See also Wohl 67-82.

Scodel argues that the use of pictorial imagery for both virgin sacrifices is linked conceptually to the display of virgins as canephori and the like. Normally these public appearances served to enhance a father's prestige, but in Aesehylus and Euripides the sacrifice of virgins links motifs of commodification and excessive display, and so suggests that both young women are "to some extent precious objects wasted" (126).

(25.) As commentators note, there is no other evidence that young women sang at their father's banquets. Aeschylus apparently invented this occasion to reinforce Iphigenia's role as a displayed commodity of Agamemnon's household. Sec Scodel 117 and Ferrari 9 n. 32.

(26.) The commodification of Iphigenia and Helen and their economic relationship is examined in depth by Wohl 59-99. Lyons 164 notes that the sacrifice at Aulis "becomes an exchange in which [Iphigenia] is given up to get Helen back."

(27.) Lines 412-13 are deeply corrupt, but it seems certain that they describe what Saunders 253-55 refers to as the "stupefied Menelaus." I discuss these lines further in my forthcoming article on the first stasimon of Agamemnon.

(28.) Stieber 107-08 argues that a contemporary Athenian audience would visualize these statues as late archaic korai, an early type of portraiture-in this case, representations of Helen. Steiner 176 rejects the hypothesis of Benveniste and Picard that the kolossoi are fetishistic replacement figures for the dead, and modifies Roux's description of a column-like figure based on the herm. Her version of kolossoi is a flexible designation that focuses on the immobility and rigidity of the statue.

(29.) The verbs describing her departure are active in voice: she leaves, she takes her dowry of death, she walks through the gates of Argos, she dares the undareable (403-09). Steiner 178 notes the evocations of elusive and delusive motion." See also her perceptive remarks on the inversion of gender roles in this passage.

(30.) MacLachlan 66-67 observes: "At the departure of one of the love partners. the charis that is connected with this love-flash from the eyes disappears. When Helen left for Troy, Menelaus' eyes, as they looked at the cold statues in her stead, lacking a responsive return-gaze, stared emptily." Steiner 181 suggests that these kolossoi may in actual fact lack eyes; she notes several examples of eyeless stone figures. attributing this to a supernatural fear of the eyes' power.

(31.) I follow Lloyd-Jones 103, who translates [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as "having laid them beside each other" rather than 'she swerved" (Fraenkel) or "she turned from its course" (Denniston-Page). As Lloyd-Jones admits, this use is not otherwise attested so early, hut it rectifies the impression that the marriage of Helen and Paris was initially charted for a happier course. It also supports this image of the Erinys as a supernatural bridal attendant who accompanied the newlyweds to their chamber.

(32.) This is the paradosis, which Page and West emend in different ways, but which Fraenkel rightly defends. The expression derives from the notion or the evil eye. Homer. Od. 23.33, and Aristophanes, Nu. 395, indicate that the [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the thunderbolt, can be fiery; the notion of Zeus casting a flaming bolt from his eyes is an extreme version of light coming from the eyes. See Constantinidou for the motif of flashing eyes (especially those of divinities and heroes) in Homer,

(33.) Goldhill considers the theatre as an aspect of a "participatory collective spectatorship" in this culture of display. The audience's collective gaze apprehends a civic spectacle in which choregoi compete for honor by displaying their "conspicuous beneficence" (Goldhill 19). Agamemnon's spectacular arrival, then, narrativizes this external politics of display by advertising his status with symbols of prestige and power.

(34.) We might be inclined to dismiss this expression as an empty cliche, were it not for the adverb [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] that underlines its pictorial associations. See Stanford 47 for examples of such cliches in Aesehylus, especially in terms of inscribing an image on the tablets of the mind (Supp. 179 and 991; Cho. 450; PV 789). Early editors such as Wecklein took [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] with [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], although as Fraenkel 363 notes. it goes more naturally with [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Rose 59 argues that [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] connotes "written" rather than "painted" because portraits were not in style during Aeschylus' time; but, no doubt, the audience had seen enough painted representations of Agamemnon to understand what the Chorus meant.

(35.) DeForest 132 observes: "The spectators' passive role of watching is given a vital role within the drama where the glance is felt like a blow or like a caress." Moreau 56-57 suggests that Clytemnestra's ability to freeze Agamemnon is like the petrifying stare of a Gorgon.

(36.) See Whol 97 for a similar view on the objectification of Agamemnon.

(37.) As it is for both Leahy 144 and Rehm 52.

(38.) Zeitlin 1994 suggests that Euripides' use of ecphrasis simulates the manner in which audiences could imagine a scene or work of art. Ferrari discusses Aeschylus' use of metaphors that emphasize the visual; she states: "Aeschylean imagery plays against a background of widespread nonverbal representations, to show that the capacity to be visualized is crucial to literary imagery" (4).


(40.) For a survey of "tragedy as masochism," see Palmer 34-35. He cites Percy Bysshe Shelley's observation that "tragedy delights by affording a shadow of the pleasure which exists in pain."

(41.) In an effort to rid herself of this second sight, Cassandra rips the "mantic wreathes" (1265) from her brow--a violent replay of Iphigenia's fallen veil. Apollo, she claims, is watching her ([LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 1270), but of course she cannot meet his gaze.

(42.) Cassandra's special sight comes about because she is possessed by Apollo, and this in itself is a function of her gender according to Greek thought. Padel 106 discusses the concept of the mind as something penetrable, like the womb, and writes: "One concrete image for the relation between a possessing god and the mind is erotic penetration of female by male."

(43.) In her perceptive analysis of the construction of the feminine in Athenian drama, Zeitlin 1990:85 writes: "Hence the final paradox may be that the theatre uses the feminine for the purpose of imagining a fuller model for the masculine self, and 'playing the other' opens that self to those often banned emotions of fear and pity." Gellrich responds: "By acquiescing to the view that the hierarchy of gender is preserved in the dramatic conflation of the masculine and the feminine, we arguably fail to read the resistance of tragic voices to the systems that the dominant culture would want to put upon them" (48).

(44.) Berger 46 remarks: "A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually."

(45.) The technique of containing the female spectator can be seen in Frontisi-Ducroux's citation (89) of a rare frontal representation of a woman on the fragmentary tondo of a red figure cup (S1350). Her gaze is contained in that she is looking at herself in a mirror.

(46.) Lisa (played by the highly watchable Grace Kelly) at first joins her lover (James Stewart) in spying on the neighbors in his apartment complex. She exchanges her role as voyeur for that of image or text when she enters the apartment of the man whom they suspect of murdering his wife. Modleski 82-83 points out that the cinematic audience does not maintain a voyeuristic distance from the text at this moment, because the suspense of watching Lisa invites audience identification. "In this respect," she writes, "we do in fact all become masochists at the cinema."

(47.) Textual corruption obscures the meaning of this passage, and it should be noted that Page's text, which I have translated, is not the paradosis. Even so this emended text is far from clear. Thomson makes tolerable sense by suggesting that (LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII) refers to "shadow painting," a technique perhaps akin to charcoal or pastel drawings. (See Zeitlin 1994: 139-40 for the suggestion that skiagraphia had its origins in the theatre.) The notion of skiagraphia in this context is attractive because it sets up the subsequent artistic metaphor. Rose, however, takes the metaphor as "wiping out rough notes written with lampblack and water" (95). For the idea that a (LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII) may be wiped off a slate, see Euripides' Helen who wishes "that like a picture, I had been rubbed out and done again" (Hel. 262).

(48.) The Agamemnon is arguably the earliest extant play to have actors entering and exiting the skene, but whether this means that it also featured some device for revealing interior scenes is a controversial issue. Taplin 1977: 325-27 finds no textual evidence in this scene for the use of an ekkyklema, and prefers to imagine that the corpses were carried outside by mute attendants. Wiles 1997: 162-63 argues that this would create a break in the action and regards the ekkyklema as "plainly the simplest way to bring on the tableau ..."

(49.) This dual response of the audience of a drama conforms to a pair of aesthetic responses that Stewart terms "seeing as" and "seeing in." Homer. for example, has Odysseus (Od. 19.225-31) describe a brooch first by highlighting the verisimilitude of its depiction of a hound holding a struggling deer. The audience sees the brooch as a hound and deer. Then Odysseus remarks on the object's material and construction and how the spectators could see the animals in the brooch. These concurrent responses illustrate how "mimesis and fracture in Greek art tend to go hand in hand" (Stewart 44), and how they are analogous to the reception of tragedy. The audience sees the tragedy as the actions of the heroic characters, but they also see those actions and characters in the masks, costumes, and conventions of the theatre.

(50.) Versions of this article were presented at the fall meeting of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States in Philadelphia, October 1997, and at the annual meeting of thc American Philological Association in Chicago, December 1997. I am grateful for comments from the audience an both occasions and for the useful criticism of the two Helios referees. All errors remain my own. I also acknowledge financial support from an Initiatory Research Grant (funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada) from Wilfrid Laurier University.


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Date:Mar 22, 1999
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