Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Clytemnestra: Background information when reading Clytemnestra

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Clytemnestra

A Novel

by Costanza Casati

Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati X
Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2023, 448 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2024, 450 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

Clytemnestra

This article relates to Clytemnestra

Print Review

An 1882 oil painting by John Collier showing Clytemnestra, standing in a doorway and holding an axe, after having murdered Agamemnon Constanza Casati's Clytemnestra focuses on the life of the title character, known in mythology as the vengeful wife of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, Greece. In her novel, Casati paints a full and nuanced picture of this much-villainized figure.

Clytemnestra is the daughter of Leda, a princess who becomes a Spartan queen. According to different versions of the myth, while married to the king Tyndareus, Leda is either raped or seduced by the god Zeus, who approaches her while disguised in the form of a swan. She subsequently gives birth to Clytemnestra and her sister Helen. Later in life, Helen is either kidnapped or willingly drawn away from her husband Menelaus by the Trojan prince Paris, leading to the events of the Trojan War. Clytemnestra's husband Agamemnon, the brother of Menelaus, is charged with leading Greek forces to battle with Troy. However, Agamemnon angers the goddess Artemis — according to some sources, by killing a deer in a sacred grove. As a result, Artemis stills all wind, preventing the Greek ships from setting sail unless Agamemnon offers his daughter Iphigenia as a human sacrifice, which he agrees to — though in some accounts he saves her by replacing her with a deer.

One of the best-known mythological works in which Clytemnestra appears is the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus's Oresteia trilogy. In these plays, Clytemnestra plots revenge against her husband for the death of her daughter with her lover Aegisthus while Agamemnon is at war. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus murder Agamemnon after his return, also killing the mistress he has brought back with him, Cassandra of Troy. Clytemnestra and Aesgisthus are subsequently killed by Clytemnestra's son Orestes, with help from his sister Electra. Clytemnestra also appears in Homer's Odyssey, plays by Sophocles and Euripides, and other works.

Casati's portrayal of Clytemnestra is notable because the character has often been considered a cold-blooded villain, her story a cautionary tale demonstrating the antithesis of what a good wife and woman is expected to be. But it's never been too much of a stretch to imagine her as a more sympathetic figure. She may be a murderer, but her desire for revenge springs from her husband's own willingness to give up their daughter's life.

In an article for Lit Hub, Natalie Haynes, author of the Trojan War retelling A Thousand Ships, writes, "[W]hy is Agamemnon's life valued more highly—by everyone except Clytemnestra—than Iphigenia's? Why was Agamemnon not pursued by the Furies for the unforgivable crime of killing his daughter? Why was it left to Clytemnestra to avenge her? Why do Electra and Orestes have so much more respect for the wishes of their dead, murderous father than for their living, murderous mother, and indeed their dead, blameless sister?"

Casati explains in an interview that she was drawn to Clytemnestra as a character because "in the ancient texts, she is truly unforgettable: fierce and ambitious, protective of the ones she loves, feared and respected for the power she holds, and she doesn't let the men around her belittle her."

Clytemnestra after the murder (1882) by John Collier, Guildhall Art Gallery, via Art UK

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

This "beyond the book article" relates to Clytemnestra. It originally ran in May 2023 and has been updated for the March 2024 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Long After We Are Gone
    Long After We Are Gone
    by Terah Shelton Harris
    Terah Shelton Harris's marvelous family drama Long After We Are Gone begins with the death of the ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhibit
    Exhibit
    by R O. Kwon
    Exhibit, R.O. Kwon's sophomore novel (after The Incendiaries, 2018), introduces readers to Jin Han, ...
  • Book Jacket: Somehow
    Somehow
    by Anne Lamott
    Anne Lamott knows a thing or two about love. In fact, there is so much of it exuding from her essay ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Wings Upon Her Back
    by Samantha Mills
    Faith is a delicate thing. At its best, it can offer peace in times of crisis. At its worst, it can ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Long After We Are Gone
by Terah Shelton Harris
After their father's death, four siblings rally to save their family home in this gripping and hopeful tale.
Book Jacket
The Pecan Children
by Quinn Connor
Two sisters deeply tied to their small Southern town fight to break free of the darkness swallowing the land whole.
Win This Book
Win Bright and Tender Dark

Bright and Tender Dark by Joanna Pearson

A beautifully written, wire-taut debut novel about a murder on a college campus and its aftermath twenty years later.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A W in S C

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.