On the Fourth Choral Song of Seneca’s Agamemnon


The paper argues that in Seneca’s Agamemnon Ode IV is not an interlude but is thematically associated with its wider context. The glorified Hercules is implicitly presented as the opposite of Aegisthus: the hero is a fearless man, as opposed to Agamemnon’s effeminate cousin (Aegisthus has a hand in murdering the mighty king, but even then he is surpassed by a woman). Furthermore, the prolongation of night during Hercules’ conception can be compared to the eclipse of the sun at the time Aegisthus is conceived; actually, the myth surrounding Hercules’ conception is the only bright incident in a tragedy abundant with negative time irregularities. Another problem raised by Ode IV concerns the identity of the chorus that sings it. The paper argues in favor of the view that the ode is sung by the chorus of Mycenaean maidens rather than the second chorus in the play, the Trojan captive women; in this case, it is probable that the two choruses do not exchange costumes and masks, but that the Mycenaeans enter to sing Ode IV immediately after the Trojan captives exit along with Agamemnon.