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Analysis of the Main Conflict in Suppliants by Aeschylus

Suppliants by Aeschylus

Suppliants by Aeschylus have a big influence on those who read it. Even famous literature critics asserted that Aeschylus demonstrated high skills, as a poet, and succeeded in opening the specific core of the drama. He also skillfully used chore to support the effect and strengthen the emotions of the reader. The crucial aspect is that drama highlights a great number of the problematic aspects that continue to be challenging, even in modern society. However, its main conflict was the hesitations of the king that concerned making the right decision. It was hard for the king to choose the right solution because both solutions could lead to bloodshed. Thus, Suppliants by Aeschylus concentrated on the ability of the king to make the appropriate decision, whether to allow Danaids and his daughters to come to his lands or refuse them, which could result in suicide and pollution of the land, but Argos people helped to save the holiness of their land.

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The Plot of Suppliants by Aeschylus

The work of Aeschylus impressed its readers with the remarkable charm of choral odes, which enforced the emotions and, from time to time, reminded the psalms of Hebrew people. The plot of the drama comprised of the flee of Danaids and his daughters from the sons of the Aigyptos from Egypt, who wanted to marry suppliants. Danaids came to Argos to request protection from king Pelasgos (Rufus). He asked to give the shelter in honor to the Argos and his great-great-great-grandmother Io, who got the amorous attention of Zeus. The relation of Io and Zeus led to the birth of Epaphos, who was the great-grandfather of Aigyptos and Danaos (Zelenak 2). Paying attention to the family ties with Zeus, Pelasgos, after discussing the issue with Argo’s inhabitants, agreed to give the shelter to Danaids and his daughters. The decision was not easy to make and it affected the relations with Egypt that resulted in the outbreak of war. Therefore, the Egyptian herald arrived at the shelter of Danaids to drag him back to the sons of Aigyptos. These events ended the drama Suppliants, but the plot continued to develop in the trilogy, called Egyptians and Danaids (Zelenak 6). This trilogy describes the conquest of lands and forcing of Danaids to support the marriage of his daughters with the sons of Aigyptos (Rufus). Danaids promised to let his daughters marry the sons of Aigyptos, despite the fact that they were against such yielding (Zelenak 15). However, Danaids had a secret plan and gave every daughter the dagger to kill their husbands during the first wedding night, which they did.

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The dramatic end impressed all readers. Grote mentioned that the author skillfully used drama to raise the ethical issues in this literary piece of art, despite the fact that this aspect was previously applied more by the poets. Grote also noticed that the masterpiece of Aeschylus became a real challenge to the intellect that helped the readers to reconsider the actual issues that society is facing (Rufus).

Hesitations of Pelasgos Concerning the Right Decision

The main conflict of the drama is comprised of the long hesitations of Pelasgos before taking the right decision concerning the providence of shelter to Danaids (Zelenak 26). He understood the significant danger that the cooperation with Danaids could bring because the sons of Aegyptus had serious and even hostile intentions. Thus, the support of Danaids and his daughters was a death warrant to him and to his kingdom (Rufus). The dilemma that faced the king became the main conflict of the drama. It was obvious that Danaids found specific approaches to convince Pelasgos inappropriateness to give them shelter. However, the king could not make the right decision for a long time. King’s hesitations were apparent because he kept asking numerous questions concerning the conflict between the Danaids and Aegyptus (Rufus). The range of questions emerged after Danaids mentioned the Argive ancestry (Zelenak 79). After the long discussion that took place in the form of inquirer and respondent, Pelasgos stated that they did not look like the Argives descendants. He asserted that the guests had features that belonged more to the other races and reminded Lybian or Cyprian women (The Suppliants by Aeschylus, 12). Such a fact strongly represents the hesitations of the king because of understanding the real threats that such unity can bring. Seeing the firm character of the king, Danaids began to apply more serious threats (Rufus). Danaids threatened the king to commit suicide and hang himself and his daughters in the holy shrines of the Argos that meant pollution of the place. Such a statement significantly influenced Pelasgos, and he noticed:

Yes, I see difficulties everywhere, hard to wrestle with:

A surge of troubles overwhelms me like a river.

I have entered upon a sea of ruin, bottomless and dangerous,

With nowhere a harbour to escape from misfortune.

If I do not fulfill this duty to help you,

Yoi threatened us with pollution unsurpassed;

But if I stand against your cousins, Aigipros sons,

Before our walls and fight the matter out,

Is the cost not a bitter one, that men

Should soak the earth in blood for womens sake?

Yet I must fear the wrath of Zeus, the suppliants god:

For mortals that is the supreme fear (The Suppliants by Aeschylus, 23).

The strong influence on the decision of Pelasgos also had the capitalization of Danaids on the fact that Zeus was the god of the suppliants. Besides, when the suppliants came to Argos, they immediately got two things that worked in their favor (Rufus). The first one is their claim to kinship with the Argos, grounded on the mythic infringement of Io by Zeus. The second crucial aspect was the piety of Argos and Pelasgos. Such specific claims outlined the reverence of Pelasgos to Zeus, and the double connection of Zeus with Danaids because of the family ties and protection of suppliants by the god (Rufus). The main goal of such a statement was to persuade the king of the inevitable negative consequences of the suicide, committed by Danaids. Thus, Danaidss emphasis on both, the obligation to the family and to the suppliants, increased the possibility to be protected. Pelargos understood that the above-mentioned facts were crucial and he must give the shelter to Danaids (Zelenak 71). Besides, their kingship will help to avoid bloodshed because of the suicide and will prevent anger of gods, especially of Zeus (Rufus). However, he simultaneously had to think about the well-being of Argos people, who could be involved in the war.

Such a specific situation shows that whatever the Pelasgos decided to do with his unexpected guests, his earth would be poured by blood (Zelenak 75). Consequently, the king made a decision to discuss the dilemma with the Argos to take the right and common decision. The voting resulted in the consent of Argos to accept the suppliants and start a war with the Egyptians (Rufus). However, numerous critics consider that the decision of the king was taken before the voting. It was predictable because the plot of the drama is saturated with the comments of a chore that convinced the king to give shelter to the suppliants:

Justice, the daughter of right-dealing Zeus,

Justice, the queen of suppliants, look down,

That this our plight no ill may loose

Upon your town! (The Suppliants by Aeschylus, 36).

Consequently, when the sons of Aegyptus came to take the suppliants, Pelasgos did not allow them to do that:

Know that if words unstained by violence Can change these maidens’ choice, then mayest thou, With full consent of theirs, conduct them hence. But thus the city with one voice ordained- No force shall bear away the maiden band (The Suppliants by Aeschylus, 49).

The answer of the herald of Aegyptus was foreseeable, he said that Methinks we stand on some new edge of war: Be strength and triumph on the young men’s side! Thus, the expectations of Pelosgos converted into reality. However, the Argos people prepared for such an end and were ready to protect their lands. For them to die in the fight was more honorable than to live on the polluted land.


The analysis of Suppliants by Aeschylus showed that the obligations of the king were not meant to only rule people but also to take the appropriate decisions, despite their complicated core. Danaids took all forces to convince the king of the necessity to allow them to come to the lands of Pelasgos. He emphasized the presence of family ties and anger of Zeus, in case he will refuse them. Danaids also intended to commit suicide and pollute the lands of Argos. However, despite the great number of Danaids threads, Pelasgos had to think about his people and their safety. He definitely knew that providence of shelter would lead to war. The hesitations of the king were apparent, and he tried to find various reasons to not allow Danaids to come to his lands, but the guest did not retreat. However, the voting of Argos induced him to take the common decision that resulted in the outbreak of war but helped to save the honor of people and holiness of the land.


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