Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave) is the unhappily-married middle-aged classics master at a public school. The tragedy of his life is the fact that while he passionately loves teaching, he succeeds only in making himself disliked.
Ailing and timid, he is nicknamed “the Crock”, jeered at by the boys, scorned by his colleagues, and hated by his unfaithful wife, Millie. He accepted all these facts long ago and has developed a protective armour which he uses indiscriminately to ward off human contacts altogether.
In the events of two days, his lifework and his hopes for the future seem smashed. Then one of the boys, Taplow (Brian Smith) – not particularly bright but of more than average discernment – instinctively suspects the existence of a human being behind the forbidding front put up by his master.
Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, he pierces the Crock’s armour with the presentation of a parting gift – a second-hand copy of Robert Browning’s version of Agamemnon of Aeschylus (hence the title).
In the last few minutes before he leaves the school (he is retiring due to ill health), the Crock makes an unexpected gesture of defiance towards the headmaster who has for so long humiliated him but finds in the unexpected applause which greets his frank apology to the assembled school the faith and courage to face his new life alone.
Redgrave has never been better as he turns in a brilliant emotional performance as the persecuted schoolmaster. Jean Kent is good as the treacherous wife, and Nigel Patrick shines as Frank Hunter, the young science master who falls for her, and then discovers her true nature.
Based on a one-act play by Terence Rattigan. A 1994 remake starred Albert Finney and Greta Scacchi.