Essay on The Arbitrary and Contradicting Nature of Mythological Justice

Essay on The Arbitrary and Contradicting Nature of Mythological Justice

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The workings of justice and what falls under it have been debated for a very long time, ever since men started to interact with one another. Some say justice is based on what is fair, lawful, or moral, but that only depends on what someone sees as fair, lawful, or moral. During the time of Aeschylus, justice was all three of them as well as none of them. Justice in itself was contradictory, and was subject to follow the whims of both man and god. This is seen especially in Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Furies, where from story to story someone’s views on justice were different than that of the person before them. However, they all did have one key component that they followed. This component was an edited version of Hammurabi’s code of an eye for an eye, and focused on vengeance and retribution as the primary reasons pushing for justice. In Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Furies, justice is an arbitrary term that is used to give reasoning to someone’s actions of vengeance and punishment of others.
When we first get into Agamemnon, we get a glimpse of what was happening while Agamemnon was gone to the Trojan War. Clytemnestra has been ruling in his place, and more importantly planning his death. She wanted him to die for sacrificing their daughter Iphigenia, which under her views was unforgivable and punishable. This is our first view of how justice is used as the title of vengeance and revenge, and how a character’s rectitude is used as a justification for their actions. Aeschylus shows us in his first play that not only was Clytemnestra’s view of justice for Iphigenia was for her to kill her daughter’s killer, but that she also believed that the gods would agree with her. This is seen in the play during when...


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Throughout the trilogy of plays written by Aeschylus, we see the word justice used when discussing what people deserve. Yet, vengeance and retaliation would have been a better word to use when discussing a character’s actions. In Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, as well as The Furies, the character’s used justice as a word to try to pretty up what they are doing, and make their actions seem more righteous. Their behavior was not even close to that though, as it was arbitrary, contradicting, and hypocritical through each story. Justice in mythological times had nothing to do with what was lawful and unbiased, and was instead about what they wanted personally, and was what they named and used to describe the vicious cycle of revenge and violence.



Works Cited

Aeschylus, Peter Meineck, and Helene P. Foley. Oresteia. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 1998.
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