How can an endless and violently destructive cycle be just? The concept appears in places along the human timeline as diverse as the Bible and West Side Story. Why do people have a tendency to amplify and repeat violence through a cycle of murder and revenge, and how can this destructive process be called justice? In The Oresteia, the cycle is a familiar one, but is also interweaved with gender issues and a sense of justice that changes within the cycle itself. Instead of focusing on one book of the trilogy, I think it will be more worthwhile to see how these patterns flow through all three books.
The first chapter of the trilogy is the story of Agamemnon, the war hero of Troy who returns home after 10 years. The King had left on a rather sour note, having murdered his daughter Iphigenia to appease the Gods in order for the fleet to sail for Troy. Clytomnestra, the Queen, cannot understand the sacrifice. This is the first occurrence of the so-called gender battle in the trilogy. Agamemnon’s actions are typical of the classic Greek ‘male’ point of view. He is mostly concerned with issues of war, honor and the welfare of the city. Clytomnestra, in contrast, is more concerned with ‘female’ issues, such as the welfare of the family. The Queen, during the King’s absence, becomes obsessed with her daughter’s death, and takes a new lover to the exclusion of her remaining children in an attempt to steal control over the city. When Agamemnon returns, instead of a faithful wife he finds a quick death at the hands of Aegithus. It is interesting to note that another person is also killed, an innocent. Clytomnestra kills Cassandra, a prophetic girl brought home from Troy, on a whim...
... middle of paper ...
...ause it would only allow him to act out more injustice. Still, the idea of making him a better person relative to the values of society is somewhat anti-Socratic. Socrates would rather there be an absolute ideal, without room for human opinion or emotion. Unfortunately, practical situation often preclude the actualization of his ideal. His logic still entails to the idea of relative justice. In modern terms, this would be akin to sentencing criminals to time in therapy or mental health institutes rather than incarceration. This is not so radical a departure from what proponents of capital punishment suggest. But is society ready for a justice system where the guilty are not punished? I don’t think so. As sad as it may seem, the human tendency for hate overrides true justice.
Aeschylus. Oresteia. Trans. Peter Meineck. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Oresteia - The Issue of Justice in Aeschylus' Eumenides The concept of justice is manifested through the three plays of Aeschylus' Oresteia. The old tradition of justice, the private blood feud, caused an ungoverned succession of violent acts that spiralled uncontrollably. Aegisthus, Clytemnestra's lover, is introduced in Agamemnon; he desires vengeance for the plot contrived by Agamemnon's father (Ag: 1605-1611).1 Neither Agamemnon nor Aegisthus took part in this "plot" and yet as the chorus explains (Ag: 755-6) 'But ancient Violence longs to breed, new violence comes when its fatal hour comes,' The justice system of this period demanded that one avenge the death of a family me... [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia]
2472 words (7.1 pages)
- Justice and Aeschylus' Oresteia At first glance, the picture of justice found in the Oresteia appears very different from that found in Heraclitus. And indeed, at the surface level there are a number of things which are distinctly un-Heraclitean. However, I believe that a close reading reveals more similarities than differences; and that there is a deep undercurrent of the Heraclitean world view running throughout the trilogy. In order to demonstrate this, I will first describe those ways in which the views of justice in Aeschylus' Oresteia and in Heraclitus appear dissimilar.... [tags: Oresteia Essays]
3391 words (9.7 pages)
- Justice and Social Order in The Oresteia Democracy, emerging in the city-state of Athens, allowed unprecedented power to her citizens. Among these new powers was the ability to legislate. Yet, legislation was not without its problems. First the citizens must agree upon what is just and unjust, and then enforce the law by bringing the unjust to reconcile their guilt with the public through trial, and finally dispense the appropriate penalty. This evolution was not without concern. The Greeks were attempting to establish a governmental system which would span the middle ground between anarchy and despotism.... [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia]
1154 words (3.3 pages)
- The Resolution of Conflict in Aeschylus' Oresteia Aeschylus, was a master dramatist - he liked to portray conflict between persons, human or divine, or between principles.1 His trilogy of plays, the Oresteia, develops many conflicts that must be resolved during the action of the Eumenides, the concluding play of the trilogy. The central theme of the Oresteia is justice (dike) and in dealing with questions of justice, Aeschylus at every stage involves the gods.2 The Oresteia's climactic conflict in the Eumenides revolves around justice and the gods - opposing conceptions of justice and conflicting classes of gods.... [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia]
1871 words (5.3 pages)
- When a person is accused of a crime they are either found innocent or guilty. This is the basic idea of justice and it is what many feel needs to happen if someone has done something controversial. In the play The Oresteia by Aeschylus, the story of Clytemnestra guilt or innocents is questioned. She does many things that people are not too happy with and those controversial actions throughout the story, mainly in the first part Agamemnon get her into the trouble. As we explore the case that builds against her innocents by exploring the killings of Agamemnon and Cassandra and the boastful expression about the killings.... [tags: Oresteia Aeschylus]
1104 words (3.2 pages)
- The Cycle of Vengeance in Aeschylus’s Oresteia The cyclic thread of vengeance runs like wild fire through the three plays in Aeschylus’s Oresteia. This thread, with its complexity of contemporary and universal implications lends itself quite well to – in fact, almost necessitates – deeply interested study. While a brief summary of the Oresteia will inevitably disregard some if not much of the trilogy’s essence and intent, on the positive side it will establish a platform of characters, events, and motives with which this paper is primarily concerned.... [tags: Oresteia Essays]
2434 words (7 pages)
- The Imagery of Bloodshed in The Oresteia In the prologue of Agamemnon, the first play of Aeschylus' trilogy, The Oresteia, the watchman implores the gods for "a blessed end to all our pain." (20). He is asking for deliverance from the retributive system of justice, where the only certainty is that bloodshed breeds more bloodshed. The old men of the chorus in their opening chant, "Hymn to Zeus," declare that suffering must be experienced before man can be released from this ceaseless irredeemable bloodshed and thus be, "free from all the pain." (1) They declare that it is a law laid down by Zeus "that we must suffer, suffer into truth./ We cannot sleep, and drop by drop a... [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia]
3451 words (9.9 pages)
- The Conflict in The Eumenides of The Oresteia In The Eumenides, the third book of The Oresteia, there exists a strong rivalry between the Furies and the god Apollo; from the moment of their first confrontation in Apollo’s temple at Delphi, it is clear that the god and the spirits are opposing forces. Their actions bring them into direct conflict, and both of them are stubbornly set on achieving their respective goals while at the same time interfering with or preventing the actions of the other.... [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia]
1372 words (3.9 pages)
- The Strong Women in The Orestia by Aeschylus To most readers, the women of The Orestia are evil and vindictive, a disgrace to all chaste and righteous women. Aeschylus portrayed women as equals to men, which was not the opinion of most Greeks at the time. Although he showed some of his women characters as evil, he granted them power, and emasculated the men around them. Unlike Homer, the women of Aeschylus show both ranges of emotions, both the good and the bad. A woman portrayed as a villain may be thought of negatively, but the fact that a female is allowed to be the villain, to take action, and leave other men helpless to the choices that she makes, it is a great step. In the time... [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia Essays]
1526 words (4.4 pages)
- Justice in the Oresteia Justice is often taken for granted in the world we live in today with a judicial system that gives fair punishment for most crimes. In the Oresteia justice works much differently, where there are no judges or a court system to resolve disputes, instead there is revenge. Revenge is very messy because somebody will and has to get hurt first to desire revenge, and it leads to a cycle that cannot and will not end until everybody is dead. Justice does not and cannot only be revenge because in the end nobody would be left in that system.... [tags: Papers]
844 words (2.4 pages)