Essay on Oresteia - The Issue of Justice in Aeschylus' Eumenides

Essay on Oresteia - The Issue of Justice in Aeschylus' Eumenides

Length: 2472 words (7.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

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 member, this can be seen in The Libation Bearers (Lib:45-60)

'The proud dead stir under the earth,

they rage against the ones who took their lives.'

So Aegisthus must take the life of Agamemnon (because Agamemnon's father is not available) in order to let his father's spirit rest. Thus, one need not have an active part in a wrongdoing to be slain for it in the name of justice; one simply had to be members of the same family as the wrongdoer. This ability to substitute family members for vengeance purposes led to a back and forth phenomenon between two families, as soon as one family avenged its member by 'kill(ing) the killers in return' (Lib: 149) the other would pay them back in kind. As the chorus proclaims (Lib: 394-8)

'It is the law: when the blood of slaughter

wets the ground it wants more blood.

Slaughter cries for the Fury

of those long dead to bring destruction

on destruction churning in its wake!'

Similarly, Clytemnestra wants retribution for the fact that Agamemnon brought misery (A...


... middle of paper ...


...stage a trial scene with a jury and an enacted vote, a genuine coup de theatre not apparently emulated by his successors.' So Aeschylus was a pioneer and the originator of Ally McBeal and Perry Mason. I think he would be very happy about that.

Works Cited

Aeschylus 'The Oresteia' (translation: R. Fagles) Penguin (1977)

Cartledge, P. "Deep plays": Theatre as process in Greek Civic Life' in P.E. Easterling The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy Cambridge (1997)

Conacher, D.J. Aeschylus' Oresteia: A Literary Commentary Toronto (1987)

Goldhill, S. 'The Language of Tragedy: Rhetoric and Communication' in P.E. Easterling The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy Cambridge (1997)

Notes

1.   All references to the text are taken from Fagles, R. translation (1977).

2.   For more on this subject read Conacher, D.J.  (1987) pages 197-212

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Justice in Aeschylus' The Oresteia Essay

- Justice in Aeschylus' The Oresteia 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....   [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia]

Powerful Essays
1534 words (4.4 pages)

Essay about Justice and Aeschylus' Oresteia

- 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]

Free Essays
3391 words (9.7 pages)

Essay on The Power of Zeus Teleios in the Oresteia

- The Power of Zeus Teleios in the Oresteia         Is the action in the Oresteia preordained. Is the trilogy simply a working through of destiny and fate; the ultimate telos of the events being the downfall of the house of Atreus. Are the characters in the story destroyed by themselves or by the necessity of the deeds that are carried out. These are some of the questions I will discuss in this essay.   I wish to concentrate on the end of the story as we know it, the Eumenides, with reference to character portrayal in the previous parts of the trilogy....   [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia]

Free Essays
3299 words (9.4 pages)

Essay on Eumenides - Resolution of Conflict in Aeschylus' Oresteia

- 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]

Powerful Essays
1871 words (5.3 pages)

Essay on Eumenides - Importance of Gender in Aeschylus' Oresteia

- The Importance of Gender in Aeschylus' Oresteia          Gender is made explicit as a theme throughout the Oresteia through a series of male-female conflicts and incorrectly gendered characters dominated by the figure of Clytemnestra, a woman out of place. This opposition of gender then engenders all the other oppositions of the trilogy; conflicts of oikos and polis, chthonic and Olympian, old and young can be assigned to female and male spheres respectively.  In this essay I will look at how the polis examines itself in terms of gender by focusing on the Eumenides' exploration of the myth of matriarchy, issues of the conflict between oikos and polis and the use of speech within the polis....   [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia]

Powerful Essays
3666 words (10.5 pages)

Essay Reproduction of the Oikos in Aeschylus’ Oresteia

- Aeschylus’ Oresteia is the chronicles of a cursed family that includes a circle of betrayal, adultery, and murder, among other things. The Greek word oikos can be used to describe the Greek family structure. In Homer’s Odyssey, two polar opposites of oikoi are given. First, the son of Odysseus’ son Telemachus meets Nestor, who symbolizes a near-perfect oikos . The family is involved in a large sacrificial feast upon the arrival of Telemachus . He also utilizes xenia, the Greek word for manners or the ideal guest-host relationship, to perfection....   [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia ]

Powerful Essays
2296 words (6.6 pages)

The Conflict in The Eumenides of The Oresteia Essay

- 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]

Powerful Essays
1372 words (3.9 pages)

Essay on The Powerful Clytemnestra in Aeschylus' Oresteia

- The Powerful Clytemnestra in Aeschylus' Oresteia What Price Glory. was the title of a Maxwell Anderson play about World War I. Although the Oresteia deals with the period following a much different war, the same question can be asked of it. In the trilogy Aeschylus presents the reader with a stunning example of ancient Greek society, in which warrior ideals were firmly held, and glory in battle was considered the supreme good. The question of moral justification in the trilogy brings in many complex issues, but all of them revolve around the construction of Greek society and the role of different individuals in this system....   [tags: Aeschylus Oresteia]

Powerful Essays
2076 words (5.9 pages)

The Oresteia by Aeschylus: Guilty or Innocent Essay

- 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]

Free Essays
1104 words (3.2 pages)

The Oresteia, Aeschylus Essay

- In “The Oresteia” trilogy, the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus advocates the importance of the male role in society over that of the female. The entire trilogy can be seen as a subtle proclamation of the superiority of men over women. Yet, the women create the real interest in the plays. Their characters are the impetus that makes everything occur. The most complex and compelling character in the three plays is Clytaemnestra. Clytaemnestra is consumed with thoughts of revenge. She seeks vengeance on Agamemnon for the loss of their daughter, Iphigeneia whose life was forfeited in order to appease the goddess Artemis so that Agamemnon's troops would be allowed passage to the Trojan shore....   [tags: The Oresteia Trilogy]

Powerful Essays
870 words (2.5 pages)