⎯ Robert Fagles and W. B. Stanford, “Introduction: The Serpent and the Eagle”
It is without fail that throughout Aeschylus’ trilogy, The Oresteia, the presence of light and dark can be found in the characters, the plot and the themes. The trilogy follows the House of Atreus its emergence from darkness into the light. However, the light and darkness are often presented symbolically throughout the trilogy and often appear as pairs, which are constantly at odds with each other like Clytaemnestra versus Orestes and Apollo verses the Furies. Light and dark are not defined, nor strictly categorized, as good against evil, rather they move towards the primal versus civilized nature of the culture, and the two merging, and moving into a new era of Greek civilization. The dark is not pure evil, the light is not pure good; they are a coming together of two different times, and because of that transition, from primitive to civilized, tension builds and breaks, which causes the tragic events of The Oresteia throughout the three plays: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides.
In the introduction, “The Serpent and the Eagle”, written by Robert Fagles and W. B. Stanford, they write that the beginning of Agamemnon sets the tone and “rhythm” of the entire trilogy: “We begin in dark suspense: we are waiting for the light, and it no sooner dispels anxiety than a shadow falls again” (“The Serpent and the Eagle”, 24). This refers to the death of Agamemnon and the inevitable deaths of Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus at the hand of her own son, Orestes, which leads into the final play of the trilogy, and the ultimate e...
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...ning with him a new system and removing the darkness that had settled over the House of Atreus once and for all. The Eumenides provided a significant growth towards a rational, and democratic civilization in the Greek world: “It is in our progress from savagery to democracy, that it would seem that the gods may find the balance which they lacked, and earn a better warrant for authority” (“The Serpent and the Eagle”, 87). The light and dark have merged together, and brought a primitive world into a new Greek civilization.
Aeschylus. The Oresteia: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Group, 1979. Print.
Fagles, Robert and W. B. Stanford. Introduction: The Serpent and the Eagle. The Oresteia: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides. By Aeschylus. New York: Penguin Group, 1979. 13-97. Print.
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