Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Eumenides by Aeschylus

Tortured Orestes throws himself on the mercy of wise Athena

Orestes, pursued by the terrifying Furies after murdering his mother, journeys to Delphi to seek Apollo’s help in freeing himself from the unceasing torment. Apollo sends him to Athens where Athena convenes a jury of twelve freedmen to discover if Orestes truly deserves this horrible vengeance for the murder of a blood kin. After all, he was only asserting justice. The jury is tied, so Athena lets him go. The Furies object, but then Athena persuades them to move on from their primitive female-centric ways and join her in becoming the happy Guardians of the City of Athens.

Once again, the action is crystal clear, the theatricality imaginative and immense, the poetry tremendous, but this play, unlike the preceding two, adds additional level of meaning, a political one. Aeschylus is describing a civilized progress from a family based understanding of justice, to a society based understanding of justice. The gentle harmony at the end, the invoking of love, the purest opposition to the savage images at the end of Agamemnon. This play applauds the movement from the darkness of blood vengeance to the civilized light of Athena.

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