An analysis of the three plays in the oresteria

The death of Cassandra, the princess of Troy, taken captive by Agamemnon in order to fill a place as a concubine, can also be seen as an act of revenge for taking another woman as well as the life of Iphigenia.

The main idea of The Oresteia is that injustice and such primitive instruments of morality as the blood-feud must be eliminated if human society is ever to attain to a high level of social organization, which can only be done by the introduction of a public morality and civic legal processes.

Oresteia summary

The cycle of murder and revenge had come to an end while the foundation for future litigation had been laid. The old tradition of justice, the private blood feud, caused an ungoverned succession of violent acts that spiralled uncontrollably. Each play of the trilogy is a self-contained dramatic unit, although the endings of the first two plays lead naturally into the play that follows them. Aeschylus was able to use the curse in his play as an ideal formulation of tragedy in his writing. It is also in this part of the novel that it is discovered that the god Apollo played a part in the act of vengeance toward Clytemnestra through Orestes. At the command of the Delphic oracle, Orestes journeys to Athens to stand trial for his matricide. Contemporary background[ edit ] Some scholars believe that the trilogy is influenced by contemporary political developments in Athens. It may also be significant that Aeschylus makes Agamemnon lord of Argos, not, as Homer did[ clarification needed ], of nearby Mycenae, since about this time Athens had entered into an alliance with Argos. By Athena creating this blueprint the future of revenge-killings and the merciless hunting of the Furies would be eliminated from Greece. This does not mean that Agamemnon was not morally responsible. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. It follows the vicissitudes of the House of Atreus, from the murder of Agamemnon by his wife Clytemnestra , to the subsequent revenge wreaked by his son Orestes and its consequences. As Greeks of this epoch focused on humanist ideas, so did Aeschylus.

The trilogy thus ends with the cycle of retributive bloodshed closed and supplanted by the rule of law and the justice of the state.

Relation to the Curse of the House of Atreus[ edit ] The House of Atreus began with Tantalusson of Zeus, who murdered his son, Pelopsand attempted to feed him to the gods.

He devoted his genius to serious contemplations of humanistic questions, such as the nature of justice.

Oresteia themes

The work has extraordinary, sustained dramatic and poetic power. The Eumenides is the last book in which the Furies, who are in fact the goddesses of vengeance, seek to take revenge on Orestes for the murder of his mother. The death of Cassandra, the princess of Troy, taken captive by Agamemnon in order to fill a place as a concubine, can also be seen as an act of revenge for taking another woman as well as the life of Iphigenia. Seeing the Furies asleep, Clytemnestra 's ghost comes to wake them up to obtain justice on her son Orestes for killing her. The characters in the play often face difficulty when it comes to accepting the blame for their actions. In addition, there are certain underlying themes that continue from play to play and that reach their full resolution only at the conclusion of The Eumenides. It is also in this part of the novel that it is discovered that the god Apollo played a part in the act of vengeance toward Clytemnestra through Orestes. The old tradition of justice, the private blood feud, caused an ungoverned succession of violent acts that spiralled uncontrollably. They relentlessly pursue Orestes for the killing of his mother. There the goddess Athena organizes a trial with a jury of citizens. From the Watchman's opening speech through the Chorus' foreboding words and Cassandra's prophesies, the drama prepares the audience for the King's murder.

However, with Apollo stepping in to tell the truth about what had occurred, that he had in fact pushed Orestes to kill his own mother, Orestes can be seen to hold no moral responsibility over the death of Clytemnestra. To put it simply, the curse demands blood for blood, a never ending cycle of murder within the family.

Yet, the women create the real interest in the plays.

An analysis of the three plays in the oresteria

Each play of the trilogy is a self-contained dramatic unit, although the endings of the first two plays lead naturally into the play that follows them. The Odyssey was written in a time when men played the dominant role. The first play , Agamemnon, portrays the victorious return of that king from the Trojan War and his murder by his wife, Clytemnestra , and her lover, Aegisthus. The gods, however, were not easily tricked and so banished Tantalus to the Underworld and brought his son back to life. There is also an underlying metaphorical aspect to the entire drama: the change from archaic self-help justice by personal revenge or vendetta to the administration of justice by trial sanctioned by the gods themselves throughout the series of plays, symbolizes the passage from a primitive Greek society governed by instincts, to a modern democractic society governed by reason. We do not consider this content professional or citable. The Furies are his accusers, Apollo his advocate. The first significant violent development in the play is the theft of Helen and the Trojan War that followed; again and again, the Chorus declares that even the deaths following the conflict should be dropped at Helen's door. Contemporary background[ edit ] Some scholars believe that the trilogy is influenced by contemporary political developments in Athens. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. It all starts in Agamemnon with Clytemnestra, who murders her husband, Agamemnon, in order to obtain vengeance for his sacrificing of their daughter, Iphigenia. The siblings together invoke the aid of the dead Agamemnon in their plans. Other important themes covered by the trilogy include: the cyclical nature of blood crimes the ancient law of the Erinyes mandates that blood must be paid for with blood in an unending cycle of doom, and the bloody past history of the House of Atreus continues to affect events generation after generation in a self-perpetuating cycle of violence begetting violence ; the lack of clarity between right and wrong Agamemnon , Clytemnestra and Orestes are all faced with impossible moral choices, with no clearcut right and wrong ; the conflict between the old and the new gods the Erinyes represent the ancient, primitive laws which demand blood vengeance, while Apollo, and particularly Athena, represent the new order of reason and civilization ; and the difficult nature of inheritence and the responsibilities it carries with it. The city of Athens, whose patron goddess is the spirit of wisdom, is exalted as the model that people ought to emulate.

The cycle of revenge seems to be broken when Orestes is not killed by the Furies, but is instead allowed to be set free and deemed innocent by the goddess Athena.

Any of the three plays can be presented alone without too much loss of understanding, but the meaning and dramatic effect of the works is enhanced by production or reading of them as a group.

oresteia characters

The Oresteia was also the first Greek tragedy trilogy written. The Eumenides is the last book in which the Furies, who are in fact the goddesses of vengeance, seek to take revenge on Orestes for the murder of his mother.

The oresteia full text

The actual act of violence occurs off-stage, a traditional practice in Greek tragedy. Justice through retaliation Retaliation is seen in the Oresteia in a slippery slope form, occurring subsequently after the actions of one character to another. The cycle of murder and revenge had come to an end while the foundation for future litigation had been laid. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. And even after he gets away from them Clytemnestra's spirit comes back to rally them again so that they can kill Orestes and obtain vengeance for her. Two main characters that are prime examples of this are Orestes and Agamemnon. At the command of the Delphic oracle, Orestes journeys to Athens to stand trial for his matricide. Later in life Pelops and his family line were cursed by Myrtilus , a son of Hermes, catalyzing the curse of House Atreus. However, relatively few of these ancient Greek plays survive today. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

Other important themes covered by the trilogy include: the cyclical nature of blood crimes the ancient law of the Erinyes mandates that blood must be paid for with blood in an unending cycle of doom, and the bloody past history of the House of Atreus continues to affect events generation after generation in a self-perpetuating cycle of violence begetting violence ; the lack of clarity between right and wrong AgamemnonClytemnestra and Orestes are all faced with impossible moral choices, with no clearcut right and wrong ; the conflict between the old and the new gods the Erinyes represent the ancient, primitive laws which demand blood vengeance, while Apollo, and particularly Athena, represent the new order of reason and civilization ; and the difficult nature of inheritence and the responsibilities it carries with it.

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ᐅ THE ORESTEIA