Eumenides Summary Classics 320
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Date Created: 10/14/15
Eumenides Summary First Episode 0 The play is a few days after the closing scene of The Libation Bearers 0 Outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi the Priestess of Apollo enters chanting a prayer to the multiple gods 0 Fourth and last in the succession at the sanctuary is Apollo I He has been has the power of prophecy and has this oracle as the spokesman of his father Zeus 0 The priestess goes into the temple 0 There is a short pause then she rushes out in terror 0 She says a man covered with blood and holding a sword is kneeling at the altar in the posture of supplication 0 Also asleep on the oor around him are a group of ugly creatures in black 0 The priestess says the matter is too mysterious for anyone but Apollo and exits 0 The doors open to reveal the scene as described earlier but Apollo and Hermes are standing beside Orestes 0 Apollo says that he will not forsake Orestes and that the Furies are creatures from hell hated by as much by the gods as they are by humans 0 Apollo says the Furies will always pursue Orestes and that he must endure them 0 Eventually he will arrive at Athens the holy city of Athena I There he will find sanctuary and his af ictions will come to an end 0 Apollo absolves Orestes of responsibility for the murder of Clytemnestra by saying quotIt was I who made you strike your mother downquot 0 He tells Orestes not to lose heart and orders Hermes to watch over him 0 Apollo goes out followed by Orestes and Hermes 0 A moment later the ghost of Clytemnestra enters 0 She is angry that the Furies have fallen asleep and that Orestes escaped 0 She reviles the chorus for their failure and reminds them of the offerings she made to them while she was still alive I The Furies awaken and realize that Orestes has eluded them 0 Clytemnestra urges the Furies to hunt down the culprit and torment him until his death then she exits 0 The Furies awaken and howl angrily about Orestes quotthe hunted beastquot 0 They claim that Apollo has overstepped limits of propriety by helping him 0 They accuse the younger godsquot of having gained sovereignty through force and of lacking respect for the ancient deities and laws 0 The Furies shout that Orestes will never escape them despite interference 0 The murder of Clytemnestra will be avenged by a member of the family carrying the bloody curse on the family of Atreus into another generation Second Episode 0 Apollo enters again and orders the Furies to leave his temple at once lest he set loose the power of his sacred arrows against them 0 He warns that his temple is too holy a place for them and that their rightful place is wherever blood is being shed and people are suffering O The chorus demand that Apollo acknowledge his own guilt in this crime for it was he who ordered Orestes to commit matricide 0 Apollo defends himself by saying he ordered Orestes to avenge the murder of Agamemnon In response the Furies accuse Apollo of having given sanctuary to Orestes despite his bloodguilt and of having abused them the avengers of Clytemnestra Apollo states that the Furies did not punish Clytemnestra for killing Agamemnon 0 They say Agamemnon was not blood relation to his wife so his murder did not come within their province Apollo says that marriage is the most sacred of all bonds 0 If the Furies ignored the murder of a husband by a wife they have no right to hound Orestes for bringing his father39s murderer to justice The Furies say they will pursue Orestes without mercy and will see him punished Apollo says that he will continue to assist the fugitive O The chorus and Apollo exit The scene changes to Athens outside the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis 0 A lapse of several years has taken place Orestes enters and clings to the feet of Athena s statue as a suppliant 0 He tells the goddess that he has come on the advice of Apollo Long wandering has purged him of his bloodguilt 0 Now he awaits his trial and her judgment The Chorus of Furies re enter in hot pursuit of Orestes 0 They see him at the statue and warn he cannot escape by appealing to Athena for he must pay for Clytemnestra s blood with his own 0 Hades the place of dead souls awaits him O Orestes prays to Athena again saying that he is no longer guilty because of the cleansing ritual he underwent at the Temple of Apollo after the murder and because of his long years of wandering and suffering O Orestes tells Athena that if she saves him and sets him free at last he and the kingdom of Argos will be the perpetual allies of Athens 0 The chorus states that their eternal function is to punish criminals and avenge unpunished murders 0 They do not harm the innocent but when a man is guilty as Orestes is they haunt him until his evil deeds have been paid for in full 0 They call on Night their mother to see Apollo39s pains to deter them in their duties 0 They say that their function was given to them at the dawn of time and they are relentless in carrying it out 0 Even gods can t interfere with the Furies for their role was given them by Destiny Third Episode 0 Athena enters having heard Orestes39 prayer in faroff Troy where she possesses land allotted to Athens by the victorious Greek chieftains 0 She is not frightened by the Furies and asks them and the stranger kneeling before her statue to explain their presence outside her temple 0 She reminds them all that her sacred precinct is a place of justice 0 The Furies explain that Orestes is guilty of matricide 0 After questioning them further Athena remarks that they seem more concerned with the forms of justice than with justice itself 0 The Furies invite her to interrogate Orestes and decide for herself about his guilt 0 Athena agrees but insists that the final judgment in the case be hers I The chorus confidently accepts her proposal Athena turns to Orestes and asks for his side of the story 0 He states again that he has already been purified for his crime Orestes and tells how Agamemnon was murdered by Clytemnestra on his return from Troy and how he later came back from exile and avenged his father39s death 0 He says that Apollo shares the responsibility for his crime because the god ordered him to commit matricide and threatened retribution if he failed I quotThis is my casequot Orestes says quotDecide if it be right or wrong I am in your hands Where my fate falls I shall acceptquot Athena states that the matter is too complex for any single mortal to judge and that even she does not have the right to decide the issue alone 0 It is a serious legal and moral dilemma so she will establish a court made up of the finest of citizens to hear the evidence and come to a decision Athena goes out to select the jurors promising that quotThey shall swear to make no judgment that is not just and make clear where in this action the truth liesquot The chorus warn of the danger of leniency toward crime 0 If Orestes is acquitted all the old laws will be overthrown I Justice will come to an end and evil will become dominant I Men will commit crimes without fear of punishment 0 Fear of authority and punishment is an essential element of society the foundation of all law and order for it restrains men from crime I It is themselves the Furies who embody this authority 0 They never harm men who are innocent and they punish trans gressors 0 Humanity should seek neither anarchy nor the slavery of tyranny but the middle path where freedom and law are balanced and where good behavior that proceeds from goodness of heart is rewarded 0 Above all the chorus says there must be reverence for justice for sin begets sin and the evil always perish Fourth Episode 0 Athena enters followed by the twelve jurors and a herald 0 Apollo comes in with Orestes and announces that he intends to assist the defendant 0 Athena calls the new court to order and invites the Furies as plaintiffs to begin the trial by presenting their case 0 The chorus questions Orestes he admits having killed Clytemnestra but says that he was ordered to commit the crime by Apollo 0 He demands to know why the Furies did not punish Clytemnestra for the murder of Agamemnon I They reply that Clytemnestra has already been punished by her death at his hands I Besides since Agamemnon was not her blood relation his murder has no bearing on this case 0 Confused by the course his trial is taking Orestes asks Apollo to speak for him 0 Orestes says that he willingly admits the murder but does not himself know whether he did right or wrong 0 Apollo asserts that all the oracles he has ever spoken have been in accordance with the will of Zeus O The oracle by which he commanded Orestes to murder his mother was no exception and embodied the express wishes of Zeus He warns the jurors that the will of Zeus has more force than the oaths they have taken to judge according to their own understanding of the case So in other words the chorus remark Zeus himself said that Orestes could murder his mother with impunity 0 Apollo ignores this and says that the death of Agamemnon wasn t similar to Clytemnestra s for Agamemnon was king and was killed by treachery The chorus reply that Apollo seems to be suggesting that Zeus regards the murder of a father as the most serious of crimes yet Zeus himself bound his own father Kronos in chains 0 How can he reconcile these contradictions I This question makes Apollo violently angry and he insults the Furies as quotfoul animalsquot 0 He says that Zeus can undo the chains that bind Cronos and make good the harm that was done but murder is final and can never be undone The chorus ask whether Apollo has considered if one who has shed his mother39s blood can ever again return to his homeland or participate in religious rituals 0 Apollo answers that the mother is not a blood relation of the child but only the nurse of the seed planted in her by the true parent the father I Thus Orestes has incurred no bloodguilt As proof of this doctrine Apollo cites Athena herself for legend said that she was born full grown from the forehead of her father Zeus 0 Apollo concludes his speech by promising greatly to increase the wealth and power of Athens if Orestes is acquitted Athena gives way to the jurors and establishes this new tribunal the Court of the Areopagus to endure forever and have jurisdiction in all cases of manslaughter 0 She advises the jurymen to judge and govern in justice and not to drive out fear from their city for the man who fears nothing cannot be righteous 0 This court she says will be a shrine of justice the greatest strength of her holy city nothing will corrupt it 0 As quota sentry on the landquot it will forever protect the innocent and punish the guilty 0 She urges the jurors to meditate on their oaths and arrive at a decision 0 The Furies and Apollo threaten the jurors with reprisals then begin to bicker 0 Meanwhile Athena announces that in the event of a tie she will cast her vote in favor of Orestes I She says this is because she had no mother and thus must support the rights of the father and also because she likes men although not enough to marry one 0 The jurors cast their votes 0 There are six for conviction six for acquittal 0 Athena votes for acquittal also and Orestes is declared a free man 0 The former defendant thanks Athena and vows that for all time the people of Argos his homeland will be the friends and allies of the Athenians 0 He wishes the best of success and fortune to Athens then leaves with Apollo 0 The chorus say that the younger gods are destroying the ancient laws and that they have been dishonored and disinherited by the decision of the court 0 They swear to avenge themselves by setting loose all their evil powers on the land of Athens Fifth Episode Athena tries to conciliate the Furies by pointing out that they were not defeated or disgraced by the court39s decision 0 Since the vote was a tie and Zeus himself was heard at the trial speaking through his oracle Apollo she says justice has indeed prevailed She urges the Furies to make peace with Athens and promises to give them a sanctuary of their own where the citizens can worship them and make offerings The chorus repeats their threats and insists that are insulted by the Athenians 0 Athena pleads with them to reconsider She tells them to be reasonable and to accept the will of Zeus The Furies lament the unjust treatment they have received 0 They say their ancient rights have been taken away Athena replies she will tolerate their anger because they are olderwiser than she 0 But she has wisdom also and she advises to accept the offer of a home in Athens Athena repeats this offer and promises even more benefits until the Furies begin to calm down 0 Her offer has aroused their interest They begin to listen carefully and ask eager questions 0 There is great attraction to them in her promise of a place of perpetual honor and utility in Athens Finally they accept 0 They begin to pronounce blessings on the land instead of the curses they had threatened earlier Athena and the Furies join together in a responsive lyrical description of the future that awaits Athens now that quotholy persuasionquot has replaced violence The Furies are renamed the Eumenides or quotkindly onesquot in recognition of their new character for they are now benevolent spirits instead of personifications of vengeance and misfortune Meanwhile the women and girls of Athens have assembled with lighted torches to welcome the Eumenides 0 They escort the chorus from the stage in a great parade that is meant to represent the PanAthenaic Procession As they march out all the participants join together in a hymn and the play ends
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