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Oresteia: Revenge

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In the Oresteia there seems to be a continuing cycle of revenge. Someone is murdered and then a relative must kill the murderer, therefore becoming a murderer himself. A new chosen one is then selected to take revenge on that person who killed before him and the cycle goes on and on. The furies also play a part in this cycle of revenge. They seek out those who kill their blood relatives and haunt them and torture them for eternity. So basically they also take revenge for the ones that have been murdered. Revenge is a continuing theme throughout the play until Athena has a hand in making it come to an end.

Apollo sends Orestes to visit the goddess Athena for judgment in the case of him murdering his mother because the furies continue to pursue him even though Apollo has washed his hands clean of the murder. He tells Orestes, "we will find the means to free you from this toil you've been caught in, once and for all. For I persuaded you to kill your mother" (97-9). Apollo is taking responsibility for this murder that Orestes committed. The furies, however, are not concerned with the fact that Apollo ordered Orestes to take revenge for his father. They only seem to focus in on the fact the he did murder his mother. The furies have no care as to why he did it, so Athena will be the one to listen to their cases and decide who is in the right or wrong.

When finally he reaches Athena's court, he tells her of the previous events. He says, "So I returned, after my years of exile, and killed the very woman that gave me life--I don't deny it--killed her for killing him, the father I loved--although Apollo, too, had an equal hand in this, for he had goaded me on with warnings of heart-piercing pain if I failed to get revenge on the murderers" (548-54). The furies make their argument to Athena as to why they think he should suffer for his crime. She tells them to prepare their cases and she will hear them in a court with a jury present. After she has heard each side, she decides, "I will cast my ballot for Orestes. No mother gave me birth, and in all things but marriage I wholeheartedly approve the male--I am entirely my father's child. And this is why the killing of a woman who killed her husband, guardian of the house, can have no overriding claim on me. Orestes wins, even if the votes be equal" (854-61)

This extremely upsets the furies and they claim, "I



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