Justice in the Oresteia

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Justice Runs Red: An examination of Justice in the Oresteia
Have you ever just wanted to kill your mother? Ever wondered about how you would get away with it or if you would be justified? Well is this the greek tragedy for you! Aeschylus challenges the definition of moral justice and the “eye for an eye” philosophy in his work by giving every character subjective perspective of justification. This is a classic dramatic storytelling technique, by making every moral decision fall into a morally grey area it causes the audience to think about how they feel about it. No character fits the title of hero, and none fits the title of villain. The only villain at work is not a character, it is the changing definition of justice from character to character.

In the play Agamemnon, during the return from war Agamemnon kills his daughter Iphigenia. He does so because the God Artemis, in a fit of anger with Agamemnon, stopped the winds in the entire ocean. This caused a major problem as he was en route to return home from the long Trojan war with his army. Without winds the entire army remained motionless. The only appeasement that could be made was the sacrifice of his own daughter. This is a tough call, as on one side you have the murder of your own daughter on your hands, but on the other side you have the slow starvation of the entire army on your hands. Agamemnon speaks his opinion

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stating, “I dare not like a recreant fly, and leave the League of ships, and fail each true ally” (Agamemnon 255-256). Neither is a particularly choice situation, and even though the murder of one’s own daughter is a truly horrifying prospect, it is an act that is arguably justified by the saving of the lives of the entire army. This makes him either a hero for saving the army, or a criminal for the murder of a child. The chorus comments on this stating, “Justice turns the balance scales, sees that we suffer and we suffer and we learn” (Agamemnon 250-252).

Later on in...
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