Oresteia Paper - the Transformation of Justice

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The Transformation of Justice

A cycle of murder and death spurs from the curse on the House of Atreus in Aeschylus’ The Oresteia but transforms from justice as vengeance to justice as fairness and forgiveness through the wisdom of Athena, establishing a new cycle of growth and life. The curse upon the House of Atreus was brought forth through the event of Zeus’ eagles devouring a pregnant hare which angered Artemis for she is the goddess of young animals and creatures. The big black bird swoops down and “plunged their claws in a hare, a mother bursting with unborn young—the babies spilling, quick spurts of blood-cut off the race just dashing into life!” and instantly this brings forth the curse (A 122-124). The death of the hare’s unborn babies directly relates to the curse on the House of Atreus where children were abruptly killed, hindering growth and fertility for generations. Agamemnon is unable to escape his deathly net of fate once he was ordered by Artemis to kill his own daughter, Iphigenia. The Furies are fueled by this and thus go after Agamemnon which traps him in a fate which he can never escape. At this point, “Justice turns the balance scales, sees that we suffer and we suffer and we learn” (A 250-252). From the “an eye for an eye” perspective, justice is vengeance and it sustains balance and fairness. When King Agamemnon returns home to Argos from the war in Troy, the herald begins to speak of his actions and how “He hoisted the pickaxe of Zeus who brings revenge, he dug Troy down, he worked her soil down, the shrines of her gods and the high altars, gone! –and the seed of her wide earth he ground to bits” (A 516-519) out of admiration. Agamemnon accomplishes a great feat by conquering Troy and is highly praised, but while doing so he kills the seeds of life and plants death in its place, emphasizing his proclamation that he will “burn the cancer at the roots.” (A 836). By burning the cancer at the roots Agamemnon is declaring that he will...
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