The Oresteia: Message of Fate

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Kenneth Studebaker
Mrs. Halpin
Lit. 11/12
The Oresteia
The Oresteia, written by playwright Aeschylus, is a trilogy about the fall of the House of Atreus. Throughout The Oresteia, Aeschylus shows that it is personal responsibility and rationality rather than Fate that determines a person’s experience. This is shown at many various times, like when the Furies decide to change from their role as Furies to the Eumenides, Orestes, also does not kill Clytaemnestra simply because he is predetermined to, but does it for personal important specific reasons, such as avenging the death of his own father. The cycle of revenge that is present throughout the entire play is also put to an end by the founding of the Athenian Justice system in which the outcome is based on the reasoned decision of judges. This sense of personal responsibility and reason are recurrent themes throughout the entire trilogy of plays.

The Furies play a big part in these plays, especially in the third and final play, The Eumenides. They are the ones who have to bring justice to those who commit crimes in the world and “none can shake [their] hold” (Aeschylus 246). However, it is in the third and final play that they decide to change from the role given to them by the Fates to the Eumenides, who are rational, and much more merciful. It is this decision that shows that they are not bound by Fate. It was Fate that gave them their job in the first place, and if Fate were a binding force, then they would not have been able to change. However, they did, and did so without difficulty.

Most of this trilogy revolves around Orestes killing his own mother, Clytaemnestra. However, Orestes does not kill her because it is his predetermined destiny that he should. Rather, he carefully considers his options, and decides to kill her because he wishes to avenge the death of his father, Agamemnon. He puts his personal reasons and ideas first. He does not want to kill his mother, as seen when he says,...
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