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“Their hands are full of their own flesh for meat, clearly visible, holding their entrails and the vitals with them, most pitiable burden, which their father tested. For that, I say that someone is planning retribution, a cowardly lion that roams free in the marriage-bed and has stayed at home – alas it is against the master on his return" (Aeschylus 1221). In my own view, Cassandra was referring to the revenge Clytemnestra had been planning against her husband. Revenge can be defined as a response to a grievance, which is usually harmful. Revenge will usually lead to deaths, family break ups and injustices.
In the play Agamemnon, we see the homecoming of the king of Argos. The king is coming from the Trojan War. His wife is waiting for him back home and has been planning for his murder. She wants to revenge for their daughter’s sacrifice. The wife is also angry because the husband had left her for ten years and, in those ten years, she engaged in adultery with Agamemnon’s cousin, Aegisthus. This cousin believes that the throne should belong to him rightfully.
The Libation Bearers, the second play, shows the reunion of Orestes and Electra, who are the children to Agamemnon. Orestes kills Clytemnestra, the wife to Agamemnon, as revenge for their father’s death. The third and the final play is called “The Eumenides”. This is where Orestes, Erinves and Apollo go before the judges, to determine whether Orestes was guilty of murder for killing his own mother.
Agamemnon returns home with, Cassandra, his concubine. Cassandra is the daughter to Priam, the Trojan King which further annoys his wife Clytemnestra. She pretends to be a caring loving wife, where she persuades the husband to step on the purple carpet as a welcome sign. Apollo wants to revenge when he curses Cassandra for rejecting his offer. We see that Apollo had wanted to give Cassandra the power to foresee the future but Cassandra, on the other hand, was reluctant to accept the offer.
Revenge comes along with a lot of hypocrisy where one cannot detect it. The wife to the king seems to be terribly happy for the return of her husband but, deep down her heart, she is very angry. The curse put on Cassandra is also a sign of vengeance for rejecting the offer. That is why she had the feeling that something awful would happen, but she went ahead to enter into the palace yet, she was sure she would die, as well. Clytemnestra seems to have no love for her husband, perhaps because of the long time they have been apart. She is deeply in love with the husband’s cousin. She is also power hungry because she hopes that her lover would soon take the throne once her husband dead.
Cassandra’s fate was unavoidable. When they enter the “palace”, they are both butchered with axes. We see Clytemnestra trying to explain her inhumane action. Agamemnon and Cassandra butchering can be compared to killing an animal for sacrifice. She succeeds in her revenge and, Aegisthus, her lover, and her husband’s cousin now becomes the new king. This play closes with a chorus, which reminds everyone present, that Orestes will in future come to revenge his father’s murder.
In The Libation Bearers, Orestes comes to his father’s grave together with his friend Pylades, the son of a king. They had come from where he grew up in exile. Orestes removes two of his locks of his hair and places them on the tomb. When he sister comes to pour libation on his father’s tomb, she discovers the two locks, which resemble her own hair. This happens immediately after the ritual. Clytemnestra wanted the libation to be poured on the grave, as a sign to prevent harm. Once again she spots footprints which resemble her footprints. Immediately, Orestes and his friend appear from their hiding place and, they reveal their identity.
In the chorus, we hear Orestes and Electra praying that Agamemnon spirit helps them to revenge his murder. We see Orestes asking why their mother sent the libations too late for a hurt past cure. The sister explains that the mother had a nightmare. In the nightmare, she had given birth to a snake that was sucking her breasts and, the milk was coming out with traces of blood. Hearing the dream, Orestes believes that he is the snake and, he decides to go on with his revenge mission of killing their mother.
Together with his friend, they pretend to be ordinary visitors from Phocis, and, they walk to the palace where they seek hospitality. We see Orestes and his friend lying to the queen, by telling her that Orestes had died a long time ago. Clytemnestra delighted after hearing the news, sends one of her servant to call her husband, Aegisthus. When he arrives, Orestes reveals his real identity and, he kills his uncle. After killing his uncle, Orestes faces a dilemma on whether to kill her own mother, but, in order to revenge the father’s death, he must kill her. He goes ahead to kill his mother, and his revenge mission is successful.
Here, we note a difference from the first play whereby, the one who wants to revenge is the one who has come to visit. In the first play, the wife who was awaiting the husband is the one who revenged. We can also contrast the two plays in the way Clytemnestra’s murder haunts Orestes. We see that the haunting starts immediately on his way back to Phocis. In the case of the first play, Clytemnestra haunting comes years later after murdering her own husband. A difference in the two plays comes where Orestes’ aim of killing the two, was not to become the king of the palace but simply to revenge.
A similarity, however, comes in that revenge takes place in the palace, in the two plays. Orestes gets a second thought on whether to kill her mother. We see him asking, “Can I be able to kill my mother?” This clearly shows that we are at times faced with difficult situations where we have to make decisions that are not morally right. The question can also be analyzed as a rhetoric question because he readily accepts his friend’s advice to kill her. Another similarity comes when Orestes wraps the two bodies in a cloak that his father wore during the killing. The play ends with Furies haunting Orestes after the murder. A chorus continues saying that the violence had not ended with the murder of Clytemnestra and that it would continue.
In the third play Eumenides, we see tormenting of Orestes by the Furies, who avenge the killing of either a father or a mother. The first killing was when Agamemnon killing his own daughter as a sacrifice. This is when the revenge mission starts. The wife to Agamemnon later kills her husband as revenge and later on, we see Orestes killing her own mother. Orestes seeks refuge in the Apollo’s temple, but Apollo sends him to Athens, and he gives him Hermes’ protection. Apollo cast a spell upon the Furies to delay their actions.
Clytemnestra keeps on appearing to the Erinyes where she urges them to keep on haunting Orestes. He appears to them in their dreams, and her ghost disappears when one of the Erinyes starts to wake up. They start tracing any signs that would lead them to Orestes hiding place. This scene in the play install much fear to the audience that one woman suffers a miscarriage, and she eventually dies.
This violence continues in the third play as predicted in the second play, The Libation Bearers. The Erinyes track him by smelling the blood of his mother in the air, and this too is haunting. They are able to trace him, and immediately they see blood oozing beneath his footsteps. Athena is the one who intervenes in this violence when she brings with her, eleven judges to decide whether Orestes was guilty.
The Attorney for Orestes in this case is Apollo and, Clytemnestra’s advocates are the Erinyes. According to Apollo, the man is the most important person in any marriage. He tries to convince Athena that. To make his point clear, he tells Athena to recall that she grew up without a mother. Athena votes and on counting the votes, there was a tie. She persuades the Erinyes to submit to the verdict and, eventually they submit. They go to their new abode and people address them as the wise and respected. The responsibility of ensuring Athens’ prosperity becomes their responsibility. The judges also declared that in the future, in case there is a tie in any jurisdiction, the defendant should be acquitted.
The three plays clearly bring out the theme of vengeance and how it brings murder. Revenge breaks up families due to hatred as portrayed by the three plays. In the second play, we see that Orestes grew up in exile after his father’s death. We also see that revenge will lead to infidelity as seen in the case of Clytemnestra, who gets married to the husband’s cousin. In the first play, we see that, after the killing of Agamemnon, the wife remains free, hence no justice. She continues to lead a normal life. In the last play, The Eumenides, however, we see Athena coming up with judges to decide on the innocence of Orestes. Therefore, in the third play, there is an application of the law, unlike in the first play, The Agamemnon.