Blog Post 1: The Furies of Eumenides

The passage I chose from The Eumenides spoken by the Leader of the Furies exhibits Aeschylus’ intention to portray the desire or enjoyment of killing a man as a very raw animalistic desire that makes you less than human, or in this case Goddess.

The clear trail of man. After it, silent

but it tracks his guilt to light. He’s wounded-

go for the fawn, my hounds, the splash of blood,

hunt him, rake him down.

Oh, the labor,

the man-killing labor. My lungs are bursting…

over the wide rolling earth we’ve range in flock,

hurdling the waves in wingless flight and now we come, 

all hot pursuit, outracing ships astern – and now

he’s here, somewhere, cowering like a hare…

the reek of human blood – it’s laughter to my heart! ” (Lines 242-252 Aeschylus)

In my passage the Furies are hunting Orestes all the way to the palace of Athena in Athens where Apollo sent him to seek asylum after fulfilling the blood oath and killing his mother. However, there is no one to fulfill the blood oath on Orestes, which is why the Furies are coming to follow through with their godly right and serve justice for the death of Clytemnestra. Aeschylus uses the Furies hunting Orestes to call attention to the animalistic behavior that arises from taking pleasure in the killing of man and how it is a very corrupt and inhumane form of justice compared to the more humane justice that can be had in the court system Athena creates at the end of The Eumenides. Aeschylus writes the leader of the Furies to refer to them, the Furies, as “hounds” (line 244) and a “flock” (line 248) in this metaphor he creates where the Furies hunt Orestes. The Furies act as predators and Orestes is their pray, or as Aeschylus writes, “the fawn” (line 244) or the “hare” (line 251), and this metaphor speaks to how even in pursuing their godly duty, the Furies are no more than ravenous animals lusting for blood, rather than Goddesses seeking justice for blood shed as the old laws demand. In the staging of this scene, because the Furies are to be depicted as animals it is likely that many of them would be on the lowest level of the stage crawling and crouching very in animalistic poses resembling that of wolves, or large cats, or even predatorily birds like Hawks or Owls. This can create a very ritualistic and barbaric atmosphere representing what were once the old ways of the Gods and man, and Aeschylus would want it to look both mesmerizing in the sense of lustful desire, as well as, disgusting and terrifying to represent the cruelty. I imagine they would slowly begin to surround Orestes would is kneeling at the feet of Athena, as though the Furies are slowly but surely coming in for the kill. Aeschylus wants you to be terrified and sympathize for the life of Orestes and his deserving of a fair trial from these hideous animals who only seek to kill him for what Aeschylus writes as the lust of blood, and not that of justice as is determined through the court they eventually make.

Close Reading of Iphigenia’s Death

The play starts with the watchman speaking about how he awaits the arrival of the king of Argos, Agamemnon who is fighting Troy to recapture Helen, and then rushes to find Queen Clytemnestra, when he sees the beacon of fire signaling Troy’s fall. The Chorus then enters and explains the story of the war and then recount the terrible story of when the Greek fleet was trapped by horrible winds, and  Agamemnon learned that the winds were sent by Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. Agamemnon was forced to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, as the Chorus sings:

“Yes, he had the heart

to sacrifice his daughter,

to bless the war that avenged a woman’s loss. . .

Her father called his henchmen on

on with a prayer.

“Hoist her over the altar

like a yearling, give it all your strength!

She’s fainting!–lift her.

Sweep her robes around her,

but slip this strap in her gentle curving lips . . .

Here, gag her hard, a sound will curse the house…” (223-236)

The Chorus describes in detail her pitiful cries for mercy as her father’s men cut her throat. Iphigenia cries for her father to save her, but he tells his men to “slip [a] strap around her… gag her.” Agamemnon goes on to compare her to “a yearling” and orders his men to throw her over the altar. He treats her as any other animal he would have hunted. Her emotions mean nothing to him, even as she begins to faint and he feels her soul being sucked out of her body. Aeschylus paints a portrait of Iphigenia’s violated innocence as he describes her cry for help, which Agamemnon continues to ignore. Compared to the pride he would get after he won the war, this action was nothing to him. “She strains to call their name” depicts the pathetic portrayal of women in the view of the men, living in a society where misogyny places a huge roll, even in plays for entertainment. Since the story telling takes place on the lower level of the tiered stage, it depicts the worthlessness of the act of sacrifice to Agamemnon. It shows how insignificant his daughter was to him; however, it goes on to place sympathy in the audience’s heart for Clytemnestra’s act of revenge.