The Oresteia

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The classics scholar Richmond Lattimore terms the Oresteia, the drama that tells the story of the House of Atreus, as “a grand parable of progress.” The Orestia was deemed as a “grand parable of progress” becasue there is a progression from chaos to order and justice. The drama begins with Tantalus and Niobe, they perform evil deeds because of their hubris. Furthermore, Orestes, who is the only member of the House of Atreus who feels guilt for his evil actions. Richmond Lattimore says that the Oresteia is a grand parable of progress because the drama shows the taming of the passions throughout many generations. The House of Atreus begins with Tantalus, the honored son of Zeus who, much like his descendants, is driven by his passions…show more content…
Even though Clytemnestra murders her husband, she believes that it was a just act. Clytemnestra says, “here lies my husband dead, struck down justly by my hand.” (Hamilton 343) She belived that she had not murdered Agamemnon, but she had punished him for his evil actions. Although Clytemnestra lacks forethought, she shows a progression in the overcoming of animal instincts. She does not stop to think that her evil actions will begin new ones, even though she killed with reason. Clytemnestra follows the most basic law, that punishment must follow crime (Kitto 76). Orestes follows this same law when he kills Clytemnestra. However, another reason for which Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon is to avenge the sacrifice of their daughter. The moral law of punishment is one that helps maintain order, and without law there is chaos. The development shows the taming of the passions, as people are able to behave in a way that is socially acceptable rather than being governed by their emotions. The mastering of ones passions allows for justice, reason, and rule of…show more content…
The progression of law and of the primal insticts go hand in hand. Orestes is the first in “The House of Atreus” to want to do the right thing, “may is spare?” he says before he kills Clytemnestra. Nevertheless, Orestes is fully aware of the act that he committing and he knows that he will suffer for his actions later. Orestes thinks about his actions before he commits them, showing his concern for reason and forethough. Orestes was not following his passions, but doing what he was told. This is the foundation on which all societies and laws are built upon. Consumed by his guilt, Orestes wanders for years followed by the furies. Eventually he feels that he is cleansed of his guilt, and Athena accepts his plea at her court. Orestes is the first of his family who suffered from his guilt and sought to be made clean. This is the largest progression of the passion in the Orestia, and the increasing control of primal insticts allowed for the adoption of law, justice, and public court. Athena’s tribunal made the ideas of justice, reason, and law seem divine. Orestes also shares the blame for his actions, but he never takes full responsibility. Furthermore, The furies’ transition from Erinyes to benevolent spirits symbolizes, “an adoption of justice that is tempered by reason and mercy---equity rather than

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