Comparing Revenge In Aeschylus' The Oresteia Trilogy And Sophocles' Electra

835 words - 3 pages

Revenge in Aeschylus' The Oresteia Trilogy and Sophocles' Electra  

The act of revenge in classical Greek plays and society is a complex issue with unavoidable consequences. In certain instances, it is a more paramount concern than familial ties. When a family member is murdered another family member is expected to seek out and administer revenge. If all parties involved are of the same blood, the revenge is eventually going to wipe out the family. Both Aeschylus, through "The Oresteia Trilogy," and Sophocles, through "Electra," attempt to show the Athenians that revenge is a just act that at times must have no limits on its reach. Orestes and his sister Electra, the children of the slain Agamemnon, struggle on how to avenge their father's death. Although unsure what course of action they must take, both brother and sister are in agreement that revenge must occur. Revenge is a crucial part of Greek plays that gives the characters a sense of honor and their actions a sense of justice.

Killing the person responsible for one of your family member's deaths is Athenian justice. This type of lethal justice is executed by Orestes and Electra. Before proceeding to the house of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, they plot the murder of their father's murderers. They decide Orestes will murder his mother, and Electra will dispose of Aegisthus. Orestes is the most focused of the two; but Electra, although timid in the beginning, is the most masculine. Both of these personality traits are key to their plan coming to fruition. Once her brother devises the plan, Electra verbally encourages him to follow through with it. After thrusting his blade into Clytemnestra only once, Electra cries that "[i]f thou beest a man, [s]trike twice!" (Sophocles 51). While evidence of their desire for deathly revenge, this remark also insults Orestes' masculinity, thereby proving that his sister is the most manly. The murder of Aegisthus is no less brutal; but the act is not as controversial, as will be explained later by Orestes' altercation with the gods.

Although having to defend himself to the gods later, Orestes and his sister call upon the gods for strength and guidance before they set out on their deadly mission. With belief that they are doing the right thing, Electra proclaims "[o] ye Gods, it is yours to decree" (Aeschylus 86). Also asking for the accompaniment of the gods is Orestes, who requests that "[l]et their might meet mine, and their right with my right" (Aeschylus 86). By...

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