How we cite our quotes:
(Orestes): "Loxias' great and powerful oracle will not betray me, I tell you, which orders me to go through this danger. Loud and often it cried out, proclaiming ruin wintry-cold to strike up into my heart's warmth if I do not pursue those guilty for my father's death in the same way; it says I am to kill them in return. It asserted I should pay for this with my own dear life, and have much unpleasant evil, maddened like a bull in a punishment which will keep me from my property." (269-277)
Here, Orestes reveals how the oracle of Apollo (referred to here by another of his names, "Loxias"), commanded him to avenge the murder of his father. The irony, of course, is that it says Orestes will suffer horrible torments if he DOESN'T avenge the murder ("ruin wintry-cold" would "strike up into [his] heart's warmth"), but that he will also suffer horrible torments if he DOES avenge the murder (he will "pay for this with [his] own dear life, and have much unpleasant evil," and so on). We at Shmoop aren't saying that Orestes didn't get this oracle from the god Apollo. Still, don't you think you could also say that this is kind of a metaphor for the emotions anyone would be feeling if they were caught in Orestes's position, between the rock of wanting to avenge your dad and the hard place of being pitted against your mother? Does this say anything about the nature of revenge in general? If so, what?
(Chorus): "Certainly there is a law that bloodshed
dripping to the ground demands another's blood.
The havoc from those slain before
shouts the Fury on
who brings fresh ruin upon ruin." (400-404)
Here, we see the Chorus voicing the traditional view that whenever a murder happens, revenge must follow. They also say that this is demanded by a "law." What law are they referring to? Do you think the play as a whole suggests that Aeschylus agrees with this law? What are the problems with this law?
(Orestes): "Wholly dishonoured, you say: oh, the hurt!
For my father's dishonour she shall pay, then,
with the aid of the gods
and with the aid of my own hands.
Oh to take her life from her, and then to die!" (434-438)
With these words, Orestes expresses in very strong, emotional terms, his desire to get revenge on his mother for the murder of his father. Maybe the most striking thing about these lines is when he says that he wishes he could die after killing his mother. Is this just a figure of speech, a variation on the phrase we've all heard in Saturday-morning cartoons, in which a character says, "I'm going to get you if it's the last thing I do"? Or is there a deeper idea at work here? Consider the fact that he is planning to kill his own mother: could this be metaphorically be interpreted as meaning that he is killing himself, at the same time? There's a mind-bender.