Study Guide

The Eumenides Section 5

By Aeschylus

Section 5

  • Now Orestes comes back on stage; he begins with a prayer to the goddess Athena, and his words reveal that the scene of the action has now changed to Athens.
  • Orestes prays for Athena to protect him; he points out that he has already been partially purified of his crime, both by Apollo, and by his wanderings over the earth.
  • Everything looks like it's going fine and dandy, but then who should show up but some uninvited guests—the Furies. Ugh.
  • The Furies mock Orestes and say that they have come to drink his blood for what he did. Oh, that's pleasant.
  • Orestes tells the Furies to buzz off. He's purified, he says; then, he prays to Athena for help, saying that he will make Argos allies with Athens, if only she'll help him with his pesky Fury problem.
  • In response, the Chorus of Furies says, "Well, you've sure got a lot of nerve." To prevent him from making any more trouble, they decide to entrap him with a magical "binding-song." (What's that? A magical song that binds you. Just watch and see.)
  • First, the Furies join together in a chant. The words of the chant express how just they are: they only bring terror and destruction on people who deserve it.
  • Then they switch into full-on song-and-dance mode. They start by calling out to their mother—the goddess of Night—and complaining that the child of Leto (Leto is Apollo's mother) has stolen their prize (Orestes) away from them.
  • The rest of their song explains how punishing wrongdoing was their special task given to them by Fate. Of course, this just makes them complain all the more about having Orestes snatched away by Apollo. They also recount how Zeus, the king of the gods, refused to have anything to do with them, and wouldn't let them approach the other gods.
  • Interwoven with all this, the Furies repeat special spells to trap Orestes, as part of the binding-song.