Study Guide

The Eumenides Section 7

By Aeschylus

Section 7

  • Now, the Chorus of Furies begins singing another song.
  • They begin by saying that they think it's really, really bad news that Athena is bringing in a court of law to solve this problem.
  • They think that this will mean the end of justice.
  • The gist of the rest of their song is that respect for Justice is only instilled through fear. If Orestes escapes a harsh punishment, so their argument goes, mothers and fathers will forever be at risk of suffering violence at the hands of their children.
  • At this point, Athena comes back in. Now she is accompanied by a herald, a trumpeter, and a group of citizens that have been appointed as jurors.
  • She tells everybody to shut up so that the appropriate proclamations can be made.
  • Then Apollo walks into the scene.
  • Athena tells him to say what he's got to say.
  • Apollo says, "I'm a witness. Oh yeah, and I'm also Orestes's lawyer. You see, I'm the guy that made him kill his mom. And now I'm here to argue on his behalf."
  • Then Athena turns to the Furies to make their case. They start by questioning Orestes, asking him if he killed his mother, how, and why. He says that Colonel Mustard did it, in the library, with the lead pipe—no, wait, that's not it. He says that he, Orestes did it, with a sword, because Apollo's oracle told him to.
  • Orestes justifies himself by saying that the spirit of his father, Agamemnon, approves of what he has done from beyond the grave. Then he asks the Furies how come they didn't pursue Clytemnestra for murdering his father.
  • The Furies reply that at least she didn't kill someone of her own blood.
  • Then Orestes says, "Oh yeah? Well, is my mother really someone of my own blood?" (Uh, nice comeback, Orestes. This is clearly becoming rather childish.)
  • The Furies ask Orestes if he has anything to back up his skepticism; it quickly becomes clear that he doesn't, when, instead of answering, he turns to Apollo and says, "Time for you to make your case, buddy. Tell them that I was justified in doing it."
  • Apollo starts off by repeating the idea that it was his oracle that told Orestes to kill Clytemnestra. This time, however, he puts a different spin on it—by saying that, through his oracle, he never prophesied anything that was against the will of Zeus.
  • Because Zeus is the god in charge of Justice, this is the same as saying that whatever Apollo's oracle told someone to do would automatically be the just thing.
  • But the Furies aren't going to let him off that easy. Instead, they say, "Oh yeah? Well why the heck would Zeus allow Orestes to kill his father, but not care at all that Clytemnestra was his mother?"
  • Apollo's answer is, simply put, sexist and patriarchal. It boils down to saying that Agamemnon was a great man, a king; for such a person to be killed by a woman, through trickery, is so shameful, that other considerations (like, that Clytemnestra was Orestes's mother) simply don't matter.
  • The Furies still aren't convinced. They say, "How can Zeus care so much about the death of a father when he put his own father, Cronus, in chains?"
  • "Easy," says Apollo. "You can undo chains; you can't undo killing someone."
  • The Furies stop arguing at this point, and just go back to their original outrage. They simply can't believe that Apollo could be arguing that somebody who killed his mother, his own blood, could go back to rule in the house he grew up in.
  • This is when Apollo brings out the big guns. Are you ready for this? Apollo argues that a mother isn't actually a blood relation to her child. She just keeps the embryo warm and nurtures it until it's time to give birth. According to Apollo, only the father is truly a parent.
  • And then, believe it or not, Apollo says he actually has proof of this. He points to Athena, saying that she was born from a man, but no woman.
  • And actually, from the point of view of mythology, this is true: Athena was born straight from the forehead of Zeus.
  • Then Apollo turns to Athena and tells her that he will make Athens an awesome city, and will make Argos be its ally.
  • There is a lot of nudge-nudge wink-wink going on here—Apollo is trying to pile on the enticements for her to let Orestes off the hook.
  • Athena then suggests turning the matter over to the jury to decide. The Furies and Apollo are cool with that; they have each made their arguments as best they can.
  • Athena then turns to the jurors and gives them a long speech. She tells them that the court she has just established is to last for all time; it will be known as the Areopagus (literally "hill of Ares"; this hill was sacred to the god of war).
  • Athena tells them that the citizens should always be fearful of this court; because only through fear will they act justly.
  • By this combination, she trusts that the people will not live in anarchy, nor will they live under despotism.
  • When Athena is done speaking, Apollo and the Furies keep hassling each other. Basically, the Furies are angry because they think Apollo represents a new generation of gods upsetting the old order, and they bring up various examples from the past to back this up. Apollo answers that now, and in those past examples, his actions were justified.
  • Now Athena speaks. She says that she is casting her vote in favor of Orestes. Why? Out of sexism, plain and simple.
  • As Collard translates these lines: "I do so because there is no mother who gave me birth, and I approve the masculine in everything—except for union with it—with all my heart; and I am very much my father's." (736-738)
  • When the votes are tallied, it turns out there is a tie. But because Athena is the judge, she gets to break the tie in favor of Orestes. Thus, he is able to go free.
  • Orestes is understandably pleased with this verdict. He begins by thanking Athena, Apollo, and Zeus; then he says, once again, that his city of Argos and Athens will be BAFs (Best Allies Forever).
  • Then Orestes says bye and heads offstage along with Apollo.