Fate and Free Will

Times were tough in ancient Greece. It wasn't just a question of do or do not—it was a question of do, do not, carry out orders from the gods, worry about whether you tick off other gods by carrying out those orders, and puzzle over what color life-thread the Fates had spun for you.  Yeah. It was exhausting.

The Eumenides features lots of ambiguity about the question of whether individuals have free will, or whether they are just controlled by fate… and this ties right in with the question of justice. After all, if people are fated to commit crimes (or ordered by some god or other) how can it be just to punish them?

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. Does The Eumenides portray fate and free will as complete opposites, or is there some middle ground between them?
  2. Do gods have more free will than mortals, or are they both about the same?
  3. If Orestes didn't have free will, do you think that makes him less responsible for killing his mother? If you think so, do all the characters in the play share your opinion?
  4. If free will is limited, is it limited only by fate, or do personality and social factors also play a role?

Chew on This

In Aeschylus's The Eumenides, we see a transition from an earlier view of responsibility (that of the Furies), in which free will is irrelevant to a later view (that of Apollo and Athena), which holds that people are less responsible for their actions if they didn't act freely.

The Eumenides shows that gods and mortals are both free to act against fate, if they so choose.

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