Study Guide

The Eumenides Fear

By Aeschylus

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Be afraid. Be very afraid.

We tend to think that fear is bad news bears, and that it should be kept out of public life. Not so for the Ancient Greeks. All sorts of different characters in The Eumenides—even those with different stances on whether or not Orestes should get off the hook—still think that fear is needed to keep people in line.

The Furies, of course, are the main ones who hold this view—which isn't surprising, given that they don't really have any other job aside from terrifying and torturing people. And, at the end of the play, Athena simply gives the Furies (now the "Kindly Ones" or Eumenides) the extra duty of rewarding good people; she doesn't take away their duty of harming bad people… and scaring the living daylights out of 'em.

Questions About Fear

  1. Why do the Furies and Athena think Fear is a good thing?
  2. Do the Furies and Athena have different points-of-view on how Fear should be used? If so, what are their points of disagreement?
  3. What position do you think Aeschylus would take on the role of Fear in a community, based on the way he portrays his different characters?
  4. Who is the most fearful character in the play?

Chew on This

The Furies and Athena both think that Fear is a good thing, but Athena thinks it has to be balanced with rewards for good deeds.

Even though Orestes is pursued by the Furies he is not very afraid because Apollo is backing him up. In fact, the Furies are the most fearful characters in the play—because they are afraid of having their rights taken away from them by Apollo and Athena.

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