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Lecture 24 - Aeschylus’ Choephori Aeschylus’ Choephori...

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Unformatted text preview: Aeschylus’ Choephori Aeschylus’ Choephori and Eumenides Eumenides Myth and Law Oresteia ­ produced in Athens in 458 BC Only complete surviving trilogy Story already told in the “Epic Cycle” Myth and Athenian Tragedy Importance of variety in myths Nostoi (Returns) 7th/6th c. BC The myth of Agamemnon’s murder told by Agamemnon himself in Odyssey 24 Local versions of myths Greece = many independent poleis Incorporation into myth Center of justice Oedipus at Colonus Medea Suppliant Women Orestes Athens Two ways of naming a tragedy: 1. After the chief protagonist (e.g., Agamemnon, Ajax, Hippolytus) 2. After the chorus (e.g., Trojan Women, Choephori, Eumenides) Choephori – 2nd play in Oresteia First appearance of character after whom the trilogy is named – Orestes Other new characters: Electra, chorus of Clytemnestra’s slaves Choephori (Libation Bearers) Takes place in Argos Orestes in exile Centrality of Agamemnon’s tomb Chorus of women bring offerings to tomb Problem of homecoming and revenge Problem of “eye­for­an­ eye” justice Problem of Orestes’ and Electra’s current status Choephori The great oracle of Apollo will never betray me, it is his mandate that I should endure this trial. His shrill prophecies wrenched my guts and chilled me to the bone, they foretold storms of suffering if I did not avenge my father’s killers. He said to kill the way they killed, and claim my birthright like a savage bull, or pay the penalty myself with a life gripped by evil, and full of pain. He revealed to me the malicious rancor that festers below and infects mankind, the malignant soles that thrive on flesh, their scurvy jaws devouring the natural health, pallid fur sprouting from the putrid pus. Apollo’s role in Orestes’ mission (ll. 269 ff.) He told of the onslaught by the avenging Furies, the progeny of a father’s spilled blood… Insanity and paranoia would haunt the night, visions of scowling faces peering from the gloom, tormented and deranged, driven from cities, a body battered by the brazen scourge. The cup of fellowship can never be shared, and the thank­offering cannot be poured. Dragged from altars by a father’s unseen wrath, none can offer shelter, there can be no sanctuary, just a lonely death, disgraced and despised, wasting away, reduced to nothing. Apollo’s role in Orestes’ Mission (cont.) These then were the oracles, how could I not act on them? Even if I did not, the deed must still be done, I have many motives of my own that drive me: the god’s command, the great sorrow I feel for my father, and the burden of my stolen birthright. And what of my people, the finest of men, who conquered Troy with their sterling spirit? They should not be ruled by a pair of women! Yes, he’s a woman at heart, we’ll soon see that for ourselves. Apollo’s role in Orestes’ Mission Apollo’s (end) (end) Birth of a serpent Causes the libations Clytemnestra’s dream “The snake came from the same place as I. She wrapped it in the same cloths that I wore. It suckled at the breast that nurtured me, fouling her precious milk with clotted blood, and this sight made her scream in terror. As she has raised this gruesome omen, so she must die. I am the snake, I will be the one to kill her and fulfill the dream” (543­550) Recognition tokens Recognition Problem of identity Prayer to Agamemnon Lock of hair Weaving Continuity of royal house (500­509) Oikos Necessity of revenge The Prayer of Electra and The Orestes (497ff.) Orestes Orestes: Send Justice to fight at our side… The House of Pelops must survive; dead but not dead, your memory lives with us. The children sustain the dead man’s name, like buoyant corks lining a net, saving the mesh from sinking to the depths. Importance of controlling entry (cf. Agamemnon) Orestes gains entry to the palace with message that Orestes is dead Crossing the Threshold Aegisthus: “I want to see this messenger and question him again. I want to know if he witnessed the death in person, or if he is repeating some vague rumor he’s heard. I’ll not be fooled, my mind sees with sharp eyes” (851­ 854) Clytemnestra deceived; pretends to mourn, blames curse Interpretation of signs The Murders Orestes kills Aegisthus first Mirrors C: My son, I think you mean to kill your mother. O: You are the killer, not I. You kill yourself. C: Then beware the vengeful hellhounds of a mother’s curse. O: And how would I escape a father’s if I failed? C: I’m crying in vain over my own tomb. O: The fate of my father marked out your end. C: Ah! I suckled this serpent, I gave it life! O: Yes, the terror you saw in your dream was true. You should not have killed, now suffer what you should not. Death of Clytemnestra (922-930) Madness and Furies Orestes driven mad by Furies Will go to Delphi for purification Mother’s Curse Embodied in Furies Counterbalanced by father’s curse No mention of Iphigenia Rejection of breast and nurture Cannibalism Incest Murder of kin Ultimate Taboos Taboos tend to occur together in myths Example: Atreus’ serving cannibalistic feast to Thyestes incest of Thyestes with his daughter murder of Atreus by Aegisthus “Three times the storm has struck and hurled its A Perfect Storm icy blasts against this royal House. First the feast of children’s flesh (cannibalism taboo) Thyestes’ tortured pain. Then the murder of the man, (kin killing taboo follows the cannibalism) the deadly bath, the death of a king who ruled the whole Greek army. And now the third, it comes again, the savior or the doom? When will it end? When will it be calm? When will it sleep, this fury, this Ruin?” (1065­1076) Beginning set in Delphi; speech of Pythia Orestes as suppliant before the omphalos Eumenides – euphemism for Furies Eumenides euphemism Sleeping Furies: “No, not women, they were a hideous sight, more like Gorgons, but worse, much worse. I have seen paintings of the beasts that plagued Phineus and stole his food (I.e., Harpies), but the creatures in there have no wings, they are dark, dank, and disgusting. Their foul stench and hideous breath forced me back, and their eyes seep a repulsive, putrid pus. They are wrapped in black dismal rags not fit for human sight… I have never known a race that spawned such creatures, nor have I seen a land that could boast to have bred them without suffering some terrible blight.” Purification Orestes in Delphi Athens Orestes will be judged in Athens First murder court/ trial Areopagus Jury system Description of court: 481-489 Athena: “Because this case has become my responsibility I will appoint the exemplary men of my city as magistrates over murder, bound by a solemn oath, for now and for ever, to serve this sacred court. Summon your witnesses and gather your evidence, prepare your sworn testimonies to support your cases. I will select the finest of my citizens who will strive to return an honest verdict, uphold their pledge, and deliberate with judicial minds” The trial Furies/accusers speak first Orestes/Defendant speaks second Blood calls for blood Apollo as first defense lawyer Acknowledges responsibility Fulfils his promise to Orestes Sophistic argumentation? (657-666) Apollo: “The one named mother is not the child’s true parent but the nurturer of the newly sown seed. Man mounts to create life, whereas woman is a stranger fostering a stranger, nourishing the young, unless a god blights the birth. I have proof that there can be a father without a mother, proof that what I say is true, there stands your witness: the child of Zeus. She never grew in the darkness of a womb, and no goddess could have borne such a child.” Apollo’s Embryology Judgment Apollo wins Wrath of the Furies Votes are tied. Athena tie­breaks Appeased by cult and new home Connection of Areopagus to Amazons Incorporation into civic life Necessity of Fear Implications: Wickedness of Implications: Women Women Misogyny Retrospective glance at Cho. 585­638 Althaea and Meleager (mother/son) Scylla and Nisus (daughter/father) Lemnian Women (wives/husbands) Gender Roles Trilogy represents a myth of origins showing the evolution of civilization, centered on polis. Creation of a hierarchy of values centered on male­female conflict Clytemnestra as androgyne Progress is a movement from female (retrogressive) to male (progressive) dominance House→polis Nature→culture Chthonic→Olympian Curse/vendetta (women)→judicial system (men) Rejects the marriage bond Athena is positive counterpart Reforms of Ephialtes Areopagus reformed in 462/1 BCE Is Aeschylus behind the reforms? Athena’s speech establishing the court as argument for purity of Athenian law and constitution? Previous duties are given (in the play) to Eumenides Murder and olives Ephialtes assassinated Athena: “Now hear my decree, people of Athens, you are the first to judge a case of bloodshed. And from this time on, the race of Aegeus will forever uphold this judicial assembly… But the citizens must uphold the law and there can be no deviation, for pure water can never be drawn once the well has been fouled. There will be no anarchy, nor the rule of tyranny. Citizens, embrace the middle way, but never banish fear, for the mortal who has no fear can never know Justice. You must respect this court and you must fear it, it is your best defense, for the stronger the bulwark, the safer the city…” (681 ff.) Trial of Orestes as first ever Murder Trial Trial Trial Alliance with Argos 461/460 BCE. Athens +Argos Aeschylus approves alliance Rejection of alliance with Sparta 289­291 669­673 762­774 Mythological determinism ...
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