Eumenides | Study Guide

Aeschylus

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Eumenides | Stasimon 1 | Summary

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Summary

The Furies' song describes the power of justice in their hands. They are "blood avengers" who chase and harm the guilty. They pray to Mother Night, who gave birth to the Furies. And they curse Apollo for harboring Orestes as a fugitive.

Vengeance on those who slaughter blood relatives is the Furies' destined purpose, a purpose no other god can control. They're willing to "overthrow whole families" to punish murderers.

Analysis

The choral repetition of verses is typical of stasima or choral odes in Greek plays, similar to a refrain in a song. The Chorus would sing their lines during the performance and dance across the stage. The verses or stanzas are divided into strophes and antistrophes, a call-and-response formation during which the Chorus presents one side of an argument and then the other, moving from east to west during the "strophe" verse and from west to east during the "antistrophe" verse. A final stanza, called the epode, concludes and sums up the song.

Images of captivity and imprisonment continue. Orestes is "the hare who cowers there." The Furies' chant "chains up the soul." They describe themselves as figures in action, shape-shifting and kinetic—dancing, chasing, and "leaping from the heights" to pound and attack. Again they remind the audience of animals on the hunt and forces of pure nature.

As sowers of discord with their "frenzied song," the Furies place themselves in visual opposition to man-made sources of harmony and equilibrium, like the law and the courts. The Furies wear black robes in contrast to the gods who wear "pure white robes." As citizens of Night the Furies are "split off from gods, with no light from the sun."

Though the Furies have their own distinct language in their odes, they return to familiar themes in the Choruses of Aeschylus's dramas. The folly of hubris, or human pride, is one recurring theme. Men who act like gods and "puff themselves to heaven" (like Orestes believing he could avenge his father) suffer consequences.

Another constant theme is the relentlessness of fate. The Furies are following "a destiny spun out for us alone." They couldn't stop pursuing Orestes if they wanted to. The Furies take pride in their "old prerogatives" and unique abilities. Even though they are "dishonoured and despised" by both men and gods, they still do their job. Yet they recognize their status as outcasts, and their decision at the play's end reflects a desire for a more widely acceptable form of power in a changing Greece.

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