Notes on The Eumenides Themes

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The Eumenides Topic Tracking: Forgiveness

Forgiveness 1: Although the Furies pursue him and demand his own death for the murder of Clytaemnestra, Orestes still asks Apollo for forgiveness. He did commit the crime of matricide, but he justifies it because it was to avenge Agamemnon's death.

Forgiveness 2: Clytaemnestra's spirit refuses to forgive her son, Orestes, for murdering her. She awakens the Furies, ordering these avenging goddesses to pursue Orestes and "wither him" in their wind. She is a very vengeful woman who also refused to forgive her husband for murdering their eldest daughter, Iphigenia.

Forgiveness 3: The god Apollo wishes to forgive Orestes' crime of murder, but the Furies refuse to forgive him, for they are harsh, merciless goddesses. Apollo thinks that they are too harsh in demanding more bloodshed and pain as a punishment for crimes, implying that the Furies should learn to be more forgiving.

Forgiveness 4: The avenging Furies mock Apollo and the younger gods because they are so forgiving and merciful towards humans, for these goddesses were born during a time when gods dominated humans, showing only cruelty and control towards them. As a result, they do not understand Apollo's way of thinking.

Forgiveness 5: Hades is a younger god and the brother of Zeus, but the Furies still admire him for holding men accountable for their actions after they die and are judged. Hades does not forgive men for their crimes, punishing them each based on how well their lives were lived.

Forgiveness 6: The Furies refuse to excuse Orestes actions under any circumstances even though he was avenging the death of his father. That Orestes must be punished is a matter of principle, to set an example for anyone else who may want to kill his mother. His actions cannot be forgiven under any circumstances.

Forgiveness 7: Once again, the Furies adhere to their black and white perception of the world, blindly following laws by the book rather than consciously thinking about what exactly they are doing. The trial has not even begun yet, but the Furies already insist that he is a guilty man, comparing him to a drowning sailor lost at sea, as his body is crushed against the rocks.

Forgiveness 8: Apollo defends Orestes' actions, declaring that even Zeus, the king of the gods, supported Orestes' vengeful actions against his mother. This god of prophesy states that Orestes must be forgiven, because he was avenging Agamemnon's earlier murder.

Forgiveness 9: The Furies remain angry and lash out verbally against Apollo, claiming that he bribed the older gods with wine to support him. Even though Apollo made a strong argument in favor of Orestes, these avenging goddesses refuse to forgive the young man for murdering Clytaemnestra, threatening to harm Athens if the jury votes for an acquittal.

Forgiveness 10: Athena has broken the jury's tied vote, acquitting Orestes, yet the Furies still refuse to respect this decision, declaring that they will bring sickness and death to Athens. A fair trial has been conducted and a decision already made, but the avenging goddesses still won't forgive Orestes, even though they can't do anything to change the decision now.

Forgiveness 11: The goddesses of wisdom repeatedly offers the Furies to become protectors of Athens, bringing prosperity to the city rather than the destruction they have always sought. The Furies remain defiant, refusing to forgive Orestes or Athena for stopping them.

Forgiveness 12: At long last, the Furies finally accept Athena's generous offer, transforming into the Eumenides, "The Benevolent Ones." They forgive Orestes and Athena, vowing to protect true justice and virtue now in Athens so that the city can prosper and flourish. By this change of heart, the Furies become more rational beings, no longer erratic and unpredictable, learning how to love and nourish instead of how to hate and destroy.

Forgiveness 13: After much persistence, Athena succeeds in convincing the Furies to join her in ruling Athens. As a result, the Furies learn the strong lesson of forgiveness that they had resisted for their entire lives. Previously, they had only known how to make people suffer and feel pain for their crimes. By forgiving Orestes, the Furies become wiser creatures, for they understand that he was in fact avenging his dead father Agamemnon, excusing him from punishment. Rather than blindly punishing criminals, these goddesses become more rational and reflective, much like Athena herself.

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