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Essay on Justice In Oresteia And Hippolytus

Upon reading Greek tragedies, many similar themes and tropes would often reappear as a way to tell the audience that the story which they are reading is a tragedy. One of these tropes was the seeking justice. Whether if the justice for another person or their own gratification, justice was a major influence in these plays. Two examples of such tragedies were the Oresteia and Hippolytus. In both, the death of one character sparked a chain reaction that leads others characters to find ways to avenge the fallen ones.

This would usually entail more death to come, and cycle of violence seemed to be endless until the gods stepped into the fray to resolve the conflict that the humans simplicity could not. While many could interpret the god’s actions as the law because as powerful beings, they would understand how to resolve these conflicts better than the humans. Unfortunately, even as powerful gods, their actions were not just for the mortals, but also for their own benefit. Because of this, a radical difference between what then mortals wanted and what the gods wanted.

What this meant was that there was no justice given to the mortals because did not serve the mortals any justice, rather the gods serve only to benefit themselves. Before concluding with how the gods did not serve the mortal in a just way, and establishment needs to be made on what the mortal wanted. In the Oresteia, Aeschylus began with the homecoming of Agamemnon from the Trojan War. There, he acquired a concubine, Cassandra. Upon bringing her home, his wife, Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus, plotted their murder.

This prompted the return of Orestes from his years of exile from Argos to avenge his father’s death. Ultimately he killed both Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. This lead the Furies to drove him into madness and both Apollo and Athena had to be brought in to stop the tutor. In this play, the motives for each of the killings was justified by the killers because they did it for the justice of another person. For Orestes, he wanted to avenge his father to the best of his abilities. Clytemnestra said that she wanted Agamemnon dead was because of the death of their daughter Iphigenia.

She was sacrifice after Agamemnon offended the goddess Artemis and could not set sail to Troy ten years prior (Lines 1555-1558). However, while it was not explicitly stated, she had other motives which could have led her to kill Cassandra as well. For one, bring in a mistress back from war would have have promoted for her to feel threatened or her place in the place as Queen of Argos. Secondly, when she took Aegisthus as a lover, it would have signify that she no longer wants to be married to Agamemnon, but she still had intentions to remaining queen.

As for Aegisthus, while he tried to made himself the mastermind of it all, the play gave him the image of nothing more of a pathetic individual who not only wanted the crown, but was too scared to do so, so he hid behind Clytemnestra when he finally appeared (Line 1665-1675). So to the story he was no more than a prop which Clytemnestra used as arm candy because even in the presence of the chorus made up of old men, he threatened their lives for insulting him.

When Orestes took is revenge, Aegisthus would later on be what Cassandra was when Clytemnestra murdered Agamemnon: collateral damage. Seemingly, the murder could have been contained within the family, but not letting her death to be the end, Clytemnestra called upon the furies to go and hunt down Orestes. While the events of Hippolytus was as extensive as that of the Oresteia, within the 1500 lines of the play, the motivations of the characters were outlines as to why they made the decisions they did.

It started with Hippolytus himself and as a young man his mannerism was not as sharp as that of a his father or an older men. This would unfortunately explain why, right in front of the statue of Aphrodite, he insulted her and said that he does not want to marry, but instead run with Artemis and hunt with her forever. After being insulted in such an ungraceful way, it would of course made Aphrodite mad and took control of his stepmother, Phaedra to fall in love with him.

Thinking of such sinful act with her stepson, she was burdened with the fact that she cannot run off to the mountains with Artemis to be with her and sworn away men. This caused her to commit suicide and in doing so she left a slabs which point to Hippolytus as a rapist and was too ashamed to live with the fact that it happened (Lines 723-729). While it was not what happened, but to her it was only just to inflict misery and pain which the curse by Aphrodite cast on her to go back to Hippolytus as he was the source of the pain.

This inturned alarmed Theseus, the father Hippolytus and husband of Phaedra, about the suicide. For him, the decision was hard to make because if Hippolytus is let go, he would have done an injustice to his wife, but if Hippolytus died, he would have lived with the burden of knowing that he killed his own son (Lines 1057-1063). In the end, he chose to kill his own son, which only brought him grief as he did so. It seemed as if in both cases, when mortals were on their own, the products of their actions caused grief and strife to not only themselves but to the people around them.

This would mean that the gods would have to intervene, but their intervention would not help anyone but themselves. While it might just seem that the killing of Cassandra would end as just a simple killing, and her influence would end at that because not only was she alone and family-less, she was also from Troy. No one would expect for anyone to come in on her behalf, but prior to the Trojan War, she was a priestess of Apollo. What made her so special was the fact that she was so loved by Apollo, he gave her the gift of sight, but she did not fully reciprocate his affection by not giving him a child.

He cursed her so that her predictions were not believed. While this caused her death, he still loved her. Because of that love, when Orestes killed Clytemnestra and was being chased by the furies, Apollo came down and tried to protect Orestes. This was because when Orestes killed Clytemnestra, he inadvertently took revenge for Cassandra which would please Apollo. So this would mean that while at first when Apollo came down to helped Orestes, it might have seemed that

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