Aeschylus Eumenides discussion questions

Aeschylus, EUMENIDES

Note the strange choral activity in this play

Places Apollo’s temple at Delphi;  later, the Acropolis, and then the Areopagus in Athens

Time Shortly after the murder of Clytemnestra


Fagles’pages Fagles’ lines (Grk lines) Part

pp. 231-233 1-66F (1-63) Prologue

pp. 233-237 67-143F (64-142) First episode

pp. 237-238 144-175F (143-178) First stasimon

pp. 238-245 176-306F (179-306) Second episode, including parados

pp. 245-248 307-407F (307-395) Second stasimon

pp. 249-253 408-505F (396-489) Third episode

pp. 254-255 506-571F (490-565) Third stasimon

pp. 255-266 572-791F (566-766) Fourth episode

pp. 266 792-804F (767-792) Fourth stasimon

pp. 267-277 805-1057F (793-1047) Fifth episode and exodos

1. Prologue:  the Pythia (Apollo’s priestess at Delphi) speaks of three generations of gods.  What conflicts between the ages are expressed in this scene?  How does this work within the trilogy, and how as a statement of Justice?

2. First episode:  Apollo stands over Orestes (why?), and bids Hermes shepherd him well (94):  how does this animal imagery work?  (Compare Agamemnon 779, however).  The ghost of Clytemnestra enters:  what imagery does she employ?

3. First stasimon:  The Furies call Apollo “a younger god.”  (Where do they come from, anyway?)  What do you make of line 155:  “Guilt both ways, and who can call it justice?”

4. Second episode, including parodos:  This scene is very unusual.  The debate between Apollo and the Furies over parenthood will occupy us in class.  Consider the argument as one between blood-relations and ritualized relations.  Apollo declares that Athene will preside over a trial at the Parthenon in Athens.  The scene change at p. 241 is unprecedented in tragedy:  note that the play was performed at the foot of the Acroplis with the temple in view.  What is Aeschylus doing?

5. Second stasimon: The Furies sing a binding song to capture him (consider the weaving imagery of the Odyssey here).  What do you mkae of this net imagery?

6. Third episode:  Athene hears each side, and appoints a tribunal of Athenians.  Why?

7. Third stasimon and fourth episode:  I would like those of you in Group A to take the side of the Furies, and those in Group B to take Apollo’s side.  We will argue this out. (Please consider lines 655ff alongside St. Paul’s remarks at Acts 17:16-34).  Athena acquits Orestes, and this has bothered everybody ever since.  Consider the following two statements:

Albin Lesky, Greek Tragedy (p. 84):  “Man cannot by his own power break away from the bondage of crime and destiny which encircles him, but the xaris [grace] of the gods, in whose hands he is, can release him.”

H.D.F. Kitto, Greek Tragedy (p. 96):  “We are given the form, not the substance of debate;  as if to emphasize that, Aeschylus makes Athena give her vote on grounds that are irrelevant.”

8. Fourth stasimon, fifth episode and exodos:  the Furies are turned into the Eumenides (the Kindly Ones) by what means?  Consider the arguments from 877ff.  (esp. 893-894, 916, and 920ff.).  In thhe final scene, torches were held up by all members of the audience, a symbol of Justice triumphing over Vengeance.  Connect this to the Watchman’s Prologos in the Agamemnon.

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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