THEMES IN THE ORESTEIA
1. THE JUSTICE OF GOD -DIKE and THEMIS (divine Justice and the Law of Nature. Are the gods just?
"To justify the ways of God to man". -Milton
2. REVENGE Composed of three elements:
a. Human justice has broken down -usually because the wrongdoer(s) are beyond the reach of the law: the ruler himself or his family. The ruler is the only source of human justice and his family are unassailable.
b. Divine justice is either slow or the wronged mortals have no confidence in it. Greek humanism of the 5th century B.C. was questioning traditional religion much as Renaissance humanism was questioning it. (Shakespeare, Webster etc.)
c. Willingness to take the law into his/her own hands through impatience or primitivism in the avenger. The blood feud is more ancient than law.
3. WOMAN RIGHT VERSUS MAN-RIGHT i.e. mother vs. father, wife vs. husband, sister vs. brother, goddesses or female deities vs. male gods; to some extent heavenly gods vs. chthonic (underworld deities because the earth is female and its deities matriarchal while the sky god is male and sky gods patriarchal.
4. THE EFFECTS OF REVENGE
a. on Society. How do you break the chain of tit-for- tat revenge or blood- feud? Is there any way to halt it? Can anyone involved in it resist the pressure of it (cf. Cassandra and, in Sophocles' Electra, Chrysothemis). The corruption of Society caused by violence, law- breaking and usurpation.
b. To the individuals involved. How the deed changes the doer, and the doer's nature. (Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Orestes, Electra).
5. MAN'S OWN RESPONSIBILITY for his deeds and HUMAN JUSTICE AND COURTS OF JUSTICE. Law in Society, the setting up of a court of justice that will not be biased because not dominated by men of power who can sway verdicts; therefore a democratic court.
6. THE CONSEQUENCES OF WAR
a. To the civilians left behind -Watchman, Choros of "Agamemnon".
b. The conquered now enslaved and embittered or brutalized -Cassandra and Choros of "Choephorae".
c .Brutalization of the warriors and victors -they commit crime and blasphemy, trampling on the weak and destroying human relations.
d. The price to society of the war dead and the attrition of bereavement.
e. Leaving an opening for the entry of evil -Aegisthus and Clytemnestra and usurpation.
7. THE QUALITIES OF THE TYPICAL TRAGEDY TYRANT: (Agamemnon in "Agamemnon", Aigisthus in "Choephoroe", Creon in "Antigone"
a. Absence of self -control
b. Willingness to believe the worst on hearsay evidence
c. Brutality towards the helpless
d. A stupid reliance on physical forces as a means of settling spiritual problems.