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Essay justice in the oresteia

essay justice in the oresteia

Justice in the Oresteia

Justice is often taken for granted in the world we live in today with
a judicial system that gives fair punishment for most crimes. In the
Oresteia justice works much differently, where there are no judges or
a court system to resolve disputes, instead there is revenge. Revenge
is very messy because somebody will and has to get hurt first to
desire revenge, and it leads to a cycle that cannot and will not end
until everybody is dead. Justice does not and cannot only be revenge
because in the end nobody would be left in that system. Aeschylus'
Oresteia focuses on revenge as justice, with the old system that no
longer works and that someone must fix, and a new system that has many

The old system, one of revenge, leads to death after death; it also
requires someone to kill the murderer and avenge the victim's death.
Revenge is often spurred on my loss of a loved one. Clytemnestra is no
exception to this rule; she feels that she must avenge the murder of
her daughter by killing her husband, Agamemnon. When Agamemnon arrives
from conquering Troy, Clytemnestra only wishes that "by all rights our
child should be here…/Orestes" (867-868). She flatters him and attacks
him through his greatest weakness, his pride by treating him and
giving him the welcome of a god, "give me the tributes of a man, / and
not a god, a little earth to walk on, / not this gorgeous work
(918-920). Agamemnon realizes that Clytemnestra is not only treating
him very well because he is returning home a victor but also that he
is just returning alive. After Clytemnestra kills her husband and
shows the blood stained body to the e...

... middle of paper ...

you, Athena" (928-929). The new system allows for people to have a
fair trial, and it does not leave everybody dead in the end.

The old system where justice equaled revenge was out of date and not
practical because in the end everybody would have ended up hurt or
dead. Orestes knew change was necessary not only for his survival but
also the survival of the Greek world. The new system was fairer for
the accused as well as the victim, and it did not make blood feuds
that ran for several generations. Justice will be something mankind is
always striving to improve and trying to obtain the perfect system.

Works Cited

Aeschylus. The Oresteia. Trans Robert Fagles. The Norton Anthology of

Masterpieces: The Western Tradition. Ed Peter Simon. United States of
America: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999. 521-595.

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