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Theatre / Eumenides

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Third part of the tragedy trilogy The Oresteia, written by Aeschylus.

Still feeling guilty for his mother’s murder, and still being pursued by the Erinyes, Orestes takes refuge in Apollo’s temple at Delphi, who promises to protect him and tells him to appeal to Athena for help. Meanwhile, the ghost of Clytemnestra urges the Furies to continue searching for her son and they eventually find him.

At that moment, Athena intervenes and decides to settle the whole thing on a judgment, with Apollo acting as Orestes’ attorney, the Erinyes defending the ghost and Athena and others as the jury. Just as Athena predicted, it results in a tie, after which Orestes is acquitted, something the Erinyes have to accept eventually.


After this play there was originally a Satyr Play called Proteus, but save for a few fragments, it has not survived until today.

Eumenides provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Biology: Athena, who was herself born with only a male parent (she popped out of Zeus' forehead, remember?), argues that women don't really count as kin to their offspring, as they just "nourish the seed" provided by men.
  • Greek Chorus: The Eumenides who, in fact, are the same Erinyes of the previous play.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Orestes’ defense.
  • Implied Death Threat: Athena persuades the Furies to back down off of Orestes by pointing out that showing mercy and favoring justice instead of vengeance would lead to them being honored and beloved by the people—oh and also, she has the keys to the storehouse where Zeus keeps his thunderbolts.
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  • Karma Houdini: Not Orestes, curiously, since he has a BSOD and is being followed by the Erinyes, but rather Electra, who convinced Orestes of doing the killing. Of course, since Orestes was acquitted, you could argue that the acquittal was extended to anyone involved (including Apollo, who was also guilty to a point).
  • The Nose Knows: The Erinyes find Orestes following the smell of his mother’s blood on his hands.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Clytemnestra’s ghost appears more like a collection of dreams or thoughts than a singular being.
  • Pet the Dog: Although Apollo could be a real Jerkass in other myths, here he tries to protect Orestes, who honoured his command to kill Clytemnestra.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Athena, Apollo.

Alternative Title(s): The Eumenides


Example of: