The Eumenides

Aeschylus the Eumenides

What is the role of the Chorus in the play? What background or "publice opinion" perspective does it add?

 The Chorus of Furies in Aeschylus the Eumenides

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The Chorus of this play is constituted by the Eumenides, also called the Furies. Primal goddesses, the Furies are as terrifying as they are ancient. Zeus, king of the gods, has made them outcasts. The current gods, the Olympians, are much younger than the Furies. Just as Zeus' father, Cronus, overthrew his father with force, Zeus overthrew Cronus with force and drove the ancient gods and goddesses into a deep Pit far below Hades. Zeus is the patriarch of this current generation of gods and goddesses, the Olympians. The Furies harbor great bitterness against these new gods, who seek to overturn ancient ways and laws. (For more detailed sketches of the various gods and goddesses in the Greek pantheon, see the character list for the Iliad.)

Although Apollo characterizes the Furies as evil, that is a simplification of their nature. Certainly, the Furies are savage and brutal, but they believe in their own form of justice. A man who commits great sin, such as matricide, must be hounded and brutally punished. Fear, the Eumenides argue, is a necessary weapon to hold back anarchy. It is the Eumenides' job to punish the wicked, and it has been their job since almost the beginning of time. Their appearance is terrifying: hair of snakes, eyes dripping blood, skin withered and black, breath that smells of corruption. But the great goddess Athene, herself one of the young and rational deities, recognizes that the Furies represent an important aspect of Truth. The Furies, emblems of a more brutal past, cannot be eliminated. They must be reconciled to the new order.

The Furies hunt Orestes for the murder of his mother. Their job puts them at odds with the god Apollo, who is Orestes' main proponent.