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Essay about The Imagery of Bloodshed in The Oresteia

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The Imagery of Bloodshed in The Oresteia

 

In the prologue of Agamemnon, the first play of Aeschylus' trilogy, The

Oresteia, the watchman implores the gods for "a blessed end to all our

pain." (20). He is asking for deliverance from the retributive system of

justice, where the only certainty is that bloodshed breeds more bloodshed.

The old men of the chorus in their opening chant, "Hymn to Zeus," declare

that suffering must be experienced before man can be released from this

ceaseless irredeemable bloodshed and thus be, "free from all the pain." (1)

They declare that it is a law laid down by Zeus "that we must suffer,

suffer into truth./ We cannot sleep, and drop by drop at the heart/ the

pain of pain remembered comes again,/ and we resist, but ripeness comes as

well." (177-184) Eventually, as the more and more of the agony of

remembered pain, the blood, drips away from the heart, there will be

"ripeness." The blood will be transformed from pain into a deliverance

from the blood vendetta.

 

Throughout the Oresteia, there is a transformation

in Aeschylus' use of blood imagery. In Agamemnon, he uses it to illustrate

the suffering and hopelessness that arise out of the vendetta system of

justice. Then, in The Libation Bearers, he continues use of the imagery as

the bloody cycle continues and also uses it to testify to the beginnings of

the search for a deliverance from all the bloodshed. Finally, in The

Eumenides, through a change in the pattern of the imagery, Aeschylus

illuminates the deliverance and "ripeness" brought forth by a new order

that breaks the cycle of blood deeds.

 

In Agamemnon, Aeschylus presents the sufferi...


... middle of paper ...


...caused by the

retributive system of justice. Aeschylus illustrates this process of

deliverance through the imagery of bloodshed . In Agamemnon, he uses it to

illustrate the hopelessness that results from the futile and unending cycle

of the blood vendetta. In The Libation Bearers, he uses the imagery to

further illuminate the impossibility of redeeming bloodshed and to testify

to the beginnings of the search for deliverance. Finally, in The Eumenides,

the images of bloodshed are transformed into ones of "ripeness" testifying

that a blessed end to all the pain can be found in a resolution between the

ancient vendetta and the new social order.  
      

Works Cited

Aeschylus. Aeschylus, The Oresteia A New Translation for the Theater by Aeschylus,. Translated by Wendy Doniger and David Greene. University of Chicago Press, 1989.


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