The Furies – Role of the Patriarchy

In Aeschylus’s The Furies, the concept of the patriarchy doesn’t fully extend to the exclusion of female entities in terms of law and politics. While among the gods, Zeus is the father of most gods and his word and will are practiced and held at the highest standard, as said by the god Apollo many times in his argument against the revenge-seeking Furies, some women in this society, and even among the gods, still hold some sort of powerful influence over the idea of justice. The goddess of wisdom, Athena, is sought out by Orestes for shelter and protection from the Furies, who are pursuing Orestes for committing matricide. The retributive justice that the Furies seek in Clytemnestra’s name asserts a high level of respect for women in society, especially mothers, which allows them to use the law and justice system to correct or settle wrongdoings done unto them. The goddess Athena also serves as a judge or mediator in the trial scene of the play, and her word is understood as the final say in the matter of Orestes’ fate. Athena seems to have more authority than the god Apollo does, considering Apollo and Orestes ask Athena for her guidance and judgement. While the women (or female entities) in this part of the drama clearly hold some sort of high authority, it is also clear that the patriarchy is still most powerful in Greek politics. Apollo often times refers to Zeus as the highest power and Athena casts her vote in favor of Orestes based on her relationship to her father Zeus and lack of relationship to any sort of motherly figure. Apollo even goes so far to say that mothers essentially have no role in parenthood, and are strangers to their children, only existing to birth and feed their young. The presence of a patriarchal society is also clear through the anger of the Furies, who furiously defend the concepts of motherhood and womanhood, and are angry and repulsed at the men in this play for holding little importance on the criminality of matricide. At the end of the play, Orestes is found not guilty and the power of the male authority is reinforced through this holding.

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