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Legal topics in The Furies


Within Aeschylus’ play, The Furies, there are many topics regarding law and order and the justice system as a whole that are portrayed. Something we talked about as a class prior to reading this play is the ideology of “an eye for an eye” and whether it is moral. This is seen within The Furies, when Clytemnestra kills her husband Agamemnon because he sacrificed their daughter, Iphigenia. After Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon, their son Orestes takes matters into his own hands, and kills his mother. (So, this situation is actually an eye for an eye for an eye). For the remainder of the play, Orestes is being held accountable by the Furies for committing the act of matricide. 

The concept of “an eye for an eye” is a very interesting one to think about. In some degree, “an eye for an eye” can also be argued as being the basis of the justice system as a whole. For example, those receiving the death penalty as a form of punishment for committing the act of murder alines with exactly what “an eye for an eye” is defined as. When being punished for your crimes is a result of the legal system it is deemed as being just, as opposed to someone outside the justice system taking matters into their own hands, which is deemed morally wrong. Although a complicated topic, “an eye for an eye” is very interesting to think about in terms of within both literature and the real world. 

Another topic that can be examined within Aeschylus’ play The Furies, is the discussion of individual accountability. Within the play, Orestes shifts the blame of killing his mother to Apollo, who he claims orchestrated the crime. This begs the question, who is to blame, the one that committed the act or the one who told the other to do so? This is an issue that is seen in real world situations as well. Although both would technically be culpable in a court of law, which one truly deserves to have the harsher punishment for the crime?  

Overall, The Furies sheds light on many topics in regards to law and order and the justice system. It is interesting reading and discussing these topics because although they are being portrayed in a literary and Mythical setting, they are still relevant to today’s society as well.