Agamemnon, The Choephori, and The Eumenides By Aeschylus Summary and Analysis The Eumenides: Second Stasimon (Lines 307-395)

Summary

The chorus state that their eternal function is to punish criminals and avenge unpunished murders. They do not harm the innocent, but when a man is stained with guilt, as Orestes is, they haunt him until his evil deeds have been paid for in full. They call on the spirit of Night, their mother, to witness Apollo's efforts to hinder them in the pursuit of their duties. They say that their function was given to them at the very dawn of time, and they are implacable in carrying it out. They are feared by all men. Even the gods cannot interfere with the Furies, for their role was assigned them by Destiny.

Analysis

The ancient conception of justice represented by the Furies is explained in this ode. They stand for the primitive lex talionis, or law of retaliation — the criminal is punished by being made the victim of the same crime he committed ("an eye for an eye"), and the ties of blood kinship are the most sacred of human bonds. These ideas are the legal basis for the blood feuds that were common in ancient Greece and for the tragic experiences of the family of Atreus recounted in this trilogy.

Certain stanzas of this ode are known to scholars as the "binding-song" or "binding-spell" because the words have an almost hypnotic quality in Greek and seem intended as an effort to entrance and trap Orestes by magical means.

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