Progression from Evil to Good in Oresteia Essay

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Progression from Evil to Good in Oresteia

Aeschylus' use of darkness and light as a consistent image in the Oresteia depicts a progression from evil to good, disorder to order. In the Oresteia, there exists a situation among mortals that has gotten out of control; a cycle of death has arisen in the house of Atreus. There also exists a divine disorder within the story which, as the situation of the mortals, must be brought to resolution: the Furies, an older generation of gods, are in conflict with the younger Olympian gods because they have been refused their ancient right to avenge murders between members of the same family. The Oresteia presents two parallel conflicts, both of which must be resolved if harmony is ever to be desired
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As long as this type of evil continues to be practiced in the house of Atreus, darkness will continue to emerge. The Oresteia has not yet seen the light.

The beginning of the progression from darkness to light can initially be seen in the second play of the trilogy, The Libation Bearers. Orestes is the embodiment of this light, a beacon signalling a possible end in the evil that has infected the house of Atreus. It is true that Orestes, in revenge for Agamemnon, kills his mother Clytaemestra. Yet the darkness that is expected from such a murder, a matricide, is negated by one of the main reasons that Orestes commits the murder: his fear of the wrath of Apollo, who has ordered him to commit the deadly act. Aeschylus provides Orestes with a justification for his action in the form of the oracle from Apollo. For not only does Orestes' murder of his mother fail to differ greatly from Clytaemestra's murder of Agamemnon, but it can in fact be seen as a worse crime because of the blood ties. Therefore, in order to convincingly prove his assertion that Orestes is justified in killing his mother, Aeschylus must include the order from Apollo, who by no mere coincidence is the god of light. With the divine support of the light god on his side, Orestes is the beginning of the progressive illumination towards goodness and order in the Oresteia.

Another example of Orestes' introduction of light into a story of darkness