ORESTES A PLAY BY EURIPIDES
The play was written by Euripides and it was first performed in 1408 BC in Ancient Athens. The play is about the young boy who with the help of his younger sister kills his mother Clymnestria in order to revenge for the murder of his father who was the king of Mycenae (Carson 2010,5). The play starts with the young boy condemned to death by the people of his father’s kingdom and tormented by guilt of killing his own mother (Aeschylus and Arthur 2004, 5).
PLOT OF THE PLAY
The play starts with Orestes sister Electrica telling us of her brother Orestes’ killing of their mother Clymnestria, and that today is the day that the people of Argos will decide on whether or not Orestes and Electrica should be stoned to death (Mitiloudis 2011, 8). She continues to inform us that Helen has just arrived with her daughter and requested Electrica to go and put an offering on her mother’s grave but she declined so another person was sent to do so.
Orestes is hunted by his actions but he is consoled by Electrica.The messenger then comes in to inform Orestes and Elecrica of their fate, that they will be murdered but the two decides that they will rather commit suicide than to be stoned to death by the people (Flyer, 27). But also the messenger has a good plan for them that they should murder the unpopular Helen so that their crime will be forgotten and peoples’ focus will shift to the traitor Menelaus. We are also told that Orestes urges Menelaus to change the verdict or he will kill Hermione. Menelaus refuses and raises the alarm. It is at this moment that god Apollo appears and tells Menelaus to keep quiet and that his wife Helen has being defied by Zeus and he should therefore looks for another wife, he also send Orestes to exile for one year after which he will answer to the charges of killing his mother, lastly he ordered Electrica to get married to Pylades and predicts a prosperous marriage for them (Aeschylus and Arthur2004,16).
When and where the play was written and played
The play was written in ancient Greek in the mid 1410BC but the exact year is not known since historian does not know the specific year but only gives conflicting reports as some says its 1403BC while others put it as 1406BC.But they all agree that it was written during the time of Peloponnesian war in great Athens (George 1983, 2).
Euripides uses the mythology of the Bronze as he is used to in many of his plays that he has written to show the political situation of the Classical Athens during the Peloponnesian war (Mitilodis 2011,78). Orestes was first performed at the Dionysian during the early years of the war, during this time both the warring sides have suffered a lot of loss due the war(Aeschylus and Arthur 2004 ,46)
The writer also explains it out the role of the gods and more precisely man understanding of divine opinion (Aeschylus and Arthur 2004, 56). Orestes and other actors note the subordinate role of man to the gods, but the superiority of the gods does not make them particularly fair or rational (Flyer 1983,69). Even the god of law and order (Apollo) gives a very contradicting and unpleasant argument. For example, he argues that the reason for the Trojan War is a formula used by god to control the high population control which in real sense is absurd as god cannot not control the world population by war. This leads us to wonder why these gods or even leaders use such method for a greater good, and if this is what happen then why are they really worthy of our praises and respects (Carson 2010 ,45).
The role of natural law and its conflict with rules and regulation used by leaders are also discussed in the play. For example, Tyndale’s argues to Menelaus that the law is fundamental to man’s lives, to which Menelaus counters that blind obedience to anything, such as the law, is an attribute of a slave (Aeschylus and Arthur 2004 ,89).
The importance of peace and the beauty of life are also observed in the play. Apollo’s last statements that Peace is more important than all other values. Orestes best brings out this value by sparing the life of the Phrygian, elaborating this point that value of life supersedes cultural boundaries whether one be a slave or free man (Carson 2010,43). This was also the only successful supplication in the play. This point is of particular value, since the Peloponnesian war was going on already for almost quarter of a century by the time this play was produced (Carson 2010, 45)
Euripides brings out the theme of revenge in his play.Clymnestria killed her husband after he returned from Trojan War so as to revenge against him for giving out their daughter during the war. Orestes also killed his mother to as to revenge the murder of his father by their mother. We also see that his sister Electra also support her brothers action of killing her mother because she also want to revenge.
Another theme is also social justice. In the play many chorus which are sung in the play depicts that a blood must be paid by a blood. This means that there in no other way of punishing a murder other than killing him. They believe that for justice to be done to the victim the killer must be killed. This is shown in the beginning of the play where as the People of dynosium kingdom were voting on whether Oreste and Electra should be stoned to death or not for killing their mother, and from the result majority of them supported the idea of stoning the two siblings to death. This shows that the people are of the view that the only way that justice can be done is to kill them.
Clymnestria also killed her husband with help of her lover because she believes that it is the only way she can get justice, Orestes and his sister Electra also killed clymnestria because they believe it is the perfect way that justice can be done for the death of their farther.
We can conclude that the political situation was very unstable as there is war going on, and the king has also been killed by his wife. The justice system is also very weak and people have decided to take law into their hand as they don’t have trust in the justice system in place. We realize that Orestes does not believe on manmade laws and therefore decide to follow the advice of Apollo who is depicted as the god of peace (Aeschylus and Arthur 2004, 56).
This widely known play also reveals the emotional consequences of Orestes' murder of his mother for persona gains and selfish interest, and passes a strong message and word of advice to the leaders of Athens about the threat to democracy posed by the Politian (Flyer 1913,43).
Work that is based on this play
The Oresteia, a series of plays by Aeschylus which capture the end of the curse on the house of the Arteus.The name Oresteia was derived from the main character Orestes who sets to avenge his father death after he was killed by his mother (Carson 2010,34).The main Theme of the play was shift of justice system from personal judgement to litigation process.
Electra, play by Sophocles.It is a of a story of a young girl called Electica who is waiting for her brother to arrive so that they can avenge their fathers death(Mitiloudis 2011,78).
Mourning Becomes Electra, play by Eugene O'Neill, based on Aeschylus.it was performed in 1931 and updates the Greek mythology to the family of American general during the time of civil war, whereby Agamemnon is now Ezra, Orestes is his son Orin, Clymensteria with his wife Christine and electrica with his daughter Lavina (Carson 2010,23).
The Flies, a play by Jean-Paul Sartre, modernizing the Electra myth around the theme of existentialism (mitiloudis 2011,42)
Electricidad, play by Luis Alfaro, modern adaptation of Electra based in the Chicano barrio,It is based on the theme of revenge as brought out in the play Orestes (Mitiloudis 2011,46) .Electricidad is shown as mourning the death of her husband infront of her neighbours and mother who is suspected to have killed him inorder to rise to the leadership of the criminal gang Chicano barri
The Murders at Argos (2003) a play by David Foley, modernising the return and murder of Argamemnon followed by the murders of Clytemnestra and Aegisthuso (Aeschylus 2004,65).
Elektra, by Richard Strauss, with libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.It was adapted from the play and shows the modern part of it only while the ancient part of the story was completly left out.it is mainly based on the actor Electra where they shows her strong lust for revenge(Carson 2010,56)
Mourning Becomes Electra, by Marvin David Levy.It is an updated story of the play to the family of nothern america general during the time of civil war.Agemenon was the general Ezra,Orestes is his son Orin,Clymensteria is his wife Christine and Electrica is his daughter Lavina(Mitiloudis 2011,78).
Idomeneo, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, where Elecrica plays the role of rejected lover/villain (Mitiloudis 2011,54).
Electra, opera by Johann Christian Friedrich Haeffner, Libretto by Adolf Fredrik Ristell after Nicolas Francois Guillard. First performed on 22 July 1787 at Drottningholm (Carson 2010 ,12)
Electra, a film by Michael Cacoyannis, starring Irene Papas, based on Euripides work(Carson 2010,65).
Mourning Becomes Electra (film), a film by Dudley Nichols, starring Rosalind Russell and Michael Redgrave.It entirely based on the play and was produced in the year 1947(Thomas 1968,34).
Ellie, a film which relates the story of ancient Athens as depicted in the play to the politics of united state (Aeschylus and Arthur 2004 ,57)
elektraZenSuite, medium-length film by Alessandro Brucini, based on texts by Aeschylus, Sophocles, William Shakespeare, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Sylvia Plath, and the Zen Buddhist monk Takuan Soho (Carson 2010,76)
Electra, film by Shyamaprasad, starring Nayanthara, Manisha Koirala and Prakash Raj, based on Euripides (Aeschylus and Arthur 2004 ,90)
Marina and the Diamonds's second album Electra Heart is based on a character she created of the same name whose story is told through the album, and which portrays the darker side of the American dream with elements of Greek tragedy which are particularly apparent in her visuals and aesthetic (Carson 2010 ,89)
In Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy poem Inferno, Electra is seen in Limbo(Mitiloudis 2011,67).
Elektra (Laodice) is the unnamed protagonist and speaker in Yannis Ritsos's long poem Beneath the Shadow of the Mountain. This poem forms part of the cycle colloquially referred to as the New Oresteia (Mitiloudis 2011 ,62)
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