Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Eumenides

The Oresteia is a trilogy of ancient Greek plays by Aeschylus. The first, Agamemnon, deals with the victorious Trojan War general's return home, not to a hero's welcome, but to a murder at the hands of his wife.  The second, the Libation Bearers, is the account of how the hero's children avenge his death by conspiring to kill their mother.

The third play, the Eumenides, follows Orestes after his matricide. He is pursued by ancient female vengeance demons called the Erinyes (or Furies) in punishment for his deed, even though he acted at the instigation of the god Apollo and thus believed that right was on his side.  Even the Olympians who govern the universe could not give him sanctuary from the lowly (literally chthonic, or subterranean) deities who insist on tormenting him.

In the end, it was settled in court, with Apollo acting as attorney for the defense, the Furies as prosecutors, and Athena as judge.  There was a hung jury, which Athena declared should result in an acquittal.  The Furies would not accept this, however, unless they received something in return.  Giving them their propers, Athena declared that a temple would be built in their honor in Athens, and from henceforth, they would be known as the Eumenides (or "Kindly Ones").

It has been over 20 years since I've read that play, but today I was suddenly reminded of it. Governor Walker and Republican state legislators have found themselves greeted by hundreds of protesters in cities all over Wisconsin. To escape the heat (and raise some much-needed cash for media buys), the chief actors have gone to the nation's capital for a big fundraiser, like Orestes seeking sanctuary in the temple of Athena.  However, a crowd of Furies have tracked them down.

Meanwhile, back in Madison, a Kindly One tormented Glenn Grothman.

1 comment:

Anonymous1 said...

Unlike Orestes, Walker's urn is surely destined to end up with more black than white pebbles in it.