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I have created this version of Aeschylus's play to put this play in modern understandable English. This is not a literal translation.
Where characters from Greek mythology are referred to in the dialogue, I have tried to give a simple explanation in the dialogue as to who those characters are.
I have picked this play because it tells the story, however apocryphal, of the first jury trial. The works of Aristole spell out in great detail how the Athenian jury system operated, for those interest in a bit more history.
Adapted by John Donald O'Shea
King Agamemnon has recently returned to Greece after leading the Greek armies to victory in the Trojan War. Shortly after his return, Agamemnon is murdered as he bathes by his wife, Clytemnestra. Clytemnestra acts out of revenge, because Agamemnon, has sacrificed their daughter to appease the gods.
Orestes is the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. At the direction of the god, Apollo, Orestes kills his mother in order to avenge her murder of his father.
Orestes, then seeks refuge and expiation at the shire of Apollo at Delphi. He is pursued by the Furies, ancient goddesses, who mercilessly punish all who commit blood crimes. Apollo casts the Furies into a deep sleep, and sends Orestes to Athens and to the goddess Athena to plead his case and to obtain justice.
Orestes arrives in Athens just ahead of the pursuing Furies. Orestes clings to Athena's statue, and prays for her Athena's intervention.
Athena appears. Orestes and the Furies both explain why they have traveled to her shrine.
Athena desires to do justice, but fears the wrath of the Furies upon her people and her city. To those ends, she proposes to conduct the first-ever murder trial in order to determine Orestes’ guilt or innocence. She further proposes that the trial beheld before the first jury. The Furies and Orestes both agree to her plan.
When the trial begins, the Furies, as prosecutors, argue that Clytemnestra’s life was worth more than Agamemnon’s, because Orestes was related to his mother by blood. Husband and wife are not so related. Apollo appears on behalf of Orestes, both as witness and defense counsel. He argues that men’s lives are worth more than women’s.
The jury deadlocks. Because Athena had no mother, and sprang directly from her father, Zeus, Athena then casts the deciding vote finding Orestes not guilty.
The result infuriates the Furies, who believe that Athena has trampled upon their ancient
rights and duties.
Athena, however, wisely and reasonably offers the Furies a new role: patron goddesses of Athens. She patiently explains that if they provide the city with peace and prosperity, they will receive offerings and prayer in return. She appeals to their reason, to overcome their emotions.
After no little convincing, the Furies agree, and take on the title of the "Eumenides" —“the kindly ones.”
Persons of the Drama
(3 male roles. 3 female roles. A chorus of 6 Furies,
with Fury #1 being the Leader. A chorus of at least 4 Priestesses. 10 to 12 jurors, preferably males)
The Pythia or Oracle. The priestess who attends the shrine at Pytho, the sanctuary at Delphi, a sanctuary dedicated to the Greek god Apollo
The son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra,
The god of prophecy. The divine son of Zeus.
HERMES (male - non speaking)
THE GHOST OF CLYTEMNESTRA (Female)
The mother of Orestes; murdered by Orestes.
CHORUS OF FURIES (6 Females)
The Furies. Ancient goddesses who revenge crimes of blood.
(Fury #1 is the Chorus Leader. These 6 roles are major roles)
The divine daughter of Zeus. Born without a mother, having emerged fully grown out of the head of Zeus
THE JURORS (Males; could be females)
The first jury, chosen by Athena
CHORUS OF PRIESTESSES (Females)
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