the conflict between blood-ties and oath-ties in the Oresteia and Media. How is this approach to reading these texts (just one of very many possible approaches) a useful one? (In your
mind, how much of the totality of these four plays is accounted for by this approach?) *Approach spoke of is Nortans Anthology
rather than a studying of the complete texts.
conflict between blood ties and oath-ties as portrayed in the Oresteia and Medea are diametrically opposed. In the Oresteia we are presented with a variety of blood ties, but it is the oath tie which causes the
most controversy. Alternately, in the Medea, although there is a clear violation
of the oath tie, it is the destruction of the blood tie, which is portrayed with horror.
Clytaemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon, slays her husband
upon his return from victory at Troy. Clearly murdering ones spouse would be
a breaking of the oath tie; however, Agamemnons sacrifice of Iphigenia, his daughter, which is the reason for Clytaemnestras
action, is an equally clear breaking of the blood tie. During the course of the
book only the Furys defend the actions of Clytaemnestra; however, Agamemnon is, figuratively speaking, given little more reproach
than a mock frown and a what did you do you naughty boy. Clearly the zeitgeist
was more inclined to value the oath tie than the blood tie.
In Medea; however, the zeitgeist changes. Jason, the husband of Medea, decides that he is no longer in need of Medea.
He has, after all, already fetched the Golden Fleece, with much help from his wife, and now has the kingdom and a new
and improved wife. This is Medeas incident of the breaking of an oath tie. The reader of Medea are given Jason in the light of a family man who shows concern
for his children while Medea is vilified to King and kingdom alike. When humiliation
turns to rage Medea murders her children, this is as solid an example of the obliteration of the blood tie as one can hope
for. The play portrays this murderess as an evil viper capable of any betrayal
while the poor husband is left weeping. Although this is a tragic play, the real
tragedy of this play lies within its portrayal of Jason as breaking his oath tie (just a little broke since he is doing it
for Medea and the children) but leaving the play as a victim.
The handling of the blood and oath ties are apparently
different in both Medea and the Oresteia. It is unclear from the limited text
we have to use for this comparison whether this was done because of the time, the men who were to be the audience or the common
use of literature as a tool of propoganda. Would Agamemnon have been avenged
if he were Medea? In comparing the texts of both plays the answer is no. Therefore, the differences in the blood and oath ties in our limited text are different.
The comparison used in these two pieces of work might have
their purpose; however, in their reading from Nortons Anthology, without a more detailed background to the pieces, that purpose
is lost. Analyzing pieces of work as different in theme, without the deeper understanding
of the times which were the setting for such plays, negates any conclusion that might be found.
Using this approach of contrasting ties takes any enjoyment
away from the plays. To overanalyze a portion of a piece will never yield anything
substantial or whole. In reading the abbreviated text of Oresteia and Medea in
the rushed manner in which this paper demands does give the reader the opportunity to peer into the window of the ancient
times from which it was born; however, it does not gain entry through the door of knowledge or to the totality of these works.