Western Literature lesson 55

How does the view of ethical cause and effect in history in Works and Days compare with the furies’ view in The Eumenides?

In Works and Days, Hesiod took an opposite standpoint from the Furies in Aeschylus’ The Eumenides. In Hesiod’s book there was a lot of forgiveness going on. Even when he felt cheated, he offered advice, whereas the Furies had no mercy. They were Vengeance, embodied.  For instance, the Furies pursues Orestes for his crimes, despite the fact that he had been ordered to commit it by a higher being than himself. Hesiod enjoyed heaps of justice and sanctions every morning with his breakfast, served by his grand immortal waiters far, far upstairs, the Olympians. But the Furies doled out their particular brand of justice themselves. Though Hesiod and the Furies differed on who served the justice, on this topic of justice we find a rare case of the two sides agreeing. Neither were fond of the mortal law courts because both believed there existed another group who could divvy up a pile of justice better. Hesiod: the gods; the Furies: themselves. The Furies were self-confident almost to the point of arrogance, but they had a right to be because they had been performing their duty since the beginning of time. Every single manner of punishment was the same: swift and brutal, no matter the crime. “We think we are straight in our justice: no anger from us comes against those who hold out pure hands, and each walks through his life without harm; but to any who sins like this man here and conceals bloody hands, we appear as true witnesses in support of the dead exacting payment for bloodshed from authority.” (Eumenides 312-320) However, Hesiod’s gods took their sweet time imagining creative and unique penalties for each and every offender such as transforming mortals into various beasts, forcing victims to push a boulder up a hill for eternity, or fastening some poor soul to a burning wheel in the underworld. Even though Hesiod generally opposed the Furies’ view in The Eumenides, the punitive action the two sides agreed on the very most was the strict obeisance to tradition.

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