Comparison of ethics, Works and Days vs. The Eumenides, part 1.

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

Both pieces of literature, “Works and Days,” and “The Eumenides” state general principles of ethical cause and effect.  However, the ethics are different and produced to the reader in different forms.

Works and Days is a poem written by the ancient Greek poet, Hesiod, who was assumed to have been active from 750-650 B.C..  In this poem, he tries to convince Perses, his brother, to be ethical and to live a good life.  Hesiod provides account to his brother of the sanctions that will occur whether he lives a life of good ethics or whether he lives a life of corrupt ethics.  He gives Perses an example of what the good life is like and what he must do to attain this lifestyle.  Hesiod’s real goal in this poem was to persuade his brother to allow him his fair share of the inheritance, he did this by presenting him with ground laws of ethics.

The Eumenides is the third tragedy of a trilogy, leading up to this third tragedy there were acts of blood revenge in the family.  It started with Agamemnon, the head of the house, sacrificing his daughter Iphagenia to the gods during the Trojan war.  Clytaemnestra, wife of Agamemnon, conspires with Aegisthus, her new lover, to deceive Agamemnon and murder him.  Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra, vows to the Greek god Apollo to avenge his father and kill the murderer, however to do so he must kill his mother.  With some hesitation, he kills his own mother and for this, the relentless furies pursue him.  This was an act that violated the ethical system of a household, therefore the underground gods had to send the furies to restore justice.

Unlike in Works and Days, the furies only demonstrate that this is the wrong way to live, they do not provide example or instruction for the goo, ethical life.

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