Reconciling the Opposites: The Oresteia in Perspective
The ancient Hindu philosophy, chiefly the Samkhya school of thought, and the Greek Sophists, believed in the dualistic concept. The ‘prakriti’ and ‘purusha’ analogous with the female spirit and male spirit respectively were regarded as the primal forces in creation. Coexistence and harmony between the two was essential for the sustenance of the world. They also symbolized nature and order. Thus they parallel the concept of ‘nomos’ and ‘physis’. ‘Nomos’ stood for convention, while ‘physis’ stood for nature. The world was looked upon as a conflict between the two forces. While ‘nomos’ appealed to the higher consciousness and convention, ‘physis’ appealed to the nature, and instinct. In The Oresteia, the House of Atreus has been largely governed by ‘physis’, with its violent past. All the actions are a manifestation of the ‘prakriti’. The social order, conventions and the consciousness of the individuals have been overshadowed by the ‘tamasic’ aspect of ‘prakriti’. The coexistence between ‘prakriti’ and ‘purusha’ is of utmost importance for harmony in the world. Similarly, the conflict between ‘nomos’ and ‘physis’ has to be resolved for the betterment of the society. The primitive practice of blood vengeance has perpetrated a cycle of violence that is beyond the control of anybody. It results in Agamemnon’s murder. Clytemnestra subscribes to the primitive notion of justice. She avenges blood, by shedding more blood.