Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back, to the Future!

Jean Paul Sartre, "The Flies" from Wikipedia
The Flies is also a modern take on Aeschylus’ trilogy, the Oresteia. While Sartre keeps many aspects of the original story by Aeschylus, he adjusts the play to fit his views, with strong themes of freedom from psychological slavery. He focuses most on the second play in the Oresteia trilogy, only referencing the first play, Agamemnon, with the mention of Agamemnon’s death by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. The plot of the third play, The Eumenides is also excluded because in that play, the Council of Elders absolves Orestes of his sins, but since Sartre depicts Orestes as remorseless, he cannot include that storyline in his play without having to change his storyline. Unlike in Aeschylus’ The Libation Bearers, where revenge is one of the main themes throughout the play, Sartre’s Orestes does not kill Aegisthus and Clytemnestra for vengeance or because it was his destiny, instead it is for the sake of the people of Argos, so that they may be freed from their enslavement. Sartre wants to stress the fact that Orestes comes to that decision by himself, without the aid or direction of any outside forces, which contrasts with the Orestes in The Libation Bearers, who relies heavily on the direction of the gods. Sartre even diminishes the character of Clytemnestra so that there is much less emphasis on matricide than there is in the version by Aeschylus. While Electra is guilt-stricken after the death of Clytemnestra, Orestes feels no remorse for killing his mother, so his relationship with her is not very important. Sartre’s representation of the Furies differs from that of Aeschylus in that, instead of attempting to avenge the crimes committed, they try to evoke guilt from those who committed them. Sartre does this to reiterate the importance of amenability; he wants to prove that remorse should only be felt if one believes the act committed is wrong. By acting in what he believes to be a righteous way and killing the king and queen, Orestes takes responsibility for his actions without feeling any remorse for them.

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