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Guilt by DescentMoral Inheritance and Decision Making in Greek Tragedy$
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N. J. Sewell-Rutter

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199227334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199227334.001.0001

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(p.78) 4 Erinyes
Guilt by Descent

N. J. Sewell‐Rutter

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines those endlessly polymorphous entities, the Erinyes, sometimes the enforcers or even the embodiments of curses and the rectifiers of familial transgression. It first looks at their history and nature in life and in genres other than tragedy to learn about their range and prerogatives. Analysis of their appearances in a number of plays where they are crucial shows that in all these texts, they share certain features that set them apart from curses and inherited guilt. Their central place in Aeschylus' Eumenides is then considered, which is often taken, more or less consciously, for a locus classicus. It is shown that the one extant play in which Erinyes almost literally hold centre stage is an exception to the rule in more ways than one. Aeschylus' play helps define the province and limitations of tragic Erinyes.

Keywords:   Greek tragedy, Eumenides, Aeschylus, plays, curses, familial transgression

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