The Eumenides

The Furies Character Analysis

Ancient goddesses of vengeance, the Furies (or Erinyes) pursue and punish those who have sworn false oaths or betrayed sacred laws. In The Eumenides, they seek to punish Orestes for having killed his mother, Clytemnestra. They are monstrous to behold, and frequently work themselves up into fits of rage. Envious of the power and prestige that the Olympian gods possess (the Furies are of an “older generation” of gods), the Furies seek to protect their right to avenge. At the end of The Eumenides, Athena uses a mixture of persuasion and threats to convince the Furies to give up their bloodthirsty role, and instead become defenders of justice and of Athens itself. From then on, the Furies are referred to as “Eumenides,” or “Kindly Ones”—and it is from this that the play gets its title.

The Furies Quotes in The Eumenides

The The Eumenides quotes below are all either spoken by The Furies or refer to The Furies. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Eumenides published in 1975.
Lines 64-234 Quotes

They disgust me.
These grey, ancient children never touched
By god, man, or beast—the eternal virgins.
Born for destruction only, the dark pit,
They range the bowels of Earth, the world of death,
Loathed by men and the gods who hold Olympus.

Related Characters: Apollo (speaker), The Furies
Page Number: 71-76
Explanation and Analysis:

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You—how can you sleep?
Awake, awake—what use are sleepers now?
I go stripped of honour, thanks to you,
Alone among the dead. And for those I killed
The charges of the dead will never cease, never—
I wander in disgrace, I feel the guilt, I tell you,
Withering guilt from all the outraged dead!
But I suffered too, terribly, from dear ones,
And none of my spirits rages to avenge me.
I was slaughtered by his matricidal hand.
See these gashes—Carve them in your heart!

Related Characters: The ghost of Clytemnestra (speaker), Orestes, The Furies
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 97-107
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lord Apollo, now it is your turn to listen.
You are no mere accomplice in this crime.
You did it all, and all the guilt is yours.

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Apollo
Page Number: 196-198
Explanation and Analysis:

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Marriage of man and wife is Fate itself,
Stronger than oaths, and Justice guards its life.

I say your manhunt of Orestes is unjust.
Some things stir your rage, I see. Others,
Atrocious crimes, lull your will to act.

Related Characters: Apollo (speaker), Orestes, The Furies, The ghost of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon
Page Number: 215-221
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 235-566 Quotes

You’ll give me blood for blood, you must!
Out of your living marrow I will drain
My red libation, out of your veins I suck my food,
My raw, brutal cups—
Wither you alive,
Drag you down and there you pay, agony
For mother-killing agony!
And there you will see them all.
Every mortal who outraged god or guest or loving parent:
Each receives the pain his pains exact.

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Orestes, The ghost of Clytemnestra
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 262-269
Explanation and Analysis:

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Hold out your hands, if they are clean
No fury of ours will stalk you,
You will go through life unscathed.
But show us the guilty—one like this
Who hides his reeking hands,
And up from the outraged dead we rise,
Witness bound to avenge their blood
We rise in flames against him to the end!

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Orestes
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 313-320
Explanation and Analysis:

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Two sides are here, and only half is heard.

Related Characters: Athena (speaker), Orestes, The Furies
Page Number: 440
Explanation and Analysis:

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ATHENA: …you are set
On the name of justice rather than the act.

LEADER: How? Teach us. You have a genius for refinements.

ATHENA: Injustice, I mean, should never triumph thanks to oaths.

LEADER: Then examine him yourself, judge him fairly.

ATHENA: You would turn over responsibility to me,
To reach the final verdict?

LEADER: Certainly.
We respect you. You show us respect.

Related Characters: Athena (speaker), The Furies (speaker), Orestes
Page Number: 442-449
Explanation and Analysis:

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Embrace the one? Expel the other? It defeats me.
I will appoint the judges of manslaughter,
Swear them in, and found a tribunal here
For all time to come.
My contestants,
Summon your trusted witnesses and proofs,
Your defenders under oath to help your cause.
And I will pick the finest men of Athens,
Return and decide the issue fairly, truly—
Bound to our oaths, our spirits bent on justice.

Related Characters: Athena (speaker), Orestes, The Furies
Page Number: 496-505
Explanation and Analysis:

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Oh I can hear the father now
Or the mother sob with pain
At the pain’s onset…hopeless now,
The house of Justice falls.

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker)
Page Number: 525-528
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 567-1043 Quotes

So
You’d force this man’s acquittal? Behold, Justice!
Can a son spill his mother’s blood on the ground,
Then settle into his father’s halls in Argos?

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Orestes, Apollo, The ghost of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 659-662
Explanation and Analysis:

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Beware. Our united force can break your land.
Never wound our pride, I tell you, never.

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Athena
Page Number: 726-727
Explanation and Analysis:

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You, you younger gods!—
You have ridden down
The ancient laws, wrenched them from my grasp—
And I, robbed of my birthright, suffering, great with wrath,
I loose my poison over the soil, aieee!
Poison to match my grief comes pouring out my heart,
Cursing the land to burn it sterile and now
Rising up from its roots a cancer blasting leaf and child,
Now for Justice, Justice!—cross the face of the earth
The bloody tide comes hurling, all mankind destroyed.

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Athena, Apollo
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 820-828
Explanation and Analysis:

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And now you’d vent your anger, hurt the land?
Consider a moment. Calm yourself. Never
Render us barren, raining your potent showers
Down like spears, consuming every seed.
By all my rights I promise you your seat
In the depths of earth, yours by all rights—
Stationed at hearths equipped with glistening thrones,
Covered with praise! My people will revere you.

Related Characters: Athena (speaker), The Furies
Page Number: 812-819
Explanation and Analysis:

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This is the life I offer,
It is yours to take.
Do great things, feel greatness, greatly honoured.
Share this country cherished by the gods.

Related Characters: Athena (speaker), The Furies
Page Number: 876-878
Explanation and Analysis:

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Your magic is working…I can feel the hate,
The fury slip away…

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Athena
Page Number: 908-909
Explanation and Analysis:

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I will embrace
One home with you, Athena,
Never fail the city

Spirit of Athens, hear my words, my prayer,
Like a prophet’s warm and kind,
That the rare good things of life
Come rising crest on crest,
Sprung from the rich black earth and
Gleaming with the bursting flash of sun.

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Athena
Page Number: 927-938
Explanation and Analysis:

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Do you hear how Fury sounds her blessings forth,
How Fury finds the way?
Shining out of the terror of their faces
I can see great gains for you, my people.
Hold them kindly, kind as they are to you.
Exalt them always, you exalt your land,
Your city straight and just –
Its light goes through the world.

Related Characters: Athena (speaker), The Furies
Page Number: 997-1004
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Furies Character Timeline in The Eumenides

The timeline below shows where the character The Furies appears in The Eumenides. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-63
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
...Navelstone (thought to be the center of the Earth). Around the man, monstrous women (the Furies) are sleeping, whose appearance drives Pythia to tears. She prays to the god Apollo to... (full context)
Lines 64-234
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
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The Power of the Polis Theme Icon
The doors to the temple open, revealing Orestes, who prays as the Furies sleep. The god Hermes watches as Apollo appears, swearing to protect Orestes and to destroy... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
The Power of the Gods Theme Icon
The ghost of Clytemnestra appears on top of the Navelstone, cursing the Furies for their laziness. She tells them that they have disgraced her in death, and that... (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
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The Furies awake, and their leader commands them to search for Orestes—they are appalled to find that... (full context)
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Apollo emerges from his temple with his bow and arrow to drive back the Furies. He commands them to flee his temple, and threatens to shoot them. He once again... (full context)
Lines 235-566
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...kneels before the shrine of Athena and prays for her to shield him from the Furies. He explains that Apollo has sent him to her, and says that he will await... (full context)
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The Furies enter, exulting that they have found Orestes at last. Noting that he has hurt himself... (full context)
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...again, asking her to come in peace and save him from the wrath of the Furies. (full context)
Revenge vs. Justice Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
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The leader of the Furies spits back that neither Apollo nor Athena will be able to save Orestes. She waits... (full context)
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Athena enters, armed for combat, and sees Orestes and the Furies at her altar. She asks who they are, and the Furies explain that they are... (full context)
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...that she should show him mercy. On the other hand, she fears that if the Furies do not win the trial, they will attack Athens, spreading venom and disease wherever they... (full context)
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After Athena exits, the chorus of Furies begins to worry that Orestes will be found innocent. They imagine a world in which... (full context)
Lines 567-1043
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Orestes enters, and Athena directs him to the Stone of Outrage. The Furies enter, and Athena places them at the Stone of Unmercifulness. She herself stands between two... (full context)
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Proclaiming that the trial has begun, Athena offers the Furies—the “prosecution”—the first speech. The leader of the Furies starts to question Orestes, asking if he... (full context)
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...fact doing the will of Zeus, the omnipotent “Olympian Father,” who is always just. The Furies are scornful, unable to believe that Zeus would order a son to murder his mother.... (full context)
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The Furies are skeptical that Zeus would care more about a father’s murder than a mother’s. They... (full context)
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Apollo, outraged by the Furies, insults them once again, hissing that the gods “detest” them, and threatening them with the... (full context)
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Apollo rebuts the Furies’ claim that mothers are as important as fathers. He claims that while women may carry... (full context)
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Athena asks the Furies if they have anything else to say, and they respond that they do not. Apollo... (full context)
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As the citizens cast their ballots, the Furies grow anxious, threatening that they can curse Athens if they choose. Apollo shoots back that... (full context)
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...the ballots are tallied up, Orestes prays to Apollo and wonders what will happen. The Furies, meanwhile, pray to their Mother Night. Apollo again reminds the Athenians to “honor Justice.” (full context)
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Both enraged and terrified, the Furies curse the “younger gods” for violating the “ancient laws” of vengeance, and robbing them of... (full context)
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The diplomatic Athena, however, has another solution. She reminds the Furies that they are not disgraced, as the vote was tied. The real outcome, she asserts,... (full context)
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Too wrathful to hear Athena’s words, the Furies again curse the younger gods for their lack of respect for “the ancient laws.” They... (full context)
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The Furies begin to calm down, but are still humiliated by their disgrace, calling out to their... (full context)
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As the Furies repeat their lament once more, Athena again tells them that they are gifted and valuable,... (full context)
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Interested at last, the leader of the Furies asks Athena if she will really share her home with them. The goddess responds that... (full context)
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The Furies continue their prayer, promising fertility and prosperity for the land of Athens. Athena praises the... (full context)
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The Furies pray that war will never touch Athens, and that only joy and love will rule... (full context)
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An entourage of Athenian women enters in order to lead the way to the Furies’ temples below the earth, where they will be offered gifts and sacrifices. The Furies sing... (full context)