In Aeschylus’ play The Libation Bearers, Orestes, the main character, kills his mother Queen Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus in revenge for killing his father, King Agamemnon. He said that it was a just action because he was avenging his father. But, if Orestes was living today, what would his proper course of action be?
Agamemnon was not an innocent person, unlike what you might think at first. He had sacrificed his own daughter Iphigenia according to the advice of his prophet Calchas. Calchas said that this was necessary so that he could placate the goddess Artemis to change the direction of the winds for his ships during the Trojan War. Clytemnestra wanted to kill him for this, and Aegistus was more than happy to help her, because his family and Agamemnon’s family were enemies of each other. Agamemnon cheated on his wife as well, and this made Clytemnestra even more angry with him. When Agamemnon returned victorious from the Trojan war after a period of ten years, Clytemnestra deceived him into thinking that she was glad at his return, and, with the help of Aegisthus, trapped him and killed him.
Agamemnon had three children: Orestes, Electra, and Iphigenia. Iphigenia had been sacrificed to placate Artemis as mentioned before, Orestes was in exile due to the influence of his mother, and Electra stayed in the house, but was treated as a servant. Orestes was on his father’s side and wished to avenge him. Orestes was told by the god Apollo to avenge his father or else suffer the consequences that he would bring upon him. Orestes returned from exile with his friend Pylades and began planning to avenge his father by killing his mother and Aegisthus. Orestes was to carry out his plan with the help of both Pylades and Electra. Orestes deceived his mother and Aegisthus with a message of his own death, then executed them both.
Let’s think about this situation to answer this question: King Agamemnon killed his innocent daughter, and therefore he was murderer. Queen Clytemnestra killed king Agamemnon, but she had a dual intent. She was both avenging her daughter and killing him so she could get away with her affair with Aegisthus. If she was not a murderer from killing King Agamemnon, she was a murderer for killing Cassandra, a slave girl captured from Troy. Orestes was wrong in killing his mother because although she was a murderer, he did it to kill her so that he could avenge his father, King Agamemnon; also a murderer. Therefore, Orestes is also murderer.
In fact, almost all of the characters in the play are murderers. Agamemnon murdered Iphigenia (who was innocent), Clytemnestra murdered Cassandra, Orestes killed his mother, Pylades and Electra helped to kill his mother, and even the god Apollo was a murderer because he both ordered Orestes to kill his mother and sent Cassandra off to get killed by Clymenestra.
I think that Orestes should not have killed his mother, despite what Apollo, Electra, Pylades, or anyone else told him to do, because he would be committing murder. I think that he should have tried to influence his mother to stop doing the evil acts she was doing or else judged her for killing Cassandra (who was also innocent of murder), instead of bringing a severe revenge upon her for killing Agamemnon. The main way to judge her today would be to bring her to court, where she could be judged for her actions.