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Since I came to the throne, all I said, all my acts, have been aimed at building up an image of myself. I wish each of my subjects to keep that image in the foreground of his mind, and to feel, even when alone, that my eyes are on him, severely judging his most private thoughts. But I have been trapped in my own net. I have come to see myself only as they see me. I peer into the dark pit of their souls, and there, deep down, I see the image that I have built up. I shudder, but I cannot take my eyes off it. Almighty Zeus, who am I? Am I anything more than the dread that others have of me?
In Act II, Scene Two, Jupiter comes to warn Aegistheus to arrest Orestes and Electra immediately. Aegistheus replies that he is tired of living and might as well let Orestes kill him. In this quotation, Aegistheus reveals that those who are in power are even less free than those over whom they rule. Having spent fifteen years maintaining an image to terrify his subjects, Aegistheus finds that he has no existence outside of their fear of him. Aegistheus and Jupiter are only images in the minds of others. They have no being of their own. They are not free to create themselves because their existence must serve the specific purpose of maintaining order. Aegistheus has set himself up as an omniscient judge who knows the deepest secrets of his subjects. Knowing so much about them, however, he has lost all knowledge of himself. He exists purely as a being-for-others. This is Sartre's warning to would be dictators: power comes at a high cost, for rulers lose both their freedom and their identity.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Flies!