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Justice is a matter between men, and I need no god to teach me it. It's right to stamp you out, like the foul brute you are, and to free the people of Argos from your evil influence. It is right to restore to them their sense of human dignity.
In Act II, Scene Two, when Orestes first strikes Aegistheus with his sword, the king asks how he can kill without remorse. Orestes replies that he is merely doing what is right. How could this murder be right, asks Aegistheus, if Jupiter himself condemns it? This quotation is Orestes's reply. When human beings act freely, they create their own values and freedom is the highest value of all. Justice must then be grounded not in divine pronouncements, but only in human freedom. In creating their values, human beings create their own justice. Orestes knows that it is right to kill Aegistheus in order to free the people of Argos, and it is right to do so because this is the view of justice that Orestes has freely created for himself. An action he carries out freely is necessarily right in his eyes; otherwise he would not carry it out.
This quotation also reinforces Orestes's motivations in committing the murder. His goal is not revenge or the fulfillment of his destiny. Those goals, grounded in the past, would not allow him to act freely. Rather, Orestes action is a creative one; its goal is to shape the future in a specific way. Orestes wants to free the Argives so that they can find their own freedom and build their own lives. Aegistheus has stripped the Argives of their freedom for the sake of maintaining order. By killing Aegistheus—the source of the people's suffering in remorse—Orestes hopes to free the Argives from fear. Since Aegistheus and Clytemnestra carried out the original crime for which the whole city is in repentance, in killing them Orestes also does away with the origin of the Argives's guilt. Since Orestes bases his own actions on his freedom, he takes freedom to be the highest of all values and therefore one that all human beings ought to recognize.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Flies!