As Mr. R. C. Trevelyan says in the Introduction to his translation of the Oresteia, " The fragments of Aeschylus' predecessors are too scanty to give us any idea of what he may have owed to them. But it seems probable that drama, as one of the supreme forms of art, was the creation of his own unique personal genius."
The Trilogy of Aeschylus known as the Oresteia may be interpreted in its moral meaning as a single drama of the development of the conception of justice from the primitive law of vengeance, evil for evil, continuing from generation to generation, towards a more liberal and humane principle. In the Agamemnon the older law prevails. In the Choephori the moral consciousness of the race, growing beyond the ancient law, carries out its behests, with suffering and remorse. In the Eumenides, the old and new conceptions are brought into direct conflict, and the ancient spirit represented by the avenging furies (Erinues) gives way, passing into a milder and higher form as beneficent justice (the Eumenides). As elsewhere in Aeschylus, the value of suffering in bringing insight is emphasised.
Text: Poetae Scenici Graeci ex Recognitione, Guil. Dindorfii. Translation by Mr. R. C. Trevelyan.
Zeus, who into wisdom's way
Guideth mortals, stablishing
This decree: "By suffering, Truth."
Woe's aching memories before the mind
Ooze in sleep drop by drop:
So to men wisdom comes without their will.
. . . . .
As even-scaled Justice wills
Those who suffer learn the truth. The future--
Though, ere it come, men may know it--let it be:
'Twere but to weep ere 'tis need.