Peter writes: "Then of course there are the figures of the Erinyes that
are alluded to even in Sweeney Ag. and that appear in
one form or another in the other plays. "
Firstly, the only other play in which the Erinyes, or the Furies (who in
Grecian tragedies punish those who commit familial murder) appear is The
Family Reunion, in which play Orestes' words upon seeing them for the first
time are alluded to by Harry. Eliot discusses this scene in 'Poetry and
Drama' (1951), OPP.
Secondly, the Furies are not *in* SA. The only place they appear is in the
epigraph, and there to Orestes' eyes only; after committing matricide in
revenge for the murder of his father Agamemnon (under the order of Apollo)
he sees them , and only he sees them then, for the first time. He does,
however, know they are coming. (It is an irony that the Furies cannot
themselves pursue Clytemnestra, Orestes' mother, for the murder, because she
is not related by blood to Agamemnon). Orestes is guilty and goes to
Apollo's shrine to purify himself of the killing; but then, the matter is
more complex. Had he not committed the crime, he would have been hounded by
the Furies of his father's curse, the punishment for a son who does not
revenge his father. So they come from both sides. Moreover, had he taken
this course, he would not have received the aid of Apollo which ultimately
saved his House and helped to end the tradition of revenge killings in the
polis (in Eumenides).
Eliot wrote in 1936, in one of his most profound parenthesis: '(Yet
Aeschylus, at least, knew that it might be a man's duty to commit a crime,
and accomplish his expiation for it.)' I think it is not helpful to look at
Eliot's situations unless we situate them. There is much more to Orestes
than guilt; Eliot prefaces Sweeney A with his whole situation (including
the Trojan War which his father carries with him).