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Libation Bearers

Libation Bearers

by Aeschylus

Exile Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

(Orestes): "Oh, horror! No! You underworld rulers!
Look, you mighty Curses of the slain!
See here the remnants of the Atreidae,
helpless exiles from their house
in dishonour. O Zeus, which way to turn?" (405-410)

Here, Orestes continues the same idea of himself and Electra as exiles. Once again, it is interesting to note that, even though their situations are literally quite different (Electra has been living in the house all along, while Orestes has been out of town), Orestes puts them both in the same category because they have lost their father and are alienated from their mother. Even though, here, Orestes makes their course of action look less settled than it did in some of the earlier quotations in this section, his invocations to the "underworld rulers" and the "Curses of the slain" make it pretty clear that he, too, plans to cast his lot in with the dead Agamemnon.

Quote #8

(Chorus): "Know that the orphan young colt
of the man you held dear
is now yoked to the chariot,
setting a pace for his steps
as he runs, and keeping its rhythm.
Grant us the sight, for his feet to win home,
stretching straight over the ground!" (794-799)

In his speech at lines 246-263, Orestes portrayed himself and Electra as both orphans and exiles. Here, the Chorus connects the same two ideas, calling Orestes and "orphan young colt" and employing imagery that indicates that he is far from home. At the same time, however, they indicate that he's on his way home.

Quote #9

(Orestes): "[…] though you gave me birth you threw me out into harsh fortunes."
(Clytemnestra): "Indeed I did not throw you out – it was into the house of a fighting-ally."
(Orestes): "It was an outrage: to be sold away, when I was a free man's son."
(Clytemnestra): "Then where was the price I got in exchange?"
(Orestes): "I feel shame at putting that reproach to you plainly." (913-917)

Here, we see that Clytemnestra and Orestes disagree over what counts as exile. They don't disagree over the most basic objective fact that Orestes was sent away as a child to the house of Strophius the Phocian, a "fighting-ally" of Agamemnon. What they disagree about is the terms and conditions of this sending-away. Orestes says that he was "sold away"; it eventually emerges that he is using the idea of being "sold" as a metaphor for being kept away so that his mother could have an affair with Aegisthus. Does the play, or the trilogy as a whole (Clytemnestra talks about how Orestes got sent away in Agamemnon, line 880) shed any light on the objective facts of the matter? What difference (if any) would this make for our understanding of Orestes's revenge?

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