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Libation Bearers

Libation Bearers


by Aeschylus

Libation Bearers Exile Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Christopher Collard's translation.

Quote #1

(Orestes): "Hermes of the Underworld, watching over paternal powers! I ask you, be my saviour and my ally; for my coming to this land is my return from exile." (Fragment 1; 1-3)

In this, perhaps the first line of the play (we don't know for sure because we only have fragments at this point in the manuscript), Orestes emphasizes the fact that he is an exile coming home to claim his birthright. Does he ever successfully claim it?

Quote #2

(Chorus): "And for myself – because the gods brought
my city its fate by siege, and from my father's house
led me into the lot of a slave – ,
right or wrong, it is proper I accept
a rule over my life in violence to my heart,
and conquer my bitter loathing […]." (75-81)

Here, the Chorus reveals that they are exiles too – enslaved when their cities were captured by the warriors of Argos. This means a major contrast with the Chorus of Agamemnon, the first play in the Oresteia, which is made up of old-school, dyed-in-the-wool citizens of Argives. What effect does it have on the play that the members of its Chorus are foreigners in Argos?

Quote #3

(Electra): "As I pour these libations to the dead, my own words too call upon my father: have pity on me, and kindle our dear Orestes as a light in the house! For we are outcasts now, as it were, sold off by our mother; and she has taken a man in exchange, Aegisthus, her very accomplice in your murder. I am like a slave myself, while Orestes is in exile from his property […]" (129-136)

We've just seen how Orestes considers himself an exile and also how the women of the Chorus are exiles from their hometowns, now enslaved by the rulers of Argos. Now Electra completes the triple-threat of the play's good guys, by saying that she, too, is an exile. She, of course, is speaking in a more metaphorical sense, because she feels like an outcast in her own home. Why do you think Aeschylus wanted to emphasize the outsider status of his heroes (and heroines)?

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