Libation Bearers Family Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Christopher Collard's translation.
(Orestes): "And do not wipe out this seed-stock of the Pelopidae; for in this way you are not dead, not even though you died. A man's children preserve his fame when he is dead; they hold it up as corks do a net, preserving its deep flax-line. Listen to us; these lamentations are for you, we tell you, and your preservation lies in honouring our words here." (503-509. In some editions, lines 505-507 are given to Electra; these lines correspond to the words from "A man's children" to "flax-line.")
Electra and Orestes pray to the spirit of their father to protect them. In the process, they try some strategic ego-boosting: "If you don't let us die out, your memory won't die out either, daddy. Get it, nudge-nudge?" Do we learn anywhere in the Oresteia of Orestes or Electra having any children? (You might have to wait till you read the Eumenides to be able to answer this question.) Is fathering (or mothering) children really the only way to live on after you die?
(Chorus): "Orestes! When the moment for action
comes, cry out over her appeal of 'My son!' and say, 'No,
my father's!' Then go to complete
a ruin which brings you no censure." (827-830)
Here's one of the play's major problems in a nutshell: whether you can pit one set of family obligations against another. The Chorus tells Orestes to disregard the fact that Clytemnestra is his mother so that he can avenge his father. Is it really that easy?
(Orestes): "And a woman who contrived this hateful thing against a husband whose children she had carried away heavy in the womb – they were dear to her for a while, but now a bad enemy, as she shows – what do you think of her? If she had been born a sea-snake or a viper, would she have caused more putrefaction by her mere touch, in one she had not bitten, thanks to her audacity and lawless spirit? I wish for no such mate to share my house! May the gods kill me first, and childless!" (991-1005)
These words are spoken by Orestes after he has already killed his mother and Aegisthus. Now he is speaking out to the Chorus, explaining why he did it. Clearly, the fact that Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon has made Orestes feel a deep sense of revulsion toward his mother. Not only does he say that he doesn't want any "such mate" in his house, but he also says that he hopes he dies childless! That seems pretty extreme. Could this extreme reaction be a sign that Orestes's madness is taking over?