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Libation Bearers

Libation Bearers

by Aeschylus

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Quote #10

(Orestes): "Did she do it, or not do it? This robe is my witness that Aegisthus' sword dyed it; the ooze of blood contributes over time to spoiling the many dyes in the embroidery. I praise my father now, I lament him now, while I am here and addressing this woven thing which killed him. I grieve for the deeds and the suffering and the whole family; and there can be no envy for the pollution my victory here brings to me." (1010-1017)

Orestes's madness continues to creep up on him; now it becomes even clearer that he can't really handle the fact that he killed his own mother. (Who could?) Now, he starts to doubt whether Clytemnestra actually was guilty, and he places the emphasis on the fact that it was Aegisthus's sword that tore the fabric. This movement away from blaming his mother becomes even more pronounced when he says that it was "this woven thing" (the fabric that was thrown over Agamemnon before he was killed) that is to blame. At the same time, his praise of his father gives way to lamentation for "the whole family," which presumably includes his mother, Clytemnestra. The final note of his speech is on the "pollution" he now experiences for the crime he has committed. What does Orestes's experience here say about the possibility of pitting one set of family obligations against another?

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