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Libation Bearers

Libation Bearers

by Aeschylus

Gender Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

(Chorus): "But a man too bold in spirit –
who is to tell of him? –
or women's reckless mind,
bold all round in those passions
which are partner in men's ruin?
Passion rules the female,
selfishly subverting the bond which unites
in shared dwellings brute creatures and mankind alike." (594-601)

Even though the Chorus is made up of slave women, they nonetheless express traditional stereotypes about men and women. Women, in their view, are highly emotional and susceptible to irrational passions; these make them "partner[s] in men's ruin." The irony, of course, is that the Chorus themselves are highly intelligent and rational women, who use their cunning to become partners in Orestes's success. Does this mean that Aeschylus might have disagreed with the simplistic sentiment expressed in these lines?

Quote #5

(Chorus): "Since I made mention of pitiless wrongdoing,
not inapposite too
are a union hateful and deprecated by the house,
and the planned designs of a woman's mind
against a husband who bore arms,
a man who enjoyed his enemies' respect.
I honour a hearth unheated by passion,
its women not emboldened to assume command." (623-630)

Here we see, once again, that the Chorus of slave-women has rather traditional views about the role of women in the household. They think that women should be subservient to men because their emotions are uncontrollable. Does the play as a whole support this assessment?

Quote #6

(Chorus): "In evils from myth the Lemnian ranks supreme;
but ours is lamented
as unique in abomination; yet people compare
its horror anew to the Lemnian crime.
In an outrage hateful to god,
a race of men perishes in dishonour;
no one has respect for heaven's displeasure.
I collect these examples; is any unjust?" (631-638)

What's the "Lemnian crime"? So glad you asked. According to mythology, the women of Lemnos (an island in the Aegean Sea) once murdered their husbands because they had taken mistresses while off on a military campaign. The Chorus is saying that people compare what Clytemnestra did to Agamemnon as parallel to the actions of the Lemnian women. (The people who say this probably assume that Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon because he brought Cassandra home as his mistress; actually, Agamemnon's sacrifice of Iphigenia arguably played a big role in motivating her.) Of course, the women of Lemnos were acting out of anger at a double-standard based on gender, according to which it was perfectly fine for men to take mistresses while on campaign.

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