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Libation Bearers

Libation Bearers

by Aeschylus

Gender Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

(Orestes): "Have someone with authority in the house come out, the lady in charge – but a man is more seemly: the constraints of conversation blur one's words; a man speaks to another man with confidence and reveals his meaning with clarity." (663-667)

These lines come from when Orestes is knocking at the door of the palace, disguised as a traveler from Parnassus. Basically, Orestes is saying that he'd prefer to speak to a man because he can be more frank that way. He seems to think that conventions of conversation between men and women make it more difficult to speak openly. Because he is in disguise, we can't necessarily take these words as reflecting his true feelings. Of course, they still could be his true feelings. Do you think Orestes means this? If so, why would he say it at this point?

Quote #8

(Clytemnestra): "Strangers, please say if there is anything you need; all the kinds of thing proper to this house are near to hand, hot baths as well as bedding to soothe weariness, and the presence of honest faces. If there's need to do anything requiring more deliberation, it's work for men, and we'll communicate it to them." (668-673)

Now we see Clytemnestra taking the same line that Orestes just took, or at least a similar one. She says that if any serious thinking has to be done, that should be left to the men, since it's no business of women. Of course, we all know that Clytemnestra is one of the craftiest thinkers around, surely one of the best in "anything requiring more deliberation." Why do you think she is putting on this façade of emphasizing traditional gender roles?

Quote #9

(Chorus): "[You must be brave], and in your heart
keep up the courage of Perseus;
for your friends below the earth
and those above, perform this duty and grace.
Make bloody ruin
of the noxious Gorgon inside the house,
a death which Apollo frees of guilt." (831-837)

The Gorgon is a traditional image of a demonic woman who must be slain by a male hero. (The most famous Gorgon was slain by Perseus, who gets a shout-out here from the Chorus.) By likening Clytemnestra to a Gorgon, the Chorus demonizes a female enemy as essentially subhuman, or bestial. Is any parallel abuse directed at Aegisthus, or does Clytemnestra, as a woman, receive especially bad treatment?

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