Just like in Agamemnon, Part 1 of the Oresteia, the themes of justice and revenge are very closely intertwined. In fact, you could say that the entire point of the trilogy is to tease out the subtle distinction between them. In reading the play, we've got to bear in mind that Orestes isn't hell-bent on killing his own mother (plus Aegisthus) just because he feels like it. Instead, he is doing it out of a deep sense of obligation to his father; basically, he is doing it out of a sense of justice. Not to mention the fact the Apollo told him he had to, or else. This makes us wonder if the gods are even just. If not, what standard of justice can there possibly be in the universe? We certainly don't know the answers to these questions – but Libation Bearers definitely forces us to ask them.
Questions About Justice and Judgment
- In Libation Bearers, is there a difference between justice and revenge? If so, what is it?
- Many characters in the play say that Zeus and the other gods are in charge of justice. But if Zeus is in charge of absolutely everything, doesn't that make him the cause of injustice as well? How can we resolve this contradiction? Is it possible?
- Who is the most unjust character in Libation Bearers? Who is the most just?
- In Libation Bearers, is it possible to be just and unjust at the same time?
Chew on This
Electra is the most just character in Libation Bearers.
The Libation Bearers shows that Justice, when taken to an extreme, can be highly destructive.