Libation Bearers Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Christopher Collard's translation.
(Electra): "[one line perhaps missing] supreme messenger of those above and those below, [words missing] Hermes of the Underworld, carry my cry to the gods below the earth, to hear my prayers in their watch over my father's house; and to Earth herself, who gives birth to all things, nurtures them, and takes their increase back again. As I pour these libations to the dead, my own words too call upon my father: have pity on me, and kindle our dear Orestes as a light in the house!" (124b-131)
Just as in the first quotation from this section, Electra's words call upon Hermes to pass a message along to those beneath the earth. She also says that "my own words too call upon my father." Either way, this attempt at communicating with the dead is closely linked with the idea of revenge – if you think of revenge as a duty owed by the living to the dead.
(Orestes): "O father, my father in doom,
what word or action of mine
might I waft from afar and reach to you,
where you are held in sleep's bed?
Light is a state opposite to dark; all the same, a lament
which gives renown is said to be pleasing
to the Atreidae who lie here in front of the house." (315-322)
Here, Orestes expresses doubt about whether the messages he utters can really reach his father. As he puts it, "Light is a state opposite to dark," so how can the two ever communicate? Still, he consoles himself with the thought that laments "are said to" be pleasing to the dead. But who says so? If the living and the dead really can't communicate (as Orestes at first suggests), then the common opinion that it is possible would just be a popular misconception. Is Orestes aware of this problem? If so, why does he keep trying to get a message to Agamemnon?
(Chorus): "Why hide
what hovers despite all
at the front of my mind, where my heart's anger
is blowing fiercely from the prow,
in rancorous loathing?" (388-392)
The Chorus asks why they should hide their true thoughts about the situation in Argos. Right now, when they are among friends (Electra and Orestes) they certainly have no reason to. If they were back home, of course, they would have to be much more careful about what they say. Clearly, the way in which one communicates depends upon context.