Libation Bearers Lies and Deceit Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Christopher Collard's translation.
(Chorus): "Well then, loyal servants of the house!
When shall we show the power of our tongues in Orestes' cause?
O holy and sovereign Earth, and this high-mounded tomb
our sovereign too, you who now lie
over the admiral's royal body,
now listen to us, now come to aid us:
now the time is ripe for guileful Persuasion
to come down and join in our fight,
and the moment is here for Hermes of the Underworld to stand as reserve
in these dark struggles where the sword deals death." (719-729)
Lies and deceit will always be important weapons for the powerless to use against the powerful. In this case, the Chorus of slave-women call upon the gods to give them the power of persuasion. They hope to use this as their instrument of rebellion against Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. If you look at our treatment of the theme of "Language and Communication," you'll see that we talk a lot about how Hermes is the messenger god, who is also in charge of bringing souls down to the Underworld. Actually, though, Hermes isn't just the god in charge of delivering messages properly; he's also the god of delivering messages improperly. That is to say, Hermes is the god of trickery, deceit, and lies.
(Nurse): "[Clytemnestra] made a melancholy face to the servants, but she was hiding her inner laughter at things which had worked out well for herself […]." (737-739)
The Nurse thinks that Clytemnestra was attempting to deceive the servants of the house when she acted sad at Orestes's death. How is the Nurse able to tell?
(Chorus): "[Is Aegisthus] to come with bodyguards, or make his way alone?"
(Nurse): "[Clytemnestra's] orders are to bring armed attendants."
(Chorus): "Then don't make that your message to our hated master, but bid him with a cheerful heart, so that he hears without being frightened, to come by himself as soon as he can. It depends on the messenger to make bent words succeed." (768-773)
Here, we see the Chorus coming into their own as agents in the tragedy, by convincing the Nurse to alter her message to Aegisthus. In their view, deception doesn't depend on telling a plausible story. What counts is the way the message is delivered: the "messenger" is the one who can "make bent words succeed." That said, they make it easy for the messenger by not changing the story too much. The nurse is supposed to report a "bent" message to Aegisthus, not a broken and remade one.