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Libation Bearers

Libation Bearers

by Aeschylus

Lies and Deceit Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

(Electra): "What should we tell, for success? All the hurt
we had from a parent, yes, from her?
Fawn she may, but there's no mitigation:
wolf-like and savage, my heart
has a rage no mother's fawning will soothe." (418-422)

Electra here portrays Clytemnestra as deceitful: even though she treats her daughter well ("fawning" on her), Electra says that, underneath it all, her mother is "wolf-like and savage." What do you think about Electra's characterization of her mother? Are we supposed to accept it as a true account? Or is Electra confusing what her mother did to Agamemnon with what how her mother feels towards her? After all, if Clytemnestra really wanted to harm Electra, she could easily have done so in the several years since the end of Agamemnon, right? Anyway, let's not forget what Clytemnestra's motivation was for killing Agamemnon: she wanted to punish him for killing their daughter, Iphigenia. It wouldn't make very much sense for her to then turn around and try to harm her remaining daughter, Electra, would it? In the final analysis, do you think that Electra is correct in judging that her mother, Clytemnestra, is deceitful, or is Electra deceiving herself about her mother?

Quote #2

(Orestes): "I urge keeping these arrangements secret, so that for killing a man of high honour by trickery they may be caught by trickery too, dying in the same noose, exactly as Loxias declared, the Lord Apollo, in the past a prophet without falsity." (555-559)

Orestes tells Electra and the Chorus not to spill the beans on his plan for revenge. Interestingly, his plan depends on the fact that Apollo is not being deceitful: he has been "in the past a prophet without falsity."

Quote #3

(Orestes): "I shall come in the guise of a stranger, complete with baggage, to the outer doors, together with this man here – he is Pylades, guest-friend and fighting ally of the house; and we shall both of us speak Parnassian, imitating the sound of the Phocian language." (560-564)

What is it about being sneaky that sometimes you can't help dropping hints about what you're doing? Is it just ego? Whatever the reason, we can see that Orestes is engaging in some of this covert signaling here. That's because, by putting on a "Parnassian" accent, he and Pylades will seem as if they are coming from the area around Delphi (near Mt. Parnassus). Of course, they literally are coming from Delphi – they were just there to consult the oracle of Apollo. In a profounder, more metaphorical sense, they are also "coming from Delphi" because it is Apollo's oracle that is sending them on their mission. Also, let's not forget that, in Agamemnon, Clytemnestra tells Agamemnon that she sent Orestes away to be raised by a guy called Strophius the Phocian. (The city of Phocis is also in the neighborhood of Parnassus.) So, putting on this accent also serves a practical purpose because it explains how the travelers could be bringing news of Orestes's death – though it also makes them run a greater risk of being found out. All in all, you could say that Orestes's deceitful plan is brinksmanship of the highest degree.

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