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Libation Bearers

Libation Bearers

by Aeschylus

Memory and the Past Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

(Orestes): "If only there under Troy
some Lycian with his spear, father,
had cut you down and stripped you!
You would have bequeathed fame in your house,
founded a life for your children making eyes turn in the streets,
and in a land overseas
had your tomb heaped high,
and easy thing for your house to bear." (345-353)

Here Orestes shows that he has a romanticized view of the past. He thinks things would have been much better for Agamemnon if only he had died gloriously in battle at Troy. But does what he's saying really make any sense? If she wanted to, Clytemnestra could have still shacked up with Aegisthus if Agamemnon died in battle; in fact, it would have saved her the trouble of killing him. In this way, Orestes's nostalgia for the Trojan War (which he was certainly too young to experience) might show how out conceptions of the past can be misleading.

Quote #2

(Chorus): "Comrade conspicuous below earth
among comrades who died bravely at Troy,
an honoured and majestic lord,
and minister serving the kings
who are great there under the earth –
for he was a sovereign while he lived,
his hands holding fate's appointment
and a sceptre which all men obeyed." (354-362)

These lines from the Chorus come right after the words of Orestes in the previous quotation. They continue the same thought: everything would have been fine and dandy if only Agamemnon had died at Troy instead of being killed by his wife upon his return. Does this idea make any more sense the second time around? We're not convinced.

Quote #3

(Chorus): "Mutilated too, he was, you must know,
and the deed was hers who buried him like that,
seeking to make his death
unbearable for your own life.
You hear your father's torment and dishonour!" (439-443)

Here we see how the past can be used to influence the present. The Chorus plays up the horrible details of Agamemnon's death in order to make Orestes more enraged and get him all fired up for revenge. Can you think of any examples from history or current affairs in which the memory of past wrongs is used to enflame passions in the present?

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