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Libation Bearers

Libation Bearers

by Aeschylus

Revenge Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

(Chorus): "And while you remember him, upon those guilty of the murder…"
(Electra): "What am I to say? Explain, and instruct me; I have no experience."
(Chorus): "…pray there comes upon them some god or man…"
(Electra): "A judge, you mean, or a just avenger?"
(Chorus): "…state it simply: someone to kill them in return."
(Electra): "And I may ask this from the gods in proper piety?"
(Chorus): "And why not, to requite an enemy with harm for harm." (117-123)

As you'll see elsewhere in this module, and in our discussion of the other plays of the Oresteia, a big theme of the trilogy is the contrast between the ideas of Revenge and Justice. Here, we see that Electra clearly says that these two ideas are not quite the same, when she asks if the Chorus means a "judge" OR a "just avenger." Still, she seems to think that they can also be combined, as shown in her use of the phrase a "JUST avenger." What do you think about the Chorus's view of Revenge and Justice? Is it less sophisticated than Electra's or more so? Is there any real difference between their opinions?

Quote #5

(Electra): "Those are the prayers I say for ourselves; for our enemies I pray for your avenger to appear, father, and for your killers to die justly in return. In speaking this curse for evil upon them, I am putting it in the open before those whose concern it may be. For ourselves, send up here above the good which we ask, with the help of the gods, and of Earth, and of Justice who brings victory!" (142-148)

In these words of Electra, we can see her attempting, once again, to fuse (and perhaps confuse?) the ideas of Justice and Revenge. She prays for an avenger to come, but she wants that vengeance to happen in accordance with Justice. Is this a reasonable hope?

Quote #6

(Electra): "And I swear it wasn't she, the killer, who cut it off either – yes, my own mother, quite untrue to that name because of the godless thoughts she possesses towards her children. […] Oh! If only it had a voice and intelligence in it, like a messenger, so that I wasn't shaking with uncertainty, and it was quite clear whether to reject this lock of hair, with loathing, it really has been cut from an enemy's head – or as a kinsman's it could share my sorrow, a glory for this tomb and an honour for my father!" (189-191, 195-200)

Here we see Electra wondering who could have sent the lock of hair that she finds at the tomb of her father, Agamemnon. Eventually, of course, she concludes that it belonged to her brother, Orestes. What is interesting here is how Electra refuses to call Clytemnestra her mother – as if the need to take vengeance on her also means that she has to sever the family ties between them.

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