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Themes

In reading Libation Bearers, it's very important to remember that it is only Part 2 of a three-part series of tragedies called the Oresteia. Most scholars think that the Oresteia as a whole charts the progress of ancient Greek civilization from an earlier stage, in which people took the law into their own hands, to a later stage, in which crimes were punished by courts of law. Libation Bearers is a continuation of the morally ambiguous cycle of revenge begun in Agamemnon. The entire plot of Libation Bearers is headed at 100 mph towards one conclusion: Orestes's killing of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. When it happens, however, Orestes goes crazy, showing us that revenge just isn't the way to go. This leaves the door open for an exploration of using courts of law to deal out justice in Part 3 of the trilogy, Eumenides.

Questions About Revenge

  1. Does Libation Bearers portray revenge as a good way of punishing wrongdoing?
  2. Did Clytemnestra deserve to be killed by Orestes?
  3. In line 120, Electra distinguishes between a "judge" and a "just avenger." What is the most important difference between these two roles?
  4. Who suffers the most as a result of the revenge-plot in Libation Bearers?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Libation Bearers shows that revenge only leads to more suffering.

More than any other character, Orestes suffers as a result of the revenge-plot he hatches.

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