Study Guide

Libation Bearers Language and Communication

By Aeschylus

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Language and Communication

The most important form of language and communication in Libation Bearers is communication between the living and the dead. Wait, scratch that. What's most important is the attempted communication between the living and the dead. Let's not forget that the play is called Libation Bearers, after all – a reference to the ritual offerings mortals would make to the spirits of the departed. Amazingly, the scenes of Orestes and Electra's respective offerings to the tomb of Agamemnon, plus their set-piece song sung together with the Chorus take up about 1/3 of the play's total length. Most of what's going on there involves the good guys' praying to the spirit of Agamemnon to listen to them, and to give Orestes the strength to carry out his revenge. If it's really true that the living can communicate with the dead, what effect does that have on the overall notion of revenge? What if the dead are unreachable?

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. The characters in the play spend a lot of time trying to communicate to the dead and to the gods. Do they get any answers back?
  2. Does the play suggest that communication between different worlds is possible?
  3. One important purpose of communication is to change another person's mind. Does communication change anyone's mind in the play?
  4. Which plays a more important role in the play: clear communication or misleading communication?

Chew on This

Libation Bearers gives no sign that communication is possible between the living and the dead.

Clytemnestra's words to Orestes make him change his mind about her – but only after it's too late.

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