Study Guide

Libation Bearers Lies and Deceit

By Aeschylus

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Lies and Deceit

In Libation Bearers, trickery is the main weapon the powerless can use against the powerful. At the very beginning, Orestes asks the god Hermes to be his "saviour and ally" (Fragment 1, 2). It makes a lot of sense, because, among other things, Hermes is the god of trickery. None of the characters, even our heroes, are above lies and deception. Orestes and Pylades pretend to be Parnassians, in order to get into the palace. Even more strikingly, the Chorus, a group of slave-women, becomes a crucial player in the action when they convince the Nurse to trick Aegisthus into leaving his bodyguards at home when he comes to meet the "strangers." Yes, it seems that Hermes was the right god to call upon. All of the major action in the play is powered by trickery.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. At some points in the play, Orestes seems disgusted with the idea of using trickery. At other times, he sees it as an appropriate way of repaying the trickery of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus in killing Agamemnon. What do you think his true opinion is? Does he use trickery because he has to, or because he wants to?
  2. Who is the biggest trickster in Libation Bearers? Who is the best at seeing through trickery?
  3. For egotistical people, trickery is a problem. The better you are at it, the less likely you are to be recognized for your talents. Based on the way in which he goes about his trickery, do you think Orestes suffers from this egotistical problem?
  4. When the Chorus convinces the Nurse to warp her message to Aegisthus, they don't tell her why. Why do you think they keep her in the dark?

Chew on This

Clytemnestra is the best at seeing through trickery in Libation Bearers. This reflects the fact that she used to be the greatest trickster (in Agamemnon).

Orestes is the best at seeing through trickery in Libation Bearers, because he never deceives himself.

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