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The Libation Bearers

Aeschylus

Lines 935–1076

Lines 838–934

Lines 935–1076, page 2

page 1 of 3
Summary

The chorus celebrates Orestes's victory, calling him the double lion. The house is now free of grief, free of those who stained it with murder. Orestes came home with a lust for secret combat, but dike (Greek for Justice) steered his arm in open combat. Apollo willed it so, and descended to earth in order to heal the house's wounds. The light is breaking now, and the house can rise up again, having lain shattered for too long.

The palace gates open, and we see Orestes standing over the bodies of Clytamnestra and Aigisthos. Orestes addresses the chorus, telling them to behold the former tyrants. Together they conspired to kill his father, and now together they lie dead. He unwraps a shroud from around the bodies, and lays it out in front of the chorus, telling them to have a look at the master-plot that brought down his father. It was this shroud that bound his hands and feet, rendering him defenseless in his bath and prone to murder.

Orestes need not say anything about Aigisthos, as he has suffered the normal fate of an adulterer. Then pointing to Clytamnestra, Orestes asks what the chorus thinks of her now, she who murdered her own husband. If she had been born a viper, she would have rotted another with her touch, not by her bite, but by shamelessness and wickedness alone.

Orestes takes up the bloody robe again, and muses upon what name he should give it. A trap for a wild animal? A covering for a corpse in his grave? A bath curtain? Or, rather, a hunting net, the sort that a highway robber might use to entrap strangers and slay them.

The chorus cries out woefully, calling Clytamnestra's death wretched. They also see new suffering blossoming for Orestes.

Orestes points to the robe as witness to the murder. It is still stained with the blood from Aigisthos's sword, even years later. Now at last he can lament his father's death, addressing the robe. While he rejoices in his victory, he sees that it is polluted. Orestes feels like he is driving a chariot that is wildly out of control, and feels his wits leaving him. Before succumbing to this madness, he proclaims to the world that he has justly killed his own mother. He appeals to Apollo, saying that the god promised him that he would be free of guilt if he accomplished this deed, whereas if he avoided it, the penalties would have been horrific.

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