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The Libation Bearers


Lines 84–163

Lines 1–83

Lines 84–163, page 2

page 1 of 2

Electra makes her first speech of the play. She holds up he libation cup, but she does not know what to say. She cannot bring Agamemnon love from her mother, who was his murderer. Perhaps she should pour silently, and then turn back to the house without looking back, like one who throws out waste. She asks the serving women to join her, saying that although they are slaves, she and they share a common hatred for the house.

The leader of the chorus says that her loyalty lies with the king; "I revere your father's death-mound like an altar." The leader then tells Electra to speak a blessing for those who love her. Electra is confused, as she has no loved ones in the house. The leader says, "all those who hate Aigisthos." Electra still does not recognize that there is anyone else on her side besides the serving women. Then the leader reminds her of Orestes, her brother in exile.

The chorus continues to teach Electra what to say, for she is "unseasoned" and cannot think of the words. The leader tells her to invoke some evil against the murderers (Clytamnestra and Aigisthos), calling for "the one who murders in return." Electra questions whether this is a righteous thing for her to ask of the gods. The chorus says that it cannot be unrighteous to pay back an enemy, evil for evil.

Electra begins to pray. She asks Hermes to help her, to tell the spirits of the underworld to hear her prayers. She asks for the Earth herself to listen, she who brings things to life and takes them away again. She pours a libation to her father, and calls to Orestes to come to her aid. She says that she has been reduced to slave-status, about to be married off by her mother. She prays that she can be more chaste and innocent than her mother.

For her enemies, she prays that some avenger will come to kill the killers in return, with justice. After this interlude to pray for evil for her enemies, she returns to her prayer for blessings, and pours the libations for the serving women to sing over.

The chorus then joins in the libations, praying to Agamemnon that he protect them and Electra from evil but not Clytamnestra, who should feel his wrath. They then cry out again for some man to deliver the house from iniquity, someone born to do it and who will wield his sword as in war (in other words, Orestes).

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