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The Libation Bearers

Aeschylus

Lines 479–584

Lines 306–478

Lines 479–584, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Orestes and Electra make one last plea to Agamemnon before moving on to other concerns. They make specific, prodding prayers that are meant to incur the wrath of their father so that he will come to their aid. They remind him of all of the injustices that he has suffered, and assure him that only they will be able to avenge these injustices.

Orestes opens by asking that his father should give him power over the house. Electra asks that Agamemnon help her escape after she brings destruction upon Aigisthos. They both promise something in return for these favors. Orestes says that he will establish funeral feasts for his father, whereas otherwise he would receive no such honors since he died an ignoble death. Electra promises to pour out her bridal wine upon his tomb, which she will revere above all other shrines.

The children both remind Agamemnon of his sufferings. Orestes tells him to remember the bath in which he died. Electra reminds him of the strange and shameful net the murderers used to catch him. Both children taunt their father in order to force him to rise from the grave and help them. If he honors their call, then he can save his own glory.

After this final appeal to Agamemnon, the chorus calls the children back to the task at hand, saying that now is the time for action. Orestes asks for the details surrounding Clytamnestra's decision to send the libation bearers to the tomb. It is too little too late, he says. All ones possessions cannot balance out the blood spilled.

The chorus then describes Clytamnestra's terrifying dream. They tell that she dreamed she bore a snake, and wrapped it like a baby. Then she tried to feed it from her breast, but the snake bit her, and blood curdled the milk. She awoke with a scream, and sent the libations in the hope that they would appease whoever sent the vision.

Orestes interprets the dream, saying that he will be the snake, saying that just as she bred this violent sign, so she will die by violence. The chorus accepts his reading, and asks Orestes what should be done. He lays out a cunning plan, one to match that by which Agamemnon died. He will send Electra inside, and she will keep the secret. He will go the gates as a stranger and speak in Parnassian, the dialect of Delphi. He might have to wait at the doors, as no one might welcome him, but this will attract the attention of others, who will wonder at how Aigisthos keeps people waiting.

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