The Libation Bearers

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Apollo Character Analysis

The god of the sun, prophecy, and reason, Apollo is not a character within The Libation Bearers (although he does make an appearance in The Eumenides), but Orestes and Pylades often make reference to him. He is Orestes’ patron, and has sent Orestes back to Argos expressly to avenge Agamemnon by killing Clytemnestra. Apollo's blessing makes Orestes believe that his matricide (killing of his mother) is not just divinely sanctioned, but inevitable.

Apollo Quotes in The Libation Bearers

The The Libation Bearers quotes below are all either spoken by Apollo or refer to Apollo. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Revenge Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Libation Bearers published in 1966.
Lines 1-585 Quotes

Apollo will never fail me, no,
his tremendous power, his oracle charges me
to see this trial through.

Related Characters: Orestes (speaker), Apollo
Page Number: 273-275
Explanation and Analysis:

As Orestes resolves to kill his mother and begins to plan the murder, he prays to Apollo, his patron god, to aid him in this bloody act. Orestes has previously been ordered by Apollo's oracle to avenge his father, so his faith in the god makes sense. His belief that his vengeance has been approved by divine command, meanwhile, demonstrates the close link that the Greeks believed to exist between vengeance and piety. Far from being condemned by the gods, murder and vengeance are indeed encouraged, under the right circumstances. 

That Orestes has specifically prayed to Apollo is also significant. The god of prophecy, Apollo can see the future, and predict it through his oracles. Orestes therefore believes that this murder is not simply divinely sanctioned, but actually destined to be. Although he wishes to murder his mother, he also believes that he has no choice in the matter—it is his fate to do so, as ordered by the god of prophecy. 

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Lines 719-1065 Quotes

Clytemnestra: Wait, my son—no respect for this, my child?
The breast you held, drowsing away the hours,
soft gums tugging the milk that made you grow?
Orestes: What will I do, Pylades?—I dread to kill my mother!
Pylades: What of the future? What of the Prophet God Apollo,
the Delphic voice, the faith and oaths we swear?
Make all mankind your enemy, not the gods.

Related Characters: Orestes (speaker), Clytemnestra (speaker), Pylades (speaker), Apollo
Page Number: 883-889
Explanation and Analysis:

With his plan nearing completion, Orestes is about to kill his mother; he pauses, however, swayed by her pleas, before being urged on by his slave, Pylades. After building the momentum of the entire play towards this moment of vengeance and matricide, it is deeply significant that Aeschylus creates a moment of hesitation for the character of Orestes. While Orestes, the Chorus, and Electra have all explained how vengeance is holy and divinely sanctioned, the actual act of killing his mother is still dreadful to Orestes. It takes the urging of a previously silent character, Pylades, to persuade him to carry through the deed.

The way that Pylades convinces Orestes to commit matricide is also important: he reminds his master that Apollo has commanded him to kill his mother, and that he must not disobey the god. He goes on, telling Orestes to "[m]ake all mankind your enemy, not the gods," foreshadowing Orestes' troubles and strife in the next play, The Eumenides

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Apollo Character Timeline in The Libation Bearers

The timeline below shows where the character Apollo appears in The Libation Bearers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-585
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...wary of Aegisthus’ and Clytemnestra’s spies. Orestes responds that he is under the protection of Apollo, and that the god’s oracle has ordered him to hunt down Agamemnon’s killers. He relates... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...house, while he and Pylades will disguise themselves as travellers from Delphi (the shrine of Apollo) and ask for shelter. He predicts that the impious Aegisthus and Clytemnestra may not be... (full context)
Lines 719-1065
Revenge Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...of bloodshed and vengeance that has overtaken the House of Atreus. They next pray to Apollo, praying that he provide light for Orestes’ dark path, and then to Hermes, begging him... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...a baby. Momentarily softening, Orestes asks Pylades what to do. His comrade reminds him that Apollo has ordered Clytemnestra’s death. (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...of the gods, and that his cause was righteous. They then go on to praise Apollo for his purity and justice, and imagine the “proud house” of Atreus in the future.... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...his manic state of mind, and his terror. He states that he killed Clytemnestra because Apollo ordered him to, and because she killed Agamemnon—his actions, in short, were just. As Orestes... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...hounds of mother’s hate,” and he becomes manic once more, crying out for the god Apollo. The leader of the Chorus urges him to seek out the god’s purifying touch. Orestes,... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
The leader of the Chorus bids farewell to Orestes, praying that Apollo will guide and protect him. The Chorus as a whole observes that the curse of... (full context)