The Libation Bearers

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Electra Character Analysis

The daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, and sister to Orestes, Electra has spent the years of her brother’s exile alone and powerless. Like her sibling, she is incensed by Clytemnestra’s murder of Agamemnon and her affair with Aegisthus—yet because Electra is a woman, she has been able to take revenge until Orestes’ return. Similarly to Orestes, Electra is pious and loyal, visiting her father’s tomb and lamenting for her lost brother. When it comes to her mother, however, she is unforgiving and merciless.

Electra Quotes in The Libation Bearers

The The Libation Bearers quotes below are all either spoken by Electra or refer to Electra. 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

The proud dead stir under the earth,

They rage against the ones who took their lives…

Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Electra, Agamemnon
Related Symbols: Agamemnon’s Burial Mound and Shroud
Page Number: 44-45
Explanation and Analysis:

As the Chorus of libation-bearing women enters, along with Electra, they recall the terrifying events of the night before, remembering how a mysterious voice warned them that the dead were coming to avenge themselves upon the living. In Greek drama, dreams and prophecies often prove true, as is most definitely the case in this moment. 

The quote also explains why the queen, Clytemnestra, has sent them out to tend to the grave of her husband (whom she loathed and murdered). Although Clytemnestra may put on a show of piety, this is clearly because fear rather than actual reverence. She is worried about what the voice in the night might prophecy, rather than actually regretful about murdering her husband.

We also can understand from this quote the influence of the dead within this narrative. Rather than being considered gone and at peace, the dead are a constant presence for all the characters on the stage. Although they may no longer be alive, their power has not waned; through Orestes' matricide, the spirit of Agamemnon is essentially avenging himself from beyond the grave. 

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What to say when I pour the cup of sorrow?
What kindness, what prayer can touch my father?
Shall I say I bring him love for love, a woman’s
love for her husband? My mother, love from her?
I’ve no taste for that, no words to say
as I run the honeyed oil on father’s tomb.

Related Characters: Electra (speaker), The Chorus, Clytemnestra, Agamemnon
Related Symbols: Agamemnon’s Burial Mound and Shroud
Page Number: 86-91
Explanation and Analysis:

As Electra worships at the tomb of her father along with the libation-bearing slaves, she struggles to find words to express her sorrow. Unlike the hypocritical Clytemnestra, Electra is pious and dutiful. Although her father is dead and gone, she is still loyal to him, and feels conflicted about bringing meaningless offerings from her mother. 

This passage also illustrates the complex gender politics at work within The Libation Bearers. Although a woman, Electra identifies far more strongly with her father than with her mother, and believes that her allegiance lies firmly with him. She scorns the queen for having betrayed "a woman's love for her husband," and believes that Clytemnestra has failed in her duties as both a wife and a mother. 

Lastly, Electra's near-obsession with her father helps readers to understand how present he still is for her, despite his death. To Electra, her father is still a powerful force within her life, and she will do whatever it takes to ensure that his memory is honored and his death avenged. 

For our enemies I say,
raise up your avenger, into the light, my father—
kill the killers in return, with justice!
So in the midst of prayers for good I place
this curse for them.

Related Characters: Electra (speaker), Orestes, The Chorus, Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, Agamemnon
Related Symbols: Agamemnon’s Burial Mound and Shroud
Page Number: 147-151
Explanation and Analysis:

After being unable to pray for peace for her father's spirit, Electra instead, at the prompting of the chorus, begs the gods for vengeance. Her prayer highlights the close bond within The Libation Bearers between piety and vengeance. Although most of Electra's words involve "prayers for good" for herself and her brother, she also includes curses for Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus. This mixture of good wishes and bad is not contradictory to Electra or the Chorus—they believe that both vengeance and reverence can exist within a truly pious and reverent person, because part of the holy law is vengeance. 

It is also significant that Electra prays not to the gods, but to her father. To this abandoned daughter, Agamemnon has become like a god; although he is buried, she still considers him powerful enough to avenge his own murder, through the actions of his descendants.

In the midst of this deeply vengeful prayer, it is important to note that Electra has made no attempts to kill her mother herself. This lack of action is illustrative of the role of women within this type of Greek drama. Although Electra may hope for her mother's death, as a pious and proper Greek woman, she would never carry out the deed herself (in contrast to the murderous and bloody Clytemnestra, who overstepped the bounds of her gender in taking action against her husband). 

Your pain is mine.
If I laugh at yours, I only laugh at mine.

Related Characters: Orestes (speaker), Electra
Related Symbols: The Hair and Footprints of Orestes and Electra
Page Number: 223-224
Explanation and Analysis:

After hiding behind his father's burial mound, Orestes reveals himself to his sister Electra, and the two tearfully reunite. While Electra is incredulous, Orestes reassures her that he has returned. Beyond the joy of siblings at seeing each other for the first time in years, this quote demonstrates the extent to which Orestes and Electra are presented as two halves of the same whole. Their love goes beyond that of ordinary siblings; they feel each others' emotions, and are matched both physically and mentally.

The harmony and strength of Orestes' and Electra's bond stands in contrast with the un-motherly and un-wifely behavior of Clytemnestra. While she has desecrated every familial bond in which she participates, the queen's children have managed to keep their relationship pure and ideal. They illustrate the way that family members should treat each other, providing an example for Greek audiences of proper familial love. 

You light to my eyes, four loves in one!
I have to call you father, it is fate;
and I turn to you the love I gave my mother—
I despise her, she deserves it, yes,
and the love I gave my sister, sacrificed
on the cruel sword, I turn to you.

Related Characters: Electra (speaker), The Chorus (speaker), Orestes, Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Iphigenia
Page Number: 240-245
Explanation and Analysis:

After being reunited, Electra and Orestes vow to be loyal to each other, in clear contrast to their treacherous mother. Here Electra tells Orestes that she loves him more than other sisters do their brothers, because he must also serve the roles of father, mother, and sister for her. She is referring to the murder of her father Agamemnon, the sacrifice of her sister Iphigenia (who was murdered by Agamemnon's "cruel sword," presenting a seeming conflict of interest for Electra), and the imminent death of her mother Clytemnestra. 

Once again Aeschylus makes clear that the ties between Electra and Orestes can never be broken. They are wholly committed to each other, exemplifying the purity and strength of true familial bonds. As Electra promises her love for her brother, we also witness traditional Greek gender roles at work. Considered weaker because of her gender, Electra places herself under her brother's protection, giving him not just the love of a sibling, but also the respect of a daughter for her parents. 

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Electra Character Timeline in The Libation Bearers

The timeline below shows where the character Electra appears in The Libation Bearers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-585
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
As Orestes prays, Electra enters with the Chorus, a group of slave women who attend her. They are dressed... (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
...with blood, and curse their lives as slaves, connecting their own plight with that of Electra, who silently and secretly mourns for the betrayed Agamemnon. (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
Electra praises the Chorus, thanking them for accompanying her to Agamemnon’s grave. She begins to lament... (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
The leader of the Chorus tells Electra that she should say a prayer for “those who love you…[and] hate Aegisthus.” Electra laments... (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
Electra kneels at the grave and prays to Hermes, begging him to ask the dead and... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
Electra then calls upon the Chorus to add their prayers to hers. The group of women... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
Having finished her prayer, Electra spots Orestes’ locks of hair on the ground. She notes that the hair is identical... (full context)
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Within moments, Electra spots Orestes’ footprints in the dirt (as well as Pylades’). Comparing the tracks to her... (full context)
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...not to give herself to joy, since his arrival has put them in grave danger. Electra explains that Orestes is not only her brother, but now he must also replace her... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...killed by a treacherous snake. They once again compare their enslaved state to that of Electra, and praise Agamemnon for his generosity and protectiveness. They describe the house (family) as “ruined,”... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
The Chorus leader warns Orestes and Electra to be wary of Aegisthus’ and Clytemnestra’s spies. Orestes responds that he is under the... (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
Orestes, Electra, and the Chorus gather to pray at the grave. The Chorus invokes the Fates and... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
The Chorus leaves Electra and Orestes at the grave. Orestes prays for the power “to rule our house” while... (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
...Chorus encourages him to share his plan with them. He replies that it is simple: Electra and the Chorus will return to the house, while he and Pylades will disguise themselves... (full context)
Lines 653-718
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
Clytemnestra enters, attended by Electra, and offers Pylades and Orestes a place to stay for the night, adding, “the eyes... (full context)