The Libation Bearers

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The Furies Character Analysis

Although they only make a brief appearance in The Libation Bearers (and are only ever seen by Orestes), the Furies will become vital players within the play’s sequel, The Eumenides. Goddesses of vengeance and punishment, the Furies function as a kind of physical manifestations of Orestes’ sin of matricide against his mother Clytemnestra. Although Orestes is assured by Apollo that his murder of Clytemnestra is just and right, Orestes still has his mother’s blood on his hands. The Furies arrive to remind the audience of the reality of this terrible crime, and to punish Orestes for his actions.

The Furies Quotes in The Libation Bearers

The The Libation Bearers quotes below are all either spoken by The Furies or refer to The Furies. 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 719-1065 Quotes

Clytemnestra: Watch out—the hounds of a mother’s curse will hunt you down.
Orestes: But how to escape a father’s if I fail?

Related Characters: Orestes (speaker), Clytemnestra (speaker), Agamemnon, The Furies
Page Number: 911-912
Explanation and Analysis:

As Orestes stands over Clytmenestra, ready to strike, she continues to attempt to persuade him to spare her. These two lines encapsulate their argument: Clytemnestra vows vengeance on him if he kills her, while Orestes worries that if he does not, he will have betrayed his father. 

These lines also illustrate the terrible situation in which Orestes has found himself: to avenge one crime, he must commit another. It also demonstrates the conflict between different types of familial bonds (in this case mother/son v. father/son), and shows how these bonds are ultimately ruled by gender. Whatever terrible punishments Clytemnestra threatens for Orestes, he will always remain loyal to his father. Because Clytemnestra is a woman, she will never have as strong a hold over her son as her dead husband. 


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Where will it end?
Where will it sink to sleep and rest,
this murderous hate,
This Fury?

Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Orestes, The Furies
Page Number: 1075-1077
Explanation and Analysis:

As the play comes to an end, Orestes descends into madness and is chased offstage by the Furies, vengeful spirits determined to punish him for killing his mother. While he flees, the Chorus reflects back on the cycle of violence that The Libation Bearers has continued. Although at first the Chorus supported Orestes' mission of vengeance, now they seem to have changed their tune. They see "murderous hate" as a never-ending pattern, and wonder only when it will end. 

The quote also serves as an excellent set-up for The Libation Bearers' sequel, The Eumenides. While the first play extends the cycle of violence, the second play puts a stop to it once and for all, essentially answering the question that the Chorus here plaintively asks. 

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The Furies Character Timeline in The Libation Bearers

The timeline below shows where the character The Furies 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
...they infect the land itself, causing disease and famine. Orestes goes on to describe the Furies, goddesses of vengeance who attack men who deal unjustly with their kin. Should he not... (full context)
Lines 719-1065
Revenge Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...horrific women with snakes for hair who have begun to pursue him. These are the Furies, the goddesses of vengeance, who have come to punish him for Clytemnestra’s death. Confused, the... (full context)