The Libation Bearers



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The Libation Bearers: Lines 586-652 Summary & Analysis

Alone onstage, the Chorus states that of all the world’s marvels, the most mysterious and unaccountable are “a man’s high daring spirit” and a “woman’s desperate passion.” They deplore women who are “driven wild by lust,” and tell stories of various women who destroyed men with their feminine wiles. The Chorus turns to Clytemnestra in particular, remembering how she overcame Agamemnon despite his “warlord’s power,” and they assert that the gods detest such women. They then predict that Justice and Fate—in the form of Orestes—will soon punish Clytemnestra, and that he will at last wipe clean the “stain of blood” from the house of Atreus.
As is always the case in Greek tragedy, the Chorus serves to help us better understand the worldview of the play. In this passage, they pay specific attention to wicked, impious, and unfeminine women, making sure that we understand the unforgivable nature of Clytemnestra’s crimes. Not only did she kill her husband, but she usurped power that rightfully belonged to a man—a terrible crime, to the Ancient Greeks. It is intriguing, too, that the Chorus believes that Orestes’ bloody vengeance will in fact “cleanse” his house.
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Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety Theme Icon
Familial Bonds Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead Theme Icon
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