Upon being informed that her palace is under attack and her lover Aegisthus has been killed, Clytemnestra immediately calls for her “man-axe” in order to defend herself. Within the patriarchal world of the Greek tragedy, Clytemnestra’s willingness to take up arms is evidence of her lack of femininity, and her overbearing dominance. It was this same “unfeminine” desire for power and willingness to commit violence that led Clytemnestra to conspire to kill Agamemnon. The man-axe thus represents Clytemnestra’s “man-killing” qualities: those which allow her to avenge her daughter and seize power over Argos, but which also condemn her in the eyes of the Greeks and lead to her ultimate downfall.
The The Libation Bearers quotes below all refer to the symbol of Clytemnestra’s Man-Axe. 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: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of The Libation Bearers published in 1966.).
The timeline below shows where the symbol Clytemnestra’s Man-Axe appears in The Libation Bearers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.