Libation Bearers: Discussion Questions
Note: Chorus of captive serving women
Time Seven years after the murder of Agamemnon
Scene Argos, before Agamemnon’s tomb
Fagles’pages Fagles’ lines (Grk lines) Part
pp. 177-178 1-26F (1-21) Prologue
pp. 178-180 26-82F (22-82) Parados
pp. 180-192 83-311F (83-304) First Episode
pp. 192-198 312-465F (305-476) First Stasimon
pp. 198-203 466-570F (477-584) Second Episode
pp. 204-205 571-633F (585-652) Second Stasimon
pp. 206-211 634-773F (653-782) Third Episode
pp. 212-213 774-823F (779-836) Third Stasimon
pp. 213-219 824-921F (837-933) Fourth Episode
pp. 219-220 922-963F (934-972) Fourth Stasimon
pp. 221-226 964-1076F (973-1074) Exodos
1. Prologue: Orestes and Pylades arrive in the Prologue. How does Orestes show his respects to Agamemnon’s grave?
2. Parados: The chorus have torn their cheeks which bleed, and they shed tears (of salt water): where have you seen these images before, and how are they here employed? Pay close attention to Clytemnestra’s nightmare. The image of Justice (61ff.) is one of scales– how do scales work, and what does this imply for the main characters? The blood does not seep but cakes up (65ff.): discuss this image in symbolic terms. The washing of hands which they discuss links water and blood again.
3. First episode: Electra recognizes Orestes how? (Is this plausible?) What do you make of the wild creatures woven into the cloth? At line 250 ff., Agamemnon is described as an eagle, and Clytemnestra as a snake. What implications are in this? Consider Orestes’ speech: is Apollo on his side? With what other divinely-decreed event might you compare this?
4. First Stasimon: The chant at Agamemnon’s Tomb is a three-sided lyrical passage revealing the motivations of the principals. What are these motivations? Line 320 is at the heart of the trilogy. Is Revenge Justice?
5. Second Episode: What symbolism does Clytemnestra’s dream contain? You might wish to consider Herodotus 3.109, who notes the belief that baby snakes had to eat their way out of the womb, killing their mothers. What is Orestes’ plan?
6. Second Stasimon and Third Episode: Clytemnestra welcomes them with warm baths (!). Who else was so welcomed? When Orestes is announced as “dead,” is Clytemnestra’s reaction feigned or real? The Nurse, so upset, was his wetnurse. What is her function?
8. Third Stasimon and Fourth Episode: Aegisthus’ death brings few tears, but how about Clytemnestra’s? She bares her breast and begs for mercy: sentimental claptrap? Pylades has been silent up to now: why? How should he deliver his only line? Consider again the idea expressed in line 910.
9. Fourth Stasimon and Exodos: So, wait a minute, who’s the snake? The arrival of the Furies– should they be on stage or not?