Aeschylus Libation Bearers discussion questions

Libation Bearers: Discussion Questions

Note:  Chorus of captive serving women

Time Seven years after the murder of Agamemnon

Scene Argos, before Agamemnon’s tomb

Structure

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?

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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