Notes on The Libation Bearers Themes

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The Libation Bearers Topic Tracking: Power

Power 1: Atreus exiled his brother, Thyestes, from Argos, assuring that he would never have the power to rule the city. Aegisthus helped Clytaemnestra to plot Agamemnon's murder, and he later crowned himself king. He reclaimed the power that his father had lost.

Power 2: The Chorus declares that nobody really has any control over what happens in their life, since a great divine power called Fate controls everything that happens. Fate is a force even more powerful than the gods themselves.

Power 3: Orestes wisely points out that power is much more than simply a matter of size. Indeed, a seemingly small thing can in fact end up being quite a formidable force, just as a small seed may become a mighty tree, as he says "from a little thing you can raise up/a house to grandeur."

Power 4: Agamemnon's rightful heir to the throne of Argos should be his surviving son Orestes, although Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus have wrongfully stolen this from him. Now Orestes hopes to win back the power to rule the city as soon as he murders these two for their crimes.

Power 5: In spite of Clytaemnestra's intimidation tactics, the Chorus comments that "Power grows on the side of the children," as they all pray for the gods to aid them in exacting revenge. The children are growing more powerful than their mother gradually now, after so many years of mistreatment.

Power 6: Surprisingly, Electra does not take an active role in the plan for revenge, but instead she places all of this responsibility upon her brother, the man. Electra is much more submissive than her aggressive mother, Clytaemnestra, although she is very supportive of him.

Power 7: Unlike the angry, maniacal woman who once murdered her own husband, Clytaemnestra now appears to be very controlled, insisting that the man must deal with this news of Orestes' death. She sends a messenger to find Aegisthus then, acting as if it is not her place to address that issue because she is just the king's wife and not the king herself. The man appears to have more power here.

Power 8: Cilissa reveals that it had bee King Agamemnon's decision to hire her so that she would care for the infant Orestes. Clytaemnestra had no input into this decision, even though she was his own mother and surely would have wanted to make sure that a good nurse is hired to take care of her baby. The man controls the power in the family as well.

Power 9: The Chorus of foreign serving women describes Orestes as being in a power struggle between Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra, and it is uncertain who exactly will win. These women warn that the conflict can go either way at this point, in favor of Orestes or against him. It is simply too early to tell how everything will end, and they wait expectantly to see what happens.

Power 10: Orestes points out that humans actions are determined by Destiny, and his actions are beyond his control. He has no power of his own, and as such he is destined to murder his mother, just as Clytaemnestra claims that she had no power to avoid murdering Agamemnon because she was destined to murder him.

Power 11: After Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus are slain, the Chorus of women declare that Orestes now has all the power he needs to rule Argos with no enemies to stop him any longer. As the surviving son of King Agamemnon, this is his right automatically.

Power 12: Orestes flees Argos, powerless to stop the Furies from tormenting him because he murdered his own mother, Clytaemnestra. The Chorus wonders why humans must suffer so much, recalling the history of death that fills the house of Argos. These women feel very powerless against stopping this suffering that does not end.

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