Notes on The Libation Bearers Themes

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The Libation Bearers Topic Tracking: Revenge

Revenge 1: Aegisthus helped Clytaemnestra to plot Agamemnon's murder because he wanted revenge against Atreus, who had killed Aegisthus' older siblings. Clytaemnestra wanted revenge because Agamemnon killed her daughter, Iphigenia, so that the Greek fleet could sail to Troy.

Revenge 2: Standing in front of the tomb of Agamemnon, Orestes promises that he will get revenge for his father's death. Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus are Agamemnon's murderers, and Orestes has returned to Argos to kill them and restore himself to the royal throne.

Revenge 3: The Chorus of foreign serving women declares that they must get revenge against Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra for Agamemnon's murder. Many years have passed, and the two have gone unpunished for too long. The Chorus and Electra pray that an avenger will come to Argos.

Revenge 4: Rather than wishing for forgiveness or peace in Argos, Electra burns with hatred towards her mother Clytaemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. She pours libations to the dead Agamemnon, wishing that he will somehow punish these two for murdering him. Electra, like the Chorus, only wants to have violent, merciless revenge.

Revenge 5: Orestes states that just revenge will be dealt out to those who deserve it. Because Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus murdered his father, he will in turn murder them. There appears to be a question of whether this is justice or if this is simple revenge. The children's anger burns brightly, and this revenge will be justice in their opinion.

Revenge 6: It is not only Orestes' duty to commit an act of revenge for his father Agamemnon, but also he must get revenge for the entire citizenry of Argos, which has been controlled by an unjust government for many years. This is yet another reason to murder Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra.

Revenge 7: Electra warns that there are goddesses called the Furies who get revenge for terrible crimes by tormenting the criminal until he is dead. She asks the Furies to help her brother Orestes in murdering Clytaemnestra because she murdered Agamemnon.

Revenge 8: Orestes' plan for revenge is very harsh and merciless, as he says simply that he must "wipe out the stain of blood shed long ago." He believes that by killing more people through an act of revenge, then he will have cleansed the royal House of Argos from any sins.

Revenge 9: The revenge plot is carried out as a near-mirror to the same tactics and circumstances used by Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus. The first step is to generate a false sense of security, just as she did when praising Agamemnon so highly when he returned from the Trojan War. Now, Orestes deceives his mother by declaring that the one person she had to fear in the world, Orestes, is dead.

Revenge 10: The Chorus asks that Zeus help Orestes to get revenge against Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus, hoping that he shall help them to avenge Agamemnon's murder. Again, these women think that more murders shall be a good punishment for earlier murders.

Revenge 11: Now Clytaemnestra warns that if Orestes succeeds in murdering her, then she will get revenge against him afterwards by casting a terrible curse against him. Orestes debates this possibility in his head, deciding that if he does not avenge Agamemnon's death then he will suffer just as equally by the curse of his father. He chooses to take his chances and kills her.

Revenge 12: The act of revenge against Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra is finally completed in a way that mirrors the murders of Agamemnon and Cassandra. Both murders were achieved after generating a false sense of security by means of deception; the bodies laid side by side in both murders; and finally, the bloody robe used to restrain Agamemnon's arms is spread on the floor near Clytaemnestra's body as a symbol that the cycle of murder has come full circle. The murders began with the bloody robe and now they end with the bloody robe.

Revenge 13: Clytaemnestra's promise of an revengeful curse against Orestes becomes a reality. He is tormented by the avenging Furies because he murdered his biological mother, fleeing Argos for Delphi where he hopes to find protection and an explanation from Apollo, god of truth, light, and prophesy.

Revenge 14: The Chorus of foreign serving women points out that revenge is in fact a vicious cycle that does not seem to have an end. The revenge began when Atreus murdered Thyestes' children, causing Aegisthus to plot Agamemnon's murder to avenge his siblings. Clytaemnestra wanted revenge for Iphigenia's death; Orestes wanted revenge for Agamemnon's death. Now the avenging Furies want revenge for Clytaemnestra's death. These women wonder, when will the revenge stop? Will these violent memories of the past ever be forgotten?

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