Bearers (Choephoroe) Summary and Passages
(this summary needs a little more
work, but use what's here for now)
At Agamemnon's grave, Orestes prays to Hermes that he might avenge his father's murder.
He leaves a lock of hair and hides when the women approach.
Electra and Chorus (women of Argos) mourn Agamemnon's death (libations are ritual
sacrifices). They recount the murder of Agamemnon, saying that "that godless woman
sends me here" (49, referring to Clytemnestra). Electra speaks of her pain, and of
being all alone now.
82-311 The Chorus reminds her that Orestes may still come to avenge his father's death
(117). Electra prays to Hermes to bring Orestes home (143 ff). Recognition scene between
Electra and Orestes. Orestes explains that Apollo has charged him to avenge the murder of
237-465 Orestes, Electra and Chorus consider their next step.
240-249 Electra outlines the whole family dynamic.
250-268 Orestes prays to Zeus for a successful conclusion
268-273 The Chorus encourages them, but urges caution
273-311 Orestes tells of Apollo's command: if he does not avenge his father's death he
will be pursued by the Furies.
312-321 Kommos: Chorus says that all is in motion now - Justice will reign, reiterating
the theme of vengeance breeding vengeance.
322-408 Orestes bemoans the fact that Agamemnon did not die a glorious death in battle;
the Chorus urges him on to go through with the retribution. They become frighteningly
passionate in their need to convince Orestes that he has no choice.
418-465 Orestes learns that not only did Clytemnestra deny Agamemnon proper funeral
rites, but that they mutilated his body after death. Electra adds that she was made an
outcast in her own house. These points convince Orestes of the need for action.
466-491 Brother and sister address Agamemnon and promise vengeance.
492-571 The Chorus Leader tells of Clytemnestra's fearful snake dream, which caused her
to honor Agamemnon's grave. But it is too late - the serpent she dreamt of has arrived in
the person of Orestes. Orestes announces his plan to seek refuge at the palace in the
guise of a stranger.
572-633 The Chorus relates stories of other faithless women and proclaims that Orestes,
by killing Clytemnestra, will end the Curse of the House of Atreus (wrong).
scene change: to the palace
633-773 A disguised Orestes arrives at the palace and tells Clytemnestra that Orestes
is dead. Clytemnestra appears upset but offers hospitality. Orestes has the Nurse fetch
774-823 The Chorus again urges Orestes on: "Wipe out death with death."
824-878 Orestes meets and kills Aegisthus
879-917 Orestes and Clytemnestra talk - he righteously kills her
918-963 The Chorus proclaims victory
964-1063 Orestes formally announces that he has done the will of Apollo. The Chorus
praises him, but he flees because he is pursued by the Furies.
1064-1077 The Chorus wonders when this cycle of death and destruction
Passages from Aeschylus' Libation Bearers
I go like a slave,/and Orestes driven from his estates while they,/they roll in the
fruits of all your labors/magnificent and sleek. O bring Orestes home,/with a happy twist
of fate, my father. Hear me,/make me more self-possessed than mother,/make this hand more
pure. Electra (LB. 140-146)
You light to my eyes, four loves in one!/I have to call you father, it is fate;/and I
turn to you the love I gave my mother -/I despise her, she deserves it, yes,/and the love
I gave my sister, sacrificed/on the cruel sword, I turn to you./You were my faith, my
brother -/you alone restore my self-respect. Electra (LB. 240-247)
It is the law: when the blood of slaughter/wets the ground it wants more
blood./Slaughter cries for the Fury/of those long dead to bring destruction/on destruction
churning in its wake! Chorus (LB. 394-398)
Shamed? Butchered I tell you - hands lopped,/strung to shackle his necks and
arms!/So she worked,/she buried him, made your life a hell./Your father mutilated - do you
hear? Chorus (LB. 428-431)
She dreamed she bore a snake, said so herself and.../she swaddled it like a baby, laid
it to rest.../She gave it her breast to suck - she was dreaming.../Blood curdled the milk
with each sharp tug.../and she woke with a scream, appalled... Chorus (LB. 514...522)
Strangers, please,/tell me what you would like and it is yours./We've all you might
expect in a house like ours./We have warm baths and beds to charm away your pains/and the
eyes of Justice look on all we do. Clytemnestra (LB. 649-656)
But you, when your turn in the action comes, be strong./When she cries 'Son!' cry out
'My father's son!'/Go through with the murder - innocent at last. Chorus (LB.
Watch out - the hounds of a mother's curse will hunt you down. Clytemnestra (LB.
Ai - you are the snake I bore - I gave you life! Clytemnestra (LB. 914)
Now look on me, armed with the branch and wreath,/a suppliant bound for the Navelstone
of Earth,/Apollo's sacred heights/where they say the fires of heaven can never die.
Orestes (LB. 1032-1035)