Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Libation Bearers

This is the second installment of the Oresteia, the tragic trilogy by the Greek playwright Aeschylus. I've been hammering through the ancient Greek dramatists, and have shared my thoughts about the first in this trilogy here. The Libation Bearers continues the story that begun in The Agamemnon, picking up several years after Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus have murdered her husband, Agamemnon, who, admittedly, was kind of a prick (if you read The Iliad). Nevertheless, their children Orestes and Elektra are not at all happy about it. Orestes has been away for many long years (his mother sent him away to aid in her plan of murder). But once he hears about it, he comes back to Argos at the command of the god Apollo, who says Orestes must avenge his father by killing his mother and her lover. Disguising his identity, he comes home and, after revealing his identity to his sister, colludes with the Chorus to distract his mother, who welcomes him thinking he is a stranger. He enters the palace and kills his murderous stepfather. Orestes is then interrupted by his mother, and he begins to kill her, too, but hesitates - after all, she's his mom. His cousin, Agamemnon's nephew Pylades, reminds Orestes of Apollo's command. Orestes does the deed, and, despite the patronage of Apollo, finds himself victim of the vengeance of the Furies, who have an especial distaste for matricide. They hound Orestes unmercifully, and he is forced to flee Argos, the Furies hot on his heels. The story continues (and concludes) in the third play in the trilogy, The Eumenides. We'll get to that shortly.

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