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Discussion - Oresteia > The Libation Bearers (The Choephori)

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7057 comments The basic plot outline is as simple as it gets.

But there are lots of fascinating things to talk about.

Does Orestes truly believe that he is under compulsion from Apollo, or is that more a basis to justify his acts?

Is Justice served? Does private revenge constitute Justice? Do two wrongs make a right? What is Justice, after all, and how does a community enforce or not enforce it?

Is Clytemnestra's regret real?

When everybody knows what's going to happen before the non-curtain rises, how does Aeschylus create drama? What issues is he using this simple plot to raise?

Those are just for starters.

By the way, the beginning of this play is lost, so if it seems to start abruptly, that's why. I have read various speculations by scholars as to what might have gone on in the lost passages, but of course nobody knows. If people want to speculate, though, feel free.


message 2: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7057 comments One thing you have probably noticed about the Greek theater. Almost all the action takes place off stage. All the killings, for example, are done in the skene building. This is so different from later theater, where for example we See Gloucester's eyes gouged out right there on stage, and sword fights are a common staple of theater. But the Greeks kept all the real action hidden, and it is just reported by messengers, heralds, etc.

If this were a course with homework, I might assign as an essay topic to discuss how this affects the impact of the plays. But of course it isn't, so I won't.


Victoria (vikz writes) (VixtoriaVikzwrites) | 185 comments Another discussion point, are your feelings towards the characters different in this play than they were in the last one? I was quite sympathetic to Cly in the last play. But, I am not quite so sure now.


message 4: by Audrey (new)

Audrey | 199 comments I am not nearly as sympathetic, either. For one thing, I'm inclined to think that all her talk of a mother's love with respect to Iphigenia was simply an attempt to make her actions seem less horrible. She certainly doesn't seem to have treated her other two children with any respect or love. Elektra's experience of this is very subjective. She's obviously angry that Clytemnestra killed her father and is living in a way that is a huge embarrassment to the whole family (possibly damaging Elektra's marital prospects). So, I would be willing to believe that Clytemnestra behaves towards her the way Elektra describes, but I would also be willing to believe that Clytemnestra is a loving mother and Elektra is oversensitive. I'd have to see them interact to know for sure. But with Orestes, her actions are out in the open. She banished him, apparently against his will. That's not the act of a fond parent. It shows that she knew that in killing Agamemnon, she would be alienating Orestes and Elektra, and she didn't really care. She preferred never to see her son again, rather than give up her revenge against Agamemnon. I'm not saying I can't understand that. But I do think it shows that she's not as loving a parent as she pretends to be, and it calls into question whether that was really even a motive behind the murder.


Victoria (vikz writes) (VixtoriaVikzwrites) | 185 comments Audrey wrote: "I am not nearly as sympathetic, either. For one thing, I'm inclined to think that all her talk of a mother's love with respect to Iphigenia was simply an attempt to make her actions seem less horr..."

That's exactly how I feel.


message 6: by Grace (last edited Sep 29, 2010 09:51AM) (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Audrey wrote: "I am not nearly as sympathetic, either. For one thing, I'm inclined to think that all her talk of a mother's love with respect to Iphigenia was simply an attempt to make her actions seem less horr..."

Perhaps like most human beings, she's pretty complex herself. She might have had more than a single overriding motive; she wanted revenge for Iphigenia's killing, but she might have also wanted to be rid of Agamemnon because she found it impossible to be married to him anymore (was it possible for a woman, and a queen to boot, to divorce her husband in ancient Greece?). She might also have developed a taste for power after being the de facto ruler of Argos for a decade.

"Passionate desire wins out—
it gains a fatal victory
in every woman.
It ends all married love [600]
in men and beasts."

The chorus seems to think that it was a crime of passion only. Do they know about Iphigenia?

The interesting thing for me is how Aeschylus progressively 'makes' her more evil as the play progresses. I thought that he allowed for some ambiguity about her character and motive in Agamemnon, but in this play she's just presented as wholly unsympathetic, especially through Elektra and the Chorus' eyes.

A few questions:

1. How could you recognize your sibling through similarities in hair and footprints? Hair and footprints look pretty nondescript to me, at least not distinctive enough to identify someone.

2. Why does the Chorus, which consists of enslaved females from Troy care so much about justice for Agamemnon, a man who destroyed their city? Or perhaps they are pretending to be sympathetic to Orestes and Elektra's cause because they want the family to kill each other?

3. Why does Orestes repeatedly invoke Apollo, and not Zeus, in his quest for revenge? Why does the order to kill have to be conveyed through the Oracle?


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) I am going to slowly pick my way through the play this time around. I have completely read it, and dissected it. My poor little copy of Fagles' translation is scribbled on all over.

Everyman mentioned above about the missing 80, or so, lines from the very beginning of the play--Orestes' prayer. It certainly feels interrupted as one reaches the end of line 6. Also, isn't there a formal name for this type of prayer, elegy, lamentation that Orestes is performing at his father's grave?

Early on in the play we see examples of the 'light and darkness' motif--
First, the Chorus is dressed in black (a sign of mourning for Agamemnon, or the House of Atreus?)

"A fine house down--dark, dark, and the sun..." (Lines 52-53)

"But Justice waits and turns the scales: a sudden blow for some at dawn, for some in the no man's land of dusk her torments grow with time, and the lethal night takes others." (Lines 61-64)
I was completely blown away with the power in the words of the Chorus at Lines 66-73. It almost seems to look back to the murders of Agamemnon and Cassandra, and recapitulates the themes of Agamemnon and appears to be a statement, or re-statement, of the indictment of Clytaemnestra--
"And the blood that Mother Earth consumes
clots hard, it won't seep through, it breeds revenge
and frenzy goes through the guilty,
seething like infection, swarming through the brain.

For the one who treads a virgin's bed
there is no cure. All the streams of the world,
all channels run into one
to cleanse a man's red hands will swell the bloody tide."
Sandybanks (above) asked, "How could you recognize your sibling through similarities in hair and footprints? Hair and footprints look pretty nondescript to me, at least not distinctive enough to identify someone."

I don't remember where I read this, but apparently it was common for family members to leave locks of hair on a loved one's grave. Clearly it wasn't hers, and it certainly wasn't Clytaemnestra's hair; so maybe it isn't so crazy for the Chorus to suggest that it might be Orestes' hair? Sheer speculation on my part. But I had essentially the same question--it just seemed a little to convenient.

Enough for now.


message 8: by Audrey (last edited Sep 29, 2010 04:00PM) (new)

Audrey | 199 comments Sandybanks: "Why does Orestes repeatedly invoke Apollo, and not Zeus, in his quest for revenge?"

I assumed that it was for the simple reason that Apollo was the one that told him to avenge Agamemnon, so it made sense to appeal to him for support. I'm less clear on why Apollo cared enough to order Orestes to do it. Did he have some responsibility connected with justice or law and order or anything similar which would give him a special interest in this case?

On a related note, to answer Everyman's post at the top of the thread, I see no reason to doubt that Orestes really believes he's under Apollo's orders. I see indirect support for his assertions in two places. First, though he kills Aegisthos without a thought, he does hesitate before he kills Clytemnestra. Pylades reminds him of the oracle, and he goes through with it. Still, I think it's important that, once he's actually confronted with the reality of killing his mother, he needs someone else's urging to actually do it.

Also, Orestes' killing of Clytemnestra and Aegisthos is contrasted to Clytemnestra's killing of Agamemnon. According to what the characters say about it, she seems to have vented a lot of anger on his corpse. As far as I can tell (and do correct me if I'm wrong) Orestes kills Clytemnestra and Aegisthos without excess blood and gore. To me, this indicates that, in contrast to Clytemnestra, strong emotions are not his primary motivation.

That's not to say he wasn't glad to find out that Apollo thought he should avenge his father.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

The Vandiver lectures on mythology make two points --one general and one specific--that I think are relevant to the discussion.

First she notes that there is a double standard when a god orders a mortal to do something. Even though the human acts at the god's behest, and even though they may well be a pawn in an Olympian dispute, the human still bears accountability for what they do. So, for example, regardless of being ordered by Artemis to sacrifice Iphegenia, he will still be responsible. (Interestingly, the professor said that some versions of the myth have an animal substituted for the girl at the last moment, with her being sent to an island where she becomes a priestess to one of the gods.)

Of course, the story as Aeschylus tells it is a horrifying crime. But it turns out to have been completely predictable as part of a generational pattern stemming from a curse on the House of Atreus. Part of the curse being that it is visited on each succeeding generation. I don't recall much being made of this in the previous thread.

So, at least so far, no one should be (or is) really surprised by the killings. We'll have to see if the pattern can be broken and, if so, how.


message 10: by Silver (new)

Silver | 623 comments One of the things that I found quite interesting in this play was the difference in the Chorus. Compared to the first play in which we have the old men, now we have a group of women acting as Chorus.

It seems almost that the Chorus reflects the nature of the matters which are being dealt with in the play. As in the first play it was primarily about Agamemnon, and talking a lot about the war, and it seemed to be more "masculine" in the play.

While in this play, it opens with the children of Cly, and their grief about what their mother had done, and it focuses most upon the domestic sphere, the nature of the household and their parents, as well as relating to issues of motherhood (however true or false), and so there is something more "feminine" in the 2nd play.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Silver wrote: "One of the things that I found quite interesting in this play was the difference in the Chorus. Compared to the first play in which we have the old men, now we have a group of women acting as Choru..."

Great observation, Silver! I completely agree with you about the Chorus. They are all women (dressed in black, most Trojan slaves), and I think you are right about the 'feminine feel' to the Chorus as well. Fascinating!


message 12: by Silver (new)

Silver | 623 comments Christopher wrote: "Silver wrote: "One of the things that I found quite interesting in this play was the difference in the Chorus. Compared to the first play in which we have the old men, now we have a group of women ..."

Also, in the first play there is a Chorus of men juding over the murder of a wife of her husband.

and in the 2nd play a Chorus of women to judge over the murder of a son of his mother.


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7057 comments Sandybanks wrote: "The chorus seems to think that it was a crime of passion only. Do they know about Iphigenia?"

That's an interesting point. The chorus doesn't mention Iphigenia as a reason for the killing of Agamemnon. Why does Aeschylus do this? Is it in order to reduce any sympathy for Clytemnestra, or to minimize any justification she might have had for killing Agamemnon?

It seems strange to me particularly because this was part of the trilogy, so this play would have been seen right after Agamemnon. Perhaps Aeschylus thought it wasn't necessary to mention because the audience had already dealt with it? But then, why have the chorus talk about her motivation at all?

I find it strange. Something I don't have a good answer to. Does anybody?


message 14: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7057 comments Sandybanks wrote: "1. How could you recognize your sibling through similarities in hair and footprints? "

The "recognition scene" is a staple of Greek tragedy. Happens a lot.

In this case, I think it's the fact that the lock of hair is on Agamemnon's tomb. Apparently leaving a lock of hair on a tomb was considered a mark of respect -- like somebody today leaving flowers on their spouse's gravesite. So when Electra sees a lock of hair on the tomb, she knows it is somebody who was very close to Agamemnon, and would naturally think of her brother. So perhaps not totally surprising, though certainly a bit strained if you aren't willing to suspend disbelief.


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7057 comments Christopher wrote: "First, the Chorus is dressed in black (a sign of mourning for Agamemnon, or the House of Atreus?)"

Or perhaps because they are slaves?


message 16: by Silver (new)

Silver | 623 comments Everyman wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "The chorus seems to think that it was a crime of passion only. Do they know about Iphigenia?"

That's an interesting point. The chorus doesn't mention Iphigenia as a reason for ..."


Though the Chorus supports Orestia and disapprove of what Cly had done in killing her husband, they also show themselves to have some sympathy for Cly in the end, they want Oresteia to be victorious, but they do not completely rejoice in the death of Cly but see it as a sorrowful even if just event.

So it does not seem that the purpose would be to try and devoid any sympathy for Cly since they themselves are not without some such feelings.

It could be to try and lesson Cly's possible justification for the killing of her husband, and perhaps it gives Orestiea himself the greater justification for his own actions, if Cly is seen not as a woman who seeks vengeance for her daughter, but instead as a wife who wishes to be rid of her husband so she can be with her lover.

The relationship between Cly and Aegisthus is more heavily empathized within this play.


message 17: by Adelle (last edited Sep 29, 2010 07:58PM) (new)

Adelle | 2664 comments Christopher wrote: "I don't remember where I read this, but apparently it was common for family members to leave locks of hair on a loved one's grave. Clearly it wasn't hers, and it certainly wasn't Clytaemnestra's hair; so maybe it isn't so crazy for the Chorus to suggest that it might be Orestes' hair? Sheer speculation on my part. But I had essentially the same question--it just seemed a little to convenient.."


Like your notes, mine, too, say that "only a close relation would leave such an offering to the dead" Seeminly Orestes is the only close relation Electra has. Clytemnestra isn't going to visit the grave.

I think the footprints are to "show" that Orestes is really there. But my footnotes read : "The recognition of the footprints is mercilessly ridiculed by Euripes in his Electra....but that "the technique of tragedy in Aeschylus' time was of [an utter] simplicity."

Does seem pretty convenient. Especially as Orestes does't wear unique Italian-designed shoes whose shoeprints might be identified.


message 18: by Grace (last edited Sep 29, 2010 08:48PM) (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Re: the lock of hair and footprints

"ELECTRA
I see a lock of hair, an offering . . . on the tomb.

CHORUS
Whose is it? A man's? A full-grown girl's? 220

ELECTRA
It shouldn't be too difficult to guess, [170]
to sort out what this indicates.

CHORUS
How so? Let your youth instruct your elders.

ELECTRA
No one but me could have cut this off.

CHORUS
You're right. Those who should make offerings,
cutting their hair in grief, are enemies.


ELECTRA
Look at this . . . It looks just like . . .

CHORUS
Like whose?
I want to know.

ELECTRA
Like mine. It looks identical.

I guess I'm confused by the chorus saying that only enemies should make an offering at the grave by cutting their hair. Also, Electra identifies the lock of hair as her brother's by noting the similarities between it and hers. She doesn't say that it must have been his because he is the only member of the family who might have left it there.

"I think the footprints are to "show" that Orestes is really there. But my footnotes read : "The recognition of the footprints is mercilessly ridiculed by Euripes in his Electra....but that "the technique of tragedy in Aeschylus' time was of [an utter] simplicity."

Does seem pretty convenient. Especially as Orestes does't wear unique Italian-designed shoes whose shoeprints might be identified."

Yes, that's what I thought too.


message 19: by Grace (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments "I assumed that it was for the simple reason that Apollo was the one that told him to avenge Agamemnon, so it made sense to appeal to him for support. I'm less clear on why Apollo cared enough to order Orestes to do it. Did he have some responsibility connected with justice or law and order or anything similar which would give him a special interest in this case?"

That's what I was curious about. Why Apollo and not Zeus, the god who sent Agamemnon to Troy to avenge the breach of his law of hospitality? Surely Zeus has a greater stake in ensuring that his champion's death is avenged?


message 20: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3180 comments Sandybanks wrote: "2. Why does the Chorus, which consists of enslaved females from Troy care so much about justice for Agamemnon, a man who destroyed their city? Or perhaps they are pretending to be sympathetic to Orestes and Elektra's cause because they want the family to kill each other?
"


Slavery was not uncommon and for the most part accepted in ancient Greece. But slaves were not abused as a matter of course -- and here the chorus appears in the parados to have been beaten and scratched and then sent on a fool's errand, to appease the ghost of a murdered king with libations. They are with Electra, who says to them, "we hold a common hatred in this house." The chorus and Electra are allied against the "godless woman" Clytemestra. I think what they feel at this point is more hatred for her than a desire for justice on Agamemnon's behalf.


message 21: by Grace (last edited Sep 29, 2010 09:06PM) (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Everyman wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "The chorus seems to think that it was a crime of passion only. Do they know about Iphigenia?"

That's an interesting point. The chorus doesn't mention Iphigenia as a reason for ..."


"Is it in order to reduce any sympathy for Clytemnestra, or to minimize any justification she might have had for killing Agamemnon?"

If I may guess, this seems to be the most likely reason why Aeschylus omitted mentioning Iphigenia's death. As I have noted before, this second play seems to be designed to remove any lingering sympathy for Cly.


message 22: by Grace (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Thomas wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "2. Why does the Chorus, which consists of enslaved females from Troy care so much about justice for Agamemnon, a man who destroyed their city? Or perhaps they are pretending to b..."

Thanks for clearing that up, Thomas. So Cly has been extraordinarily cruel to the slaves, and this becomes their motive to wish for her death.


message 23: by Silver (new)

Silver | 623 comments One of the things which I find interesting is the difference between Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter, and Orestia's killing of Cly, as they were both acting under the direct order of the gods, it seemed that the each of their killings were perceived in very different ways and there were vastly differently outcomes between them.

For Agamemnon, once he had steeled himself for the deed and made up his mind to sacrifice his daughter, it seemed he did so with a completely clear conscious, and suffered no repercussions, other than those of his wife, but from the gods there seemed no reaction to what he had done.

While with Orestia, he is acting under the command of Apollo who tells him to seek vengeance for his father, and while his actions are being viewed as just, after he kills Cly he suffers from feelings of guilt for his deed.

And where Agamemnon is welcomed back home in glory after the sacrifice of his daughter, Oresetia is driven back into exile by the furies (whether they were in fact real or purely imaginary) for his killing of Cly.

In spite of the perceived Justice in his action, and the fact that like his father he too was acting according to the wishes or the gods it seems as if Orestia his held up to more personal accountability for killing his own mother.

And whatever others thought of Cly and how much they may have hated her, there seemed to be a greater negative reaction to her death, than there was to the death of her innocent daughter.


message 24: by Grace (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments "Early on in the play we see examples of the 'light and darkness' motif--
First, the Chorus is dressed in black (a sign of mourning for Agamemnon, or the House of Atreus?)

"A fine house down--dark, dark, and the sun..." (Lines 52-53)

"But Justice waits and turns the scales: a sudden blow for some at dawn, for some in the no man's land of dusk her torments grow with time, and the lethal night takes others." (Lines 61-64)"

Good catch, Chris!

"For the one who treads a virgin's bed
there is no cure. All the streams of the world,
all channels run into one
to cleanse a man's red hands will swell the bloody tide."

Does this mean that Agamemnon was also punished for making Cassandra his concubine? But wasn't that to be expected, given that she was a human war booty?


message 25: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7057 comments Sandybanks wrote: You're right. Those who should make offerings,
cutting their hair in grief, are enemies."


Fagles translates that:
"Callous they are, the ones who ought to shear the hair and mourn."

Lattimore has it:
"Those others whom it would have become are full of hate."

I think the chorus is saying that the only people here who would be entitied to leave hair on the tomb are Clytemnestra and Agisthus, and they are enemies, full of hate for Agamemnon. It probably didn't occur to the chorus that Orestes would suddenly show up after seven years away.

At least that's what I think the line means.


message 26: by Grace (last edited Sep 29, 2010 09:25PM) (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments "And where Agamemnon is welcomed back home in glory after the sacrifice of his daughter, Oresetia is driven back into exile by the furies (whether they were in fact real or purely imaginary) for his killing of Cly."

I find this to be extraordinarily unjust, as Orestes had been expressly instructed by Apollo (through the Oracle) to kill his mother on pain of death. He doesn't have any real choice, and then is punished for doing what he was forced to do by the gods.


message 27: by Grace (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Everyman wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: You're right. Those who should make offerings,
cutting their hair in grief, are enemies."

Fagles translates that:
"Callous they are, the ones who ought to shear the hair and mour..."


That surely makes more sense.


message 28: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3180 comments Everyman wrote: "I think the chorus is saying that the only people here who would be entitied to leave hair on the tomb are Clytemnestra and Agisthus, and they are enemies, full of hate for Agamemnon. It probably didn't occur to the chorus that Orestes would suddenly show up after seven years away"

One other hypothesis: Orestes, Electra, and Aegisthus are all related, so it has been suggested that there is something distinct about "Pelopid" hair that makes it instantly recognizable. I think her reasoning at 195-200 is that it might be Aegisthus' hair -- just as Clytemestra has sent the chorus and Electra to offer libations, perhaps Aegisthus has placed a lock of his hair on the grave to appease the spirit of Agamemnon.

I wonder if it wasn't this episode that made Aristotle so grumpy about using tokens to effect recognition scenes. It certainly has nothing on the recognition of Oedipus.


Victoria (vikz writes) (VixtoriaVikzwrites) | 185 comments Sandybanks wrote: ""And where Agamemnon is welcomed back home in glory after the sacrifice of his daughter, Oresetia is driven back into exile by the furies (whether they were in fact real or purely imaginary) for hi..."

of course, he may have misread the oracle. It has been known to happen. Some oracles, such as the one at delphi, were notoriously obscure and caused a lot of mischief


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Related to a previous conversation, I heard something interesting about the Greeks' mores regarding fidelity in marriage, though they wouldn't have even understood that concept.

The reason that men could "fool around" while women were closely kept and being with another man was very bad is basically a matter of protecting the house's line of inheritance. If a man got a female pregnant he didn't care because property passed to his sons by his wife. But if a wife got pregnant by another man, it would be uncertain if the boy should inherit.


message 31: by Grace (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Adelle wrote: "Christopher wrote: "I don't remember where I read this, but apparently it was common for family members to leave locks of hair on a loved one's grave. Clearly it wasn't hers, and it certainly wasn'..."

Euripides "mercilessly" makes fun of Aeschylus' use of the lock of hair and footprints:

OLD MAN
That's right— 600
it didn't help us. But still, there's one thing
I could not endure. So I went to his tomb,
a detour on the road. I was alone, [510]
so I fell down and wept, then opened up
the bag of wine I'm bringing for the guests,
poured a libation, and spread out there
some myrtle sprigs around the monument.
But then I saw an offering on the altar,
a black-fleeced sheep—there was blood as well,
shed not long before, and some sliced off curls, 610
locks of yellow hair. My child, I wondered
what man would ever dare approach that tomb.
It surely wasn't any man from Argos.
Perhaps you brother has come back somehow,
in secret, and as he came, paid tribute
to his father's tomb. You should go inspect [520]
the lock of hair, set it against your own—
see if the colour of the severed hair
matches yours. Those sharing common blood
from the same father will by nature have 620
many features which are very similar.

ELECTRA
What you've just said, old man, is not worth much.
You've no sense at all, if you think my brother,
a brave man, would sneak into this country
in secret, because he fears Aegisthus.
And how can two locks of hair look alike,
when one comes from a well-bred man and grew
in wrestling schools, whereas the other one
was shaped by woman's combing? That's useless.
Old man, with many people you could find 630 [530]
hair which looked alike, although by birth
they're not the same.


OLD MAN
Then stand in the footprint,
my child, and see if the impression there
is the same size as your foot.

ELECTRA
How could a foot
make any imprint on such stony ground?
And even if it could, a brother's print
would not match his sister's foot in size.
The man's is bigger.



Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Oh, too good, Sandy! I assume this is from Euripides' "Electra"? I just bought a copy, and it should be here shortly. LOL! So, Euripides was less than impressed with that bit too?


message 33: by Silver (last edited Sep 30, 2010 10:09PM) (new)

Silver | 623 comments Sandybanks wrote: "Adelle wrote: "Christopher wrote: "I don't remember where I read this, but apparently it was common for family members to leave locks of hair on a loved one's grave. Clearly it wasn't hers, and it ..."

The way in which she talked about the hair and the foot print, and how she recognized them, becasue they matched her own hair and his print fit her own, it made me think about them as being twins, but then it struck me as weird that she did not acutally recognize him when he came out of hiding. Though he had been in exile for such a long time, it seemed strange that she would recognize his hair and foot print but not know him when she saw him.

Perhaps it was only her own fear that her hope would be wrong, that at first she would not let herself believe that it was in fact him, so she denied it to herself.

A part of me feels that perhaps this idea of the foot print and the hair should not be taken in such a literal way, but are meant as an expression of the bond and love between brother and sister, because in her speech to him, it gives a weird vibe to their relationship.

First she states that he is the man who she loves most, and than later she says that she must look upon his as a father, but also love him as a mother, and she must bare for him the love she had for her sister Iphigeneia


message 34: by Grace (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Christopher wrote: "Oh, too good, Sandy! I assume this is from Euripides' "Electra"? I just bought a copy, and it should be here shortly. LOL! So, Euripides was less than impressed with that bit too?"

You're right Chris, it's from his "Electra". Apparently ancient Greek playwrights were not above poking fun at each other's works. :)


message 35: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 2664 comments Sandybanks! How wonderful of you to find those lines from Euripides and post them for us to read.

Silver. I take your point: if she could recognize the footprint ... after all those years ... and so, really, aware that he must have been there very recently so that the footprint would have blown away or something... now that you mention it... it does seem strange that she wouldn't recognize him ... or at least wonder, who could this stranger with the recognizable hair be.


message 36: by Grace (last edited Sep 30, 2010 11:36PM) (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments "Though he had been in exile for such a long time, it seemed strange that she would recognize his hair and foot print but not know him when she saw him."

I think this is either a case of a nonsensical leap in logic, as in the case of the hair and the footprints, or a plot contrivance. Those who read Les Miserables with this group might remember how Hugo made Cosette not recognize the Jondrettes as the Thernadiers, even though she had lived with them for years as a child. Dickens also used quite a number of these hard to swallow plot contrivances in A Tale of Two Cities (perhaps one of the reasons why I dislike it).

But maybe we should cut Aeschylus some slack, as this play was written 2,500 ago, and audiences at that time were not as sophisticated? On the other hand, Euripides was from the same century and saw through the holes (and poked fun at them).


message 37: by Silver (new)

Silver | 623 comments Sandybanks wrote: ""Though he had been in exile for such a long time, it seemed strange that she would recognize his hair and foot print but not know him when she saw him."

I think this is either a case of a nonsens..."


I do not think that I would call them less sophisticated, but it seems here that Aeschylus is sacrificing logic for effect that these moments would produce upon stage. Perhaps it would do well to remember that this was meant to be preformed, and her not instantly regionalizing the her brother would be much more climatic and suspenseful for the audience than if she knew him right away.

As well, the same thing with the hair, if she just looked at the hair and thought "hmmm I wonder where this came from" it would be a lot less effective on a stage performance in creating the mood, as well as the feelings of devotion between brother and sister.

I think it is kind of like I the movies, where someone does something that seems nonsensical, and you are like why did they do that, they should have done such and such instead, but of course if they did the logical thing, the movie would be 2 mins. long instead of 2 hours.


message 38: by Grace (last edited Oct 01, 2010 12:02AM) (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Silver wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: ""Though he had been in exile for such a long time, it seemed strange that she would recognize his hair and foot print but not know him when she saw him."

I think this is eithe..."


In Euripides' "Electra", Orestes is recognized by the old man who took care of him when he was a child. The old man recognizes the scar on Orestes' face, which he got when he fell as a child. This seems to be a much more logical 'recognition scene' than Aescylus', while still preserving the suspenseful effect.

http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/eurip...


message 39: by Mike (new)

Mike Staten (Caeliban) | 67 comments Everyman wrote: "The 'recognition scene' is a staple of Greek tragedy."


This is interesting. What does the "recognition scene" add? What is the draw? I guess it works as a device to create and release some dramatic tension. Is that enough to make it a staple?


message 40: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 232 comments Sandybanks wrote: "I guess I'm confused by the chorus saying that only enemies should make an offering at the grave by cutting their hair."

I thought they were saying that the only other close relative who should be leaving locks of hair on the grave was in fact an enemy (Clytemnestra).


message 41: by Grace (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments S. Rosemary wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "I guess I'm confused by the chorus saying that only enemies should make an offering at the grave by cutting their hair."

I thought they were saying that the only other close rel..."


You're correct. I misunderstood that part of the play.


message 42: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 232 comments Sandybanks wrote: "S. Rosemary wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "I guess I'm confused by the chorus saying that only enemies should make an offering at the grave by cutting their hair."

I thought they were saying that the ..."


And I totally responded without seeing that Everyman had said the same thing. Sorry! ;-)


message 43: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 3180 comments Caeliban - Mike wrote: "Everyman wrote: "The 'recognition scene' is a staple of Greek tragedy."


This is interesting. What does the "recognition scene" add? What is the draw? I guess it works as a device to create and..."


Aristotle's identification of "recognition" as a formal device has probably elevated its critical importance, but it's something that occurs in literature in general, Eastern as well as Western. It probably shows up with regularity in soap operas as well.

From Aristotle's Poetics:

Reversal of the Situation is a change by which the action veers round to its opposite, subject always to our rule of probability or necessity. Thus in the Oedipus, the messenger comes to cheer Oedipus and free him from his alarms about his mother, but by revealing who he is, he produces the opposite effect. Again in the Lynceus, Lynceus is being led away to his death, and Danaus goes with him, meaning to slay him; but the outcome of the preceding incidents is that Danaus is killed and Lynceus saved.

Recognition, as the name indicates, is a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined by the poet for good or bad fortune. The best form of recognition is coincident with a Reversal of the Situation, as in the Oedipus. There are indeed other forms. Even inanimate things of the most trivial kind may in a sense be objects of recognition. Again, we may recognize or discover whether a person has done a thing or not. But the recognition which is most intimately connected with the plot and action is, as we have said, the recognition of persons. This recognition, combined with Reversal, will produce either pity or fear; and actions producing these effects are those which, by our definition, Tragedy represents. Moreover, it is upon such situations that the issues of good or bad fortune will depend. Recognition, then, being between persons, it may happen that one person only is recognized by the other- when the latter is already known- or it may be necessary that the recognition should be on both sides. Thus Iphigenia is revealed to Orestes by the sending of the letter; but another act of recognition is required to make Orestes known to Iphigenia.


(Aristotle is describing a scene from Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris.)

The technical term for recognition is anagnorisis.


message 44: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7057 comments Sandybanks wrote: "You're right Chris, it's from his "Electra". Apparently ancient Greek playwrights were not above poking fun at each other's works. :) "

Or each other. Check out Aristophanes's Clouds.


message 45: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7057 comments Caeliban - Mike wrote: "Everyman wrote: "The 'recognition scene' is a staple of Greek tragedy."


This is interesting. What does the "recognition scene" add? What is the draw? I guess it works as a device to create and..."


I'm not sure. Purely speculating, since there was no program at the plays, the audience might not know who's who without some help, and that's a dramatic way to identify somebody who doesn't want to come right out and say "I'm so-and-so."

Shakespeare also had to deal with the problem of letting the audience know who's who without any program.


message 46: by Everyman (last edited Oct 01, 2010 12:00PM) (new)

Everyman | 7057 comments Thomas wrote: "Caeliban - Mike wrote: "Everyman wrote: "The 'recognition scene' is a staple of Greek tragedy."


This is interesting. What does the "recognition scene" add? What is the draw? I guess it works a..."


Thomas's response is a much better one than mine. I had totally forgotten that passage from Aristotle. My bad.


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow! Thank you so much, Thomas. I'm eager to start keeping an eye out for moments of "anagnorisis" in other works.


message 48: by Audrey (new)

Audrey | 199 comments To change the subject, I find it interesting that the title of this play is The Libation Bearers, when they seem to have very little to do with the actual plot. Any thoughts on this choice of title?


message 49: by Aranthe (last edited Oct 01, 2010 03:06PM) (new)

Aranthe | 103 comments Audrey wrote: "To change the subject, I find it interesting that the title of this play is The Libation Bearers, when they seem to have very little to do with the actual plot. Any thoughts on this choice of title?"


I'm thinking it ties back into this point that Thomas suggested in the Agamemnon thread (which I've been waiting for him to elaborate on ;-):
Thomas wrote:
I think it is also meaningful that Cly wants to keep Ag from touching the earth of Argos...(I can't talk about the next play yet, but keep this in mind when you read the first few pages of Libation Bearers. I'm not sure what it means, but I think it's interesting.)

Clytemnestra sent Iphegenia to the tomb to pour the libation on her behalf, in an effort to placate the spirit of Agamemnon. But I don't think that's the "libation" that's referred to in the title: I suspect the real libation borne by Iphegenia and Orestes is the spilling of Clytemnestra's and Aegisthis's blood into the earth.


message 50: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 01, 2010 03:16PM) (new)

Aranthe wrote: "Audrey wrote: "To change the subject, I find it interesting that the title of this play is The Libation Bearers, when they seem to have very little to do with the actual plot. Any thoughts on this..."

That makes wonderful sense! Thanks for this. I, too, was overly hung up on the image of the opening scene. This also makes the spilling of their of their blood a libation to the gods as well as to Agamemnon.


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