The Oresteia by Aeschylus – Part 2 – “Choephoroe (Libation Bearers)”

The Oresteia by Aeschylus – Part 2 – “Choephoroe (Libation Bearers)”

Choephoroe (The Libation Bearers) by Aeschylus

[At Agamemnon’s Tomb] [Orestes and Pylades enter]

  • Orestes – Hermes, send my father a message [Snips a lock of his own hair]. Take this for Argos [Snips another lock]. This is for my mourning for you [Throws them on the tomb]. I wasn’t able to be here for your burial and mourn. What’s this? Women dressed up carrying libations to appease father’s death? Is that my sister, Electra? What’s going on [Orestes and Pylades withdraw]
  • [Electra and Chorus enter]
  • Chorus – The queen’s sent us here to pour this on the grave. She woke up last night from a nightmare and sent us down here to quench the spirits’ thirst for peace and blood. What will make the blood be unspilled? The blood’s been spilt and the dead will stay dead. The gods are upset that the king has been murdered and a tyrant rules us
  • Electra – Ladies, let’s be frank with each other. How is this helping my father? Mother doesn’t send us here out of love. This is an insult to father. He should be given what he deserves. I know you feel the same way. Let’s discuss it.
  • Chorus – Sure. This is a horrible thing to have to do. We were loyal to Agamemnon and we hate Aegisthus. But remember that Orestes is still out there. Let’s pray he’ll come back.
  • Electra – Is that right to ask of the gods.
  • Chorus – It’s be returning the favor.
  • Electra – Hermes, send him a message. Please help me and Orestes. We must make things right. Orestes is in exile and I’m a slave girl. Sent Orestes home to do this. I can’t do it. The pair are yukking it up. Here’s a drink for Agamemnon
  • Chorus – Let the libations do their work
  • Electra – Let’s hope that does the trick. What’s this?!?! There’s a lock of hair on the tomb. I can’t tell whose, though. No one would do this but me. It looks like mine but I know that it isn’t
  • Chorus – Could it be from Orestes?
  • Electra – It must be. But he wouldn’t dare show his face around here. Who else would this belong to? Not mother. How can I know if it’s from him? This hope is driving me crazy
  • Orestes (Comes out) – Your prayers have been answered.
  • Electra – Who the hell are you?
  • Orestes – It’s been so long you must not know. You prayed for me
  • Electra – How do you know what I’ve prayed for
  • Orestes – I heard you. I’m Orestes, your brother
  • Electra – This must be a trick. Is that really you?
  • Orestes – You don’t recognize my face but you recognize my hair. See, that’s where it was (points to tufts of hair). This shirt you wove for me. This belt you embroidered for me… But I was thinking about what you were saying. Some of our family want us dead.
  • Electra – There’s only you left to fix things. Please, Zeus, let us see this thing through.
  • Orestes – Zeus, we’re orphans. We are weak and need help. We’re outcasts and blocked from our birth rights. Nourish us and build up our strength.
  • Chorus – Hush! Someone might hear you and squash the whole thing. There are spies everywhere
  • Orestes – Apollo is helping. He ordered me to carry on with this blood grudge. I would be punished if I didn’t carry this out… torture, disease, unspeakable pain, etc. I’ve got to listen to the oracle and do as I was told. But even without all that, I’d still do it out of grief for my father… to kill the two women in the palace – the other is no man.
  • Chorus – Zeus must help you. This debt needs repaying.
  • Orestes – Father, help us. We need to make everything right. It would’ve been better if he’d been killed in battle in Troy. It would’ve been an honorable death.
  • Chorus – The dead demand revenge and blood dues. His honor was maligned by his murder and lack of a proper burial
  • Electra – Lesser people killed him – they need to die
  • Chorus – If Apollo is on your side, the sadness will turn to joy. This blood will appease Agamemnon. Let your hatred guide you
  • Electra – Zeus need to help us kill them and return peace and justice
  • Chorus – It’s the law. When blood is split, the killer must be killed.
  • Orestes – With the help of heaven, I’ll them both. If I need to die, then I’ll die
  • Electra – She’s wanted nothing to do with me since. I’ve been shut out of the family with no connection to my brother. I’ll gladly watch her die
  • Chorus – Clytaemnestra’s dream was of her giving birth to a snake, her trying to breastfeed it and it biting her breast. Out came curdled milk. She though the libations would stop these dreams
  • Orestes – I’m the snake. She’ll die by my bite. I’ll show up the palace as a stranger passing on news of the death of Orestes. Chorus, you hang around outside. Sis, you be there, too
  • [Orestes and Pylades leave]
  • Chorus – It’s amazing how cursed they are and how determined they are to fix it. Poor kids… Oh, gods… please help them lift the curse from the House of Atreus
  • [Orestes and Pylades arrive. Orestes knocks many times]
  • Orestes – Anyone going to open? Is Aegistus not open to strangers? Come now
  • Doorkeeper – Who are you? Where are you from?
  • Orestes – Call your masters. I’ve got some news. I thought that travelers would be welcome. Get the mistress or rather, the master. I’d rather speak between men.
  • Clytaemnestra – [Comes to the door with Electra] What’s going on? I’ll give you whatever you need – bath, food, place to sleep. If there’s news, I’ll grab the men to hear it
  • Orestes – I come from Phocis. I was headed this way and Strophius asked me to relay a message about Orestes. He’s dead. He wants to know what to do about the body
  • Clytaemnestra – This is awful. The blood grudge continues… I tried to keep him out of this. In vain, it seems.
  • Orestes – I’d prefer to give news. I think I’d get better treatment.
  • Clytaemnestra­­–- It’s not your fault. Someone was bound to give us this news. Electra, see that he is taken care of and is welcome
  • (Electra, Orestes and Pylades enter the palace)
  • Clytaemnestra – I’ll have to pass the word on to Aegisthus and discuss… (Enters palace)
  • Chorus – How long will this take? I can’t wait to hear the screams and see the blood!
  • [Nurse comes out]
  • Nurse – Clytaemnestra told me to get Aegisthus to meet some strangers and hear the news. She had a sad face bit her eyes gave her away… It’s sad for the family but not for those 2. This house is nothing but bad news and sadness. I could handle the prior deaths. But Orestes I raised from birth. All those funny moments made him so dear to me. Now he’s dead. Poor guy
  • Chorus – How will Aegisthus come? Alone? Armed? Accompanied?
  • Nurse – Armed with guards. Is there something more to this than I know? [Leaves]
  • Chorus – Zeus, please bring justice to this house. See that Orestes can follow through. Apollo, make sure no snags occur. Bring us joy
  • Aegisthus – [Enters] I here there’s news – Orestes is dead. Can I believe it? Can you fill me in on the details?
  • Chorus – We only just heard. The messengers will know more
  • Aegisthus – Yes. I’ll get more on this. I wonder if this is just a bunch of bullshit. I’ve heard some whoppers in my time [Leaves].
  • Chorus – Well, here goes nothing. Let’s hope that it a goes off without a hitch. All that planning… But the gods are on our side
  • [Screaming from inside the palace]
  • Chorus – There. Who do you think that was? Let’s go see. Nobody will suspect that we’d been involved in the planning
  • [Inside the palace]
  • Doorkeeper – Aegisthus has been killed. We’ve got to rally the guards. Go see about Clytaemnestra. She’s the next one. This is the blood grudge all over gain
  • Clytaemnestra – Oh shit! We’ve been tricked. Get my axe. The shit’s on!!
  • [Orestes and Pylades enter]
  • Orestes – You’re the one I’m after. The other one’s had enough
  • Clytaemnestra – My love! Aww, fuck!
  • Orestes – Oh, so you loved someone after all. You’ve been in the same grave soon. You can’t betray him with your lies there.
  • Clytaemnestra – Oh, my child. Look at your mother who bore you, held you and loved you
  • Orestes – Pylades, what should I do? Should I be nice to her?
  • Pylades – Remember what Apollo said he’d do to you if you didn’t kill her? Do you want to get on his wrong side?
  • Orestes – You’re right. Come here you. I’m going to kill you on top of the man you thought better than my father.
  • Clytaemnestra – I nursed you and I want to grow old by your side
  • Orestes – You killed my father and you want to live with me.
  • Clytaemnestra – It was destiny
  • Orestes – The same destiny that will have me kill you
  • Clytaemnestra – You ought to beware of the curse my murder you’ll get
  • Orestes – You sent me away and sold me off
  • Clytaemnestra – They were friends. I got nothing in return
  • Orestes – Too shame to think of
  • Clytaemnestra – Your father was no saint either
  • Orestes – He was suffering in Troy while you were safe at home
  • Clytaemnestra – We suffered while he was gone
  • Orestes – You had food, safety and comfort
  • Clytaemnestra – Even so, are you going to kill your own mother?
  • Orestes – Your own actions condemned you
  • Clytaemnestra – You’ll be haunted for this
  • Orestes – I’m already haunted by my father’s blood grudge
  • Clytaemnestra – I plea for mercy and my own son is deaf
  • Orestes – Like you were at my father’s death. That’s when you really started to die
  • Clytaemnestra – You were the snake I bore and raised in my dream!
  • Orestes – That dream was just your guilty conscience talking to you
  • [He drags her into the palace. Pylades follows]
  • Chorus – Even though this is just, it’s still sad. Orestes needed to fix this so it didn’t carry on forever. It started in Troy, continued with Agamemnon’s death. Apollo guided Orestes here to kill the 2 of them. This house is finally free. Zeus guided him in the act. The house will rise again and time will bring this about
  • (Orestes and Pylades stand over the bodies of Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus)
  • Orestes – Take a look at your oppressors – tyrants and murderers. Loyal to each other to the end. They killed together and died together. Judge their crimes. Take out that net and put it over them so that father can see them. It still has his blood it. When I stand trial – know that I was right to do this… My mother was the real villainess. The net still has his blood. I’d rather be childless than have a wife like her
  • Chorus – He bled in this but you’re suffering. This will make a man of you.
  • Orestes – This was all her work. The blood, the trap. This is the same grave dirge father needed. But sadness will follow me forever
  • Chorus – No joy or misery will last forever itself. But miser will always be a part of your life.
  • Orestes – Before it gets to me, I want you to know that I was right in this. Apollo told me to do this and leave guiltless. Argos… watch and remember… But I have to go
  • Chorus – You’ve brought our freedom back. No one will fight you over this
  • Orestes – Look… Gorgons… Snakes for hair. This is the curse my mother promised me. Look at how many there are.
  • Chorus – You’re imagining things. Apollo will help you. Go see him and he’ll help you [Orestes leaves]. Let’s hope that the gods help him. There have been 3 winds in this story. 1 – It came when Thyestes ate his children. 2 – Came when Agamemnon was murdered. 3 – Orestes avenged Agamemnon’s death but now gloom has set in… Is it deliverance or doom? When will it stop?

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