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?

Watch the Play!

The Oresteia by Aeschylus – Part 1 – “Agamemnon”

Vengeance is a dish served bloody as fuck… and with pickles.

The Oresteia by Aeschylus – Part 1 – “Agamemnon”

 

  • Watchman – I’ve been watching for a beacon for the last 12 months. Some sign of goings-on in the war. Victory or defeat or the arrival of Agamemnon. I see a signal of victory over Troy. Agamemnon will be happy to come home but things aren’t so rosy.
  • Chorus – The Achaens have been gone for 10 years. The war had been dragging on. Agamemnon’s wife, Clytaemnestra, is still upset about the sacrifice of their faughter for smooth sailing to Troy. The wind stopped them from leaving the city. The sacrifice of a virgin was the only way – his own daughter – Iphigenia. Calchas predicted it all.
  • Clytaemnestra (ENTERS) – I hope this good news will make all the sadness go away. Greece defeated Troy last night. Hephaestus sent flames from city beacon to city beacon to tell the news (LEAVES)
  • Chorus – It seems that Zeus is wrapping up this whole mess. Let’s recount the reasons for the war. Paris chose Venus as the prettiest goddess. Minerva got pissed off about this. Venus couldn’t have Paris so she gave him the most beautiful woman on earth, Helen. The Argives didn’t like this, so they got up and went to fight the Trojans.
  • Herald (ENTERS) – I’m so excited to be home. They managed to survive and win, although the gods tried their best to fight it.
  • Chorus – Welcome home. We’ve been so gloomy without you. We’d better not say why.
  • Herald – You gloomy? Our voyage there and back was bad. We’ve been fighting for 10 years. It rained all the time. It was hot, cold, wet, roasting. I’m covered in lice. It was so horrible. But it’s all over. We won. Why bother doing a balance sheet between the good and bad. We won and that’s what matters.
  • Chorus – Well, then. I guess we old men can learn new things from young pups such as yourself. Maybe the rest of Argos should know about this.
  • Clytamnestra (ENTERS) – I’ve heard the news but I can still hardly believe it. They said I was silly to get excited about a beacon. I’ve been making non-stop sacrifices. But I’ll hear the whole story from the man himself. We’ll pick up exactly where we left off (LEAVES).
  • Chorus – We now… Is Menelaus coming home too?
  • Herald – He’s missing at the moment. There was a storm. I don’t know anything more… I was supposed to be the bearer of good news and now I see that it’s not the best of times. The curse of the House of Atreus isn’t over yet. Zeus is up to something. (LEAVES)
  • Chorus – Zeus had planned this before Helen was even born. It was always going to be this way. Argos has suffered as a result. Troy suffered for Paris’s lust. All of this shit for lust, hubris, justice and lack of justice.
  • Agamemnon (ENTERS)
  • Chorus – Conqueror of Troy. Son of Atreus. How should we call you? We had doubts about the war but now that you’re here, you must be praised. We’ve been faithful to you but not everybody else has been.
  • Agamemnon – Thanks to the gods and Argos. They’ve helped me travel safely and conquer Troy. There’s nothing left of the place for their kidnapping of Helen. Many people aren’t born without envy and disloyalty. Only Odysseus, if he’s still alive… We must call a council and the healers. Now, I’ll enter the palace to thank the gods.
  • Clytaemnestra (ENTERS) – I wish to announce my love for the king. It was horrible to hear the rumors. I sent Orestes, our son to stay with Strophius because the rumors spoke of a coup. I’m so glad the torture of your absence is over. I’m free now.
  • (SERVANTS ROLLED OUT A TAPESTRY BETWEEN HIM AND THE HOUSE)
  • Agamemnon – Your words are kind but I can’t walk on that. It’s for the gods and them only. I’ve tempted fate enough. Please let’s tone it down.
  • Clytaemnestra – Please! You’re nearly a god. It’s only fitting. What would Priam have done?
  • Agamemnon – He would’ve walked on it. I don’t expect you to understand. But you really shouldn’t insist. It’s not right!
  • Clytaemnestra – Please! For me! For the people!
  • Agamemnon – Oh, all right (TAKES OFF BOOTS AND WALKS ON THE ROBES). Please, gods. Don’t think too badly of me for this. Servants, take care of Cassandra and my treasure
  • Clytaemnestra – The purple dye came from the sea. I’ve got enough of it to pay 1000x a king’s ransom. It’s only fitting for a warrior and king like you. I’ll fulfill the will of Zeus.
  • (BOTH ENTER PALACE)
  • Chorus – Oh, no! This can’t be good. It’s not sure what’ll happen but I can’t feel a song of doom playing
  • Clytaemnestra (ENTERS) – You, too, Cassandra. Zeus was generous allowing you to live and be a servant to such a king. Come inside…
  • Chorus – Go on. Your mistress is ordering you.
  • Clytaemnestra – You fool. Let’s go… Hmm… Maybe I can persuade her another way… (NICELY) Cassandra, let’s go inside… Nothing… (LOUDLY) Come on!! I haven’t got all day. I’ve got sacrifices to tend to. Make a noise at least!
  • Chorus – It’s no use. She doesn’t know our language…
  • Clytaemnestra – She must have gone insane watching her people and city burn. Whatever… (LEAVES)
  • Chorus – I pity her. She was a princess and now she’s a slave in a foreign land. But them’s the breaks.
  • Cassandra – Apollo! Apollo!
  • Chorus – Quiet. He’s not going to help you
  • Cassandra – Apollo! Apollo!
  • Chorus – Again? He’s not going to like that
  • Cassandra – Apollo, god of all but only death to me. Why have you brought me here to this place?
  • Chorus – This is the house of Atreus. Don’t you know?
  • Cassandra – This is the house of those who kill their own kin. Blood has been split here and will be again. I smell a child’s flesh. Now another crime is afoot for someone who should be dear
  • Chorus – I get the past part. But the future part?
  • Cassandra – A bathing husband will be murdered soon. She’ll kill her lord but helped by another
  • Chorus – Oh shit. This is bad. I feel doom coming.
  • Cassandra – The monarch of the herd will be killed by his mate. He’ll be impaled by her horns. And I’ll be getting a dose of it too. Why didn’t you bring me here, Agamemnon? To die by your side? Damn you, Paris. Your lust has doomed all Trojans and Troy was doomed to be destroyed. I’ll be dead soon. My father, my city, my family all burnt. I feel it too (WAKES UP).
  • Chorus – What’s that all about?
  • Cassandra –A long time ago there was a human sacrifice here in this house. The family is haunted by this. But nobody will ever listen to me. I’m called a prophetess of lies even though I speak the truth.
  • Chorus – The first part is true. How do you know all this?
  • Cassandra – Apollo gave me prophetic powers. He was in love with me and I promised to marry him but I broke that promise. Because I was false to him he made me false to everyone. I predicted the fall of Troy but nobody believed me.
  • Chorus – Well, we believe you…
  • Cassandra (IN A TRANCE) – A cowardly lion will have his lioness kill his prey for him in her master’s room. As Troy was doomed, this house is doomed. I will be too. Only then will I be believed.
  • Chorus – She must mean something about Thyestes. I’m not sure though.
  • Cassandra – No! Agamemnon!
  • Chorus – Easy there, girl. We’ll appeal to the gods. No man would dare kill him.
  • Cassandra – Not a man! Why aren’t you listening to me?!?!
  • Chorus – If you can foresee this why aren’t you running away?
  • Cassandra – It’d only be delaying the inevitable. You’ll be witnesses to our death. Just one favor, please. When the time comes for punishing these murderers, let it be done quickly and thoroughly (LEAVES).
  • (CRIES FROM THE PALACE)
  • Chorus – What was that? … That was the king being murdered… We ought to do something… Let’s break in and save him… This will lead to tyranny… Our way of living will die… All this talking won’t break him back from the dead… Will we sit around and let ourselves be ruled by murderers? … Was it really murder? … We need proof…
  • (SCENE OPENS WITH CLYTAEMNESTRA STANDING OVER THE BODIES OF AGAMEMNON AND CASSANDRA)
  • Clytaemnestra – I’ve been dreaming of this moment. I faked my love for him and struck him twice while he was in his robe. He cried twice. The third time, he died spraying blood everywhere. The sweetest shower. So, then, old men… This is fitting for a man who put so much blood and bitterness in our lives.
  • Chorus – How dare you revel in the murder of our king?
  • Clytaemnestra –Whatever you think, he’s dead and I killed him
  • Chorus – You’re possessed. You’ve cursed your people for this. You must leave, you evil woman
  • Clytaemnestra – You never condemned the sacrifice of our daughter just for smooth sailing. You did nothing to punish him. Now you judge me? Don’t even try.
  • Chorus – Strange that you’d be proud of a murder. Fate will doom you to be honorless, defenseless and friendless at death.
  • Clytaemnestra – This is all out of vengeance. I’m not afraid. But I’m not defenseless or friendless. Aegisthus will be there for me. Don’t lecture me about loyalty. Agamemnon was banging everything that moved in Troy… Chryseis, Cassandra… And now they’re dead.
  • Chorus – Poor Agamemnon. You had a huge burden on you. You had to avenge the kidnapping of Helen. Argos won and you survived. Troy was destroyed. Only to be murdered by your wife.
  • Clytaemnestra – I’m guiltless. I only wanted to avenge my daughter. Blame Helen. She was the cause of it all.
  • Chorus – Guiltless? It was a power play. You saw the chance to take advantage of the situation and you murdered your husband and your king. Oh, this web of treachery she’s woven around you, Agamemnon. What a terrible death!
  • Clytaemnestra – It’s no worse than the one he inflicted. He wasn’t an honorable man. I’m no longer his wife. I’m an avenger of my daughter, Iphigenia. This was just.
  • Chorus – How dare you. Who will bury him? Sing at his grave? Eulogize him? You? His murderess?
  • Clytaemnestra – This is none of your business. His burial rites are mine. No one here will mourn for him. He’ll only see Iphigenia in Hades.
  • Chorus – Sin follows sin. Sorrow follows sorrow. When will it end? Zeus won’t let this sit. The law for mortals is that killers get killed. Now this is in your family’s blood
  • Clytaemnestra – You’re wrong. This act has stopped the cycle of death and curse has been lifted on us and Argos
  • Aegisthus (ENTERS) – This is a great day for the end of our blood grudge. My father, Thyestes tried to overthrow his brother, Atreus and was exiled. Begging for forgiveness, he was fed his children as a punishment. Now he is dead and I’ve been living in exile ever since.
  • Chorus – So, this was your idea? The people will never accept you as their king. And to think that you got a woman to do your dirty work
  • Aegisthus – She had to do it because I was suspected of something like that. But now we’re in control of the city.
  • Chorus – Orestes won’t allow you to rule
  • Aegisthus – You want a piece of me? Let’s go! Get out your swords and we’ll see what’s what
  • Clytaemnestra – That’s enough death for today. We don’t need any more trouble with the gods and the people
  • Chorus – Orestes will do something about this. Be sure of that.
  • Clytaemnestra – Well, we’ll leave it at that…

 

Watch the Play!

Part 1:

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