Reading Questions, Aeschylus, Libation Bearers 1. What is the purpose of the procession with which the play opens? How does this work as a continuation of the end of the first play in the tetralogy? How is Agamemnon treated, both here and elsewhere in the play, as something more than human? Is this quasi-divine status surprising? 2. What sort of person is Electra, and how is she different from her mother? How is this brought out in the way she prays at her father’s tomb and the way she interacts with the chorus? 3. How does Electra recognize her brother Orestes? Are the signs given as proof believable? What has Orestes learned from Apollo about his future? What role does Apollo play both here and throughout the play? 4. What are the details of Orestes’ plot? What role will Electra play? How will Orestes get access to the palace without being recognized? How does Aeschylus make use of dramatic irony in this sequence? What role does the chorus play, and how does this contrast with the chorus of the preceding play? Why do you think this is? What role does Pylades eventually play? 5. Is Clytemnestra’s lament at news of Orestes’ demise genuine or rather thinly-veiled relief? Orestes’ old nurse refers to Clytemnestra’s “phony look of sorrow” (848), but is it believable that Clytemnestra could truly have so little feeling for her son? 6. How does Clytemnestra react to news of Aegistus’ death, and how is this appropriate for her character? Staring death in the face, what arguments does Clytemnestra throw at her son to dissuade him from killing her? Are any of these persuasive to you, or are they nothing more than desperate sophistry? 7. What distinction does Orestes draw between the punishment of Aegistus and that of Clytemnestra? Is he justified in treating her action as so much more monstrous than that of her lover? How is Orestes’ encounter with the Erinyes (“Furies”) depicted? Does the depiction of Orestes’ madness seem to you to be a realistic portrayal of guilt? 8. What role does Justice have in the play as a whole? Does it differ from that of the Agamemnon? How do the play’s events and their consequences point to the tension between Justice (writ large) and individual acts of “justice”? Does the play seem to point to a possible solution of this difficulty? Where is the line between vengeance and Justice, both for the Greeks and for ourselves? 9. How is the play relevant for our own society? Can you empathize with Orestes and his dilemma, or does this seem merely a matter of Greek religious beliefs about blood-guilt?