Composers and their stage works 

The Libation Bearers

Aeschylus - 458 B.C.

Second play in the Oresteia



The Libation Bearers deals with Orestes' revenge on Clytemnestra and Aegisthus for their slaying of his father, Agamemnon.

Accompanied by his friend Pylades, Orestes arrives in Argos and salutes his father's grave, laying on it a lock of his hair as a sign of mourning; he and Pylades then withdraw. The chorus, led by Orestes' sister Electra, enters carrying libations, having been sent by Clytemnestra, who has been terrified by a dream in which she suckles a snake that draws blood from her. Electra pours the libations over the grave and calls upon the gods and Agamemnon's spirit to bring Orestes home to punish the murderess. Discovering the lock of hair, she recognises it as Orestes'; he then reveals himself to her and shows her a piece of embroidery in further proof of his identity. Orestes explains that Apollo has sent him home as an avenger and that Clytemnestra's dream has foretold her death at his hands. Posing as a traveller, he tells Clytemnestra that Orestes is dead.

After Orestes enters the palace, his aged nurse comes forth, lamenting the loss of her foster son, to summon Aegisthus and his bodyguards to the palace. The chorus persuades her to alter the message so that Aegisthus will come unattended, and shortly after his arrival his screams are heard from within. Clytemnestra appears, followed by Orestes, of whom she begs mercy. Unnerved, Orestes asks the counsel of Pylades, who reminds him of his oath of revenge and of the command of Apollo. After justifying in vain her murder of Agamemnon and menacing Orestes with her curse, Clytemnestra is driven inside to be slain beside her lover. Orestes displays the two corpses and the bloody robe in which Agamemnon had been snared. But the sight then brings upon him the beginnings of madness. He sees the Furies (Erinyes) sent by his mother's spirit and rushes away in torment to seek at Delphi the protection Apollo has promised.