28. The Oresteia (458 BC), part 2. The Choephori (The Libation Bearers) by Aeschylus

Plot : Following on from the events of Agamemnon, Orestes returns from exile to reunite with his sister Electra, and together they swear retribution on Aegithius and Clytemnestra. Orestes disguises himself as a stranger and once gaining entry to the palace, makes good his promise.
I should have mentioned in my last blog that my text for these plays is the Penguin collection, translated by Philip Vellacott (ISBN 0140449674)
My thoughts : The first two thirds of this play consists of the chance meeting of Orestes and Electra at Agamemnon’s gravesite, and a rather longwinded and repetitive string of wails and threats by them singly, together and in tandem with the Chorus. The play lifts in interest once Orestes reaches the palace and kills the pair, only to be driven away by avenging Furies that only he can see.
Much is made of Orestes’ acting in the name of Justice, particularly by the Chorus urging him to act as Apollo has foretold. Yet Orestes also knows that Apollo has given him two paths, and should he fail to kill the usurpers, he will face endless torment.

I am a little disappointed with The Oresteia so far compared with the preceding single plays, particularly considering the universal praise which it seems to attract. I’d be interested to hear other lay opinions on this.

Favourite lines/passages:
No favourite lines leapt out at me, although the final scene with Orestes fleeing from the Furies makes me interested in reading the final instalment.
“Like Gorgons with grey cloaks, and snakes coiled swarming around their bodies! Let me go! “

Personal rating : 4 /10
Next: The final play of the trilogy, The Eumenides (The Furies)


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