Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "The Libation Bearers Study Guide." Course Hero. 23 June 2017. Web. 17 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Libation-Bearers/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2017, June 23). The Libation Bearers Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Libation-Bearers/

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "The Libation Bearers Study Guide." June 23, 2017. Accessed November 17, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Libation-Bearers/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "The Libation Bearers Study Guide," June 23, 2017, accessed November 17, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Libation-Bearers/.

The Libation Bearers | Motifs

Share
Share

Light and Darkness

The Chorus uses light and darkness to illustrate the contrast between good and evil, suffering and hope, truth and obscurity. Darkness hides; light reveals. Once Apollo's will is done, the Chorus hopes to see "the veil of darkness yield to freedom's light." Illegitimate rulers keep the truth about the House of Atreus in darkness. Orestes wants "the Sun" to display his mother's hidden crimes and show him as a force of avenging righteousness. Light stands for the Olympian gods, like Apollo, who live in the heavens.

Darkness also stands for the gods of the underworld or the chthonic gods. These gods are represented by "Earth" through most of the play, since the characters picture the underworld as located beneath the earth. When the underworld goddesses, the Furies, appear to Orestes in the Exodos, they stand for the continuing darkness engulfing the house of Atreus.

Motherhood

Motherhood, traditionally associated with nourishment, stability, and love, is central to the betrayals in The Libation Bearers. When Electra and the Chorus members pray to the Earth for aid, they describe the Earth as a maternal, nurturing, and protective force.

Motherhood is portrayed as central to the functioning of family and society, and mothers who fail at their duties are responsible for destruction. As the matriarch or female leader of the House of Atreus, Clytaemnestra has been scheming and plotting to destroy the house instead of maintaining its stability from within. Orestes can't believe she would turn against "a man whose children she carried in her womb." In Stasimon 1 the Chorus cites other women who have betrayed their roles as keepers of hearth and home to harm their men instead.

Clytaemnestra is indicted for her failure to protect her children and give them the inheritance they deserve. Before her death Clytaemnestra leverages her role as a mother to beg Orestes for mercy, asking him to think about when she breastfed him: "the milk that made you strong." She succeeds in making Orestes feel a brief pang of guilt, signaling the power of the maternal connection.

Cilissa, Orestes's nurse, appears in contrast to Clytaemnestra as a genuinely nurturing and caring mother figure. She learned to communicate with him when he was a petulant child and is overcome with grief when she thinks he's dead.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Libation Bearers? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!