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Electra


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A: Euripides Pf:c.422–416bc, Athens Tr: 1782 G: Greek trag. in verse S: Before a peasant's cottage near Mycenae, some years after the Trojan War C: 7m, 2f, chorus (f)In a prologue the Peasant reveals that Agamemnon's daughter Electra has been forced into marriage with him but that he respects her and has never come to her bed. Accompanied by Pylades, Orestes arrives at his birthplace, from which he was taken as a child after his mother's brutal murder of Agamemnon, his father. The reluctant Orestes has a duty to avenge the death of his father by killing his mother Clytemnestra. Orestes speaks to Electra without revealing that he is her brother and is dismayed at the way she is treated. The kind Peasant invites the strangers into his cottage. The Old Man who saved Orestes comes to Electra and reveals that someone has sacrificed a ewe on Agamemnon's tomb. As Orestes steps out of the cottage, the Old Man recognizes him by a scar on his forehead, and Orestes and Electra are reconciled. Orestes arranges to be invited by Aegisthus, his mother's lover, to share in a religious ceremony and uses the opportunity to kill him. By pretending to have given birth to a son, Electra tempts Clytemnestra to visit her. Despite Orestes' misgivings and Clytemnestra's insistence that she killed Agamemnon merely to avenge the sacrifice of their daughter Iphigeneia, Clytemnestra is murdered. Orestes and Electra are overwhelmed with guilt. The gods Castor and Polydeuces appear and order Electra to marry Pylades and foretell that Orestes will be absolved by the Athenian court but will have to do penance for many years.

A: Euripides Pf:c.422–416bc, Athens Tr: 1782 G: Greek trag. in verse S: Before a peasant's cottage near Mycenae, some years after the Trojan War C: 7m, 2f, chorus (f)

This version by Euripides differs from Aeschylus and Sophocles in two major respects: the poor rural setting and the portrayal of the psychological anguish endured by Electra and Orestes both before and after the killing of Clytemnestra. Thus, in place of the almost ritualistic enactment of revenge in the other two Greek tragedians, we see here a much more realistic portrayal of events. The ill-treated virgin Electra seems almost more disapproving of her mother's licentiousness than of her murdering Agamemnon, and Orestes' indecisiveness before killing his mother is like the wavering purpose of Hamlet.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Euripides (c. 485—406 bc) Greek dramatist


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