Electra, a Play by Sophocles

Raquel Regalado Professor Templeton GNHU285_14SP10 10 April 2010 Electra by Sophocles Freytag Triangle: Setting/Exposition: The play starts with at Mycenae before the palace of Agamemnon where Pylades, Orestes, and Paedagogous. Inciting Incident: Paedagogous introduce Orestes to his father’s city and urge him to take action for the injustice of his father’s death. Agamemnon being killed already and what has been happening since then. Agamemnon wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus have killed Agamemnon when he came back for war.

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Electra their daughter has hated her mom for doing this is mourning the death of her father but as well as wanting revenge on her mother and on Aegisthus. Orestes starts to explain his revenge in which Paedagogous is to go the palace and inform people that Orestes was killed in a chariot race while Orestes disguised with Pylades will make an offering to Agamemnon as instructed by Apollo before returning to the Agamemnon palace with an urn supposedly containing Orestes ashes.

Meanwhile Electra enters the stage while the others exit and sings a monody of grief which explains her suffering and her mourning of the murder of her dad by her mother and her lover and also calls the gods of the underworld to help her avenge her father death by bringing her brother Orestes back so he can help her avenge her father’s death. The chorus starts to consul Electra on not to waste her life mourning and crying but Electra appreciates it but can’t get away from the memory of her father and the need to avenge his death.

They tell her of her sister Chrysothemis and how although is sad she continues with her life and also that there is hope that one day her brother might return. Electra continues on her mourning that she wanders her dead fathers’ hall as a slave and her mother dresses her in rags and feeds her merely. She feels a great urge to condemn her mother’s evil ways. She explains her hatred in seeing Aegisthus wear her father’s robe, standing at her fathering hearth and Electra smuggled Orestes away from the kingdom as a child so he can live a life spared from a life of corruption and evil.

She hopes Orestes will come back one day. Chrysothemis, Electra’s younger sister, enters the stage with a funeral offering. She scolds Electra for mourning once again about her father and her own predicament. She knows that there is injustice but thinks Electra should just go with the flow and not show too much sadness, in which Electra gets offended off the bat. But Chrysothemis tells her sister that she should stop her constant mourning and complaining because Aegisthus, who’s away now, plans to imprison Electra in a secluded room.

Electra still angered doesn’t care much about the threat. Then she asks her about the libations she has. Chrysothemis explains that Clytemnestra her mother had a asked her to put the libations in Agamemnon grave because she was frightened by a dream. In the dream Agamemnon came back to life and placed his scepter which Aegisthus now has and placed it in the hearth. From which then a branch grew from it with leaves and casted a shadow over all Mycenae.

Clytemnestra scared wanted to pacify her murdered husband’s spirit or show respect to him asked Chrysothemis to send him offering. But Electra urged her not to do that but instead to offer Agamemnon a prayer for herself and her brother and sister and to return Orestes to avenge his death, and she agreed to do that. Clytemnestra walks with her servant carrying a garland for a sacrifice, into the stage and is frustrated with Electra’s constant mourning and complaining about her father’s death and that it was a justice murder because Agamemnon killed her daughter, Iphigenia.

Clytemnestra lets Electra reply and Electra exclaims that she didn’t kill her father out of revenge but out of lust for Aegisthus. Also that Agamemnon had to kill his daughter because the army goddess was holding the fleet that were going to free an army in troy, unless he sacrificed his daughter and he really didn’t want too. Clytemnestra broke off from the discussion and went on with the sacrifice and prayed to Apollo for good omens to pass from the dream and if it’s bad then not to let it. She also prayed for wealth, long life and for Orestes not to return.

Rising Action: The old man goes to them and tells the Orestes died and the events that led to it, Electra is deeply saddened by this and Clytemnestra although it’s her son and feels sad, she also is relieved that he won’t come back and avenge his father’s death. Then enter Orestes and Pylades disguised with servants bringing the pretend urns of Orestes. In which when Electra see at first sight of the urn has a huge amount of despair and asks to hold the urn. She starts grieving and equates his death wit her own.

Orestes is deeply affected by Electra despair and can’t hold in the secret plan and reveals himself to her and Electra starts to tell him about the suffering she is going through and when Orestes feels he can trust her and the chorus he reveal himself and shows his ring that belonged to his fathers, as proof. He urges them not to tell anyone but the plan and Electra is extremely happy. The old man comes from within the palace and is upset that they revealed themselves and how they could have been overheard.

He explains to Orestes that the plan is unfolding well and Orestes tells Electra that the old man is the servant she entrusted to escape with Orestes when he was a boy. Electra prays that the plan will go well and is very thankful for bringing back her brother. Climax: Then once Orestes, Pylades and the old man are inside the plan has been put to action and Electra is outside to spot if Aegisthus is coming. When Clytemnestra realizes what is happening she cries out to Aegisthus, then to her son Orestes to pity her, his mother and then she cries out in pain in receiving the first blow from Orestes.

Electra tells Orestes to strike her again and he does killing his mother. Then Orestes goes outside to inform Electra that all is going to Apollo’s oracle and in which the chorus exclaim that they have spotted Aegisthus coming. Orestes hurries inside to finish the plan. Falling Action: Aegisthus comes to the stage and asks Electra where the men with the news of the death of Orestes were and if the story was true. Electra explains that it is and that they’re inside with Clytemnestra. Aegisthus is happy with the news so orders her to open the gates and doors to show the Mycenaean the corpse of Orestes.

Electra does what he orders and a corpse is visible next to the Orestes and Pylades in disguised still. Aegisthus orders the disguised Orestes to uncover the corpse and in which he exclaims that Aegisthus do it himself. While Aegisthus is uncovering the body, calls for Clytemnestra to come but then notices that the corpse belongs to Clytemnestra. He suddenly realizes what’s going on and notices that the man is really Orestes. Falling Action: Aegisthus pleads and wants a chance to explain but Electra doesn’t want to allow him and pleads for Orestes to kill him.

Orestes orders Aegisthus inside explain that he wants to kill him in the same spot he killed Agamemnon. He walks inside with Aegisthus with Electra following and explains how he will be killed n the most gruesome way. Denounment: The chorus sings declaring of how the seed of Atreus is broken free. Theme: Revenge is the most important theme that is portrayed throughout the play. Revenge is what starts all the drama and is the reason the climax of the play is completed. The history of the family brings in revenge that is the drive in all the action in the play.

Revenge in the play comes from Electra and Orestes against their mother and her lover Aegisthus because they killed their father Agamemnon when he came back from war. There is also revenge shown on the side of Clytemnestra. She explained that the reason she killed her husband was because he killed their daughter Iphigenia. Although in the story we don’t know what the motives of killing Agamemnon were, what is evident is that revenge is the forces that lead to the killings in the play. Electra and Orestes anger and hatred toward their mother brought their plan of revenge thus causing the downfall for both Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.

Another theme shown in the play is justice which intertwines with revenge. Electra in the beginning of the play mourns and complains is because of the injustice that was done to her, her father and her brother. She thinks killing her mother and Aegisthus will bring justice as well Orestes has the same mind set. But the question which rises is who has the right to judge? Since justice brings in the terms judgment and judge. Were any of the killings really justified and how can we know the truth since we are not in the characters mind. This theme of justice brings questions and leaves it to the audience to debate about.

Characters: Electra is the most emotional character and the main character as well. She’s the protagonist and underdog because all is going wrong to her and no one cares much to help her or hear her out. She battles her emotions and her struggle throughout the play. She complains about her current predicament and how her father murder was injustice. She’s the oldest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. She’s treated as a slave by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend Aegisthus. In the play she’s seen as an emotional wreck and also shows how she seeks justice by killing Clytemnestra even though it’s her mother.

Orestes is the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon and therefore the rightful king of Argos. Electra sends him away as a child to Phocia so he can get away from the corruption in the palace after Agamemnon death. Then after he receives Apollo’s oracle, he devised a plan to seek revenge for his father’s death. He in a disguise along with Pylades and Paedagogous, killed both Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. He felt he needed to seek justice and to follow Apollo’s oracle because it was the right thing to do and it was his duty as Agamemnon son and follower of Apollo.

In the play although he wants revenge, he’s not killing his mother because of revenge but because of Apollo oracle. He also displays a bit of immaturity. Some example are when he sees Electra, he quickly wants to tell her his plan but Paedagogous scolds him which shows how quickly he can get distracted and tell his secret. He also towards the end reveals himself carelessly to Electra, not caring that he might be caught. His actions at time don’t show that he reached his maturity level yet. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus are both equally important in this play since they are the most affected at the end.

Electra points out that they both killed Agamemnon because Clytemnestra lusted for Aegisthus and wanted to take Agamemnon out of the picture. Clytemnestra on the other hand that she did it out of revenge since Agamemnon killed her daughter. Although we see her as an evil mother who treats her daughter, Electra bad, and how she prays for Orestes not to return she also shows that she has maternal instincts. She feels remorse and sadness when informed her son are dead and feels bad that it might be her doing when she prayed for it. “Sophocles clearly felt that the Clytemnestra whom he craws is strong and wicked.

She feels at least a pang of maternal grief when she first hears that Orestes is dead, even though a little later she can address heartless taunts to Electra. She has not the Aeschylean queen’s cynical contempt for public opinion; thus she herself (Jebb xiv)”. This shows the intention Sophocles had on the character Clytemnestra. Aegisthus is involved by killing Agamemnon and taking his place. It is uncertain what was Clytemnestra true intention but the audience can see that Aegisthus wanted power and the way he could get it is by killing Agamemnon and wanting Orestes dead so no one can get in his.

They both prosper at the beginning after when they killed Agamemnon but their downfall is when they don’t respect Agamemnon spirit and their children which results in their death. The public message of the play is what goes around come around. Each event that occurs in life has consequences and that everything happens for a reason. This play shows how one action can set off a domino effect and affect many people lives. The killing of Clytemnestra daughter by Agamemnon caused his death by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. The murder of Agamemnon caused Orestes to seek revenge and kill them.

As well showing the public that each event can cause another one, the play also suggests that any event can have a consequence whether it’s good or bad. For Clytemnestra, she killed Agamemnon which eventually led to her death and when Electra gave Orestes away as a child so he can escape a corrupted life, Orestes became a young man who knows what justice is and has the skills to pull out an elaborate plan. The message from a personal level might be a hard one to point out in this play. The message could be that hatred is uncontrollable in whatever circumstances.

Although Clytemnestra is the mother of Electra and Orestes, they still hate him so much that they want her dead. Electra explains with details how much she hates her mother for treating her badly and killing her father. Orestes is given an oracle by Apollo and although she’s his mother, he still kills her. The message can be that doing something evil like Clytemnestra did by killing Agamemnon won’t sit well with anyone and her children won’t forgive her like she thinks they would. This gives the audience of how far hatred can go to anyone if they committed a heinous crime.

The psychological meaning of the play is that powerful emotions can control people without thought or remorse. This plays shows how individuals can murder one another especially in a family and not feel any remorse about it. Clytemnestra shows no remorse in killing Agamemnon after he came back from the war and he’s her husband and father of her children. She and her lover Aegisthus kills him and goes on living in the palace where she and Agamemnon lived. Electra had so much hatred for her mother that she prays for her brothers’ return so he can help her kill her mother.

Then when Orestes is actually in the act of killing her mother she screams that he stab her again and is glad she is dead. Orestes also shows no remorse or sympathy in killing his mother since he does quickly in to kill Aegisthus. The feminist can interpret this play as the women being portrayed somewhat powerless. Electra is a good example of this. She mopes and cries all day because she is being treated badly and hates her mother and prays for her brother to come back so he can kill their mother. She feels like she is to powerless to kill her mother herself and has to rely on hope that her rother might come back and kill their mother but she isn’t sure he will come back. Her sister Chrysothemis also feels bad about the injustice but chooses not to mourn like her sister or get revenge, in fear that Aegisthus might punish her and lock her away. The women are portrayed powerless and hopeless since the main character is seen grieving in most of the play. “Clearly, Electra’s position has pushed her beyond the boundaries of the submissiveness normally expected of females to the point that she comes close to defining female virtue as entailing independent though and activity rather than obedience” (Foley 151).

This also shows that there is some breaking through of women when Electra speaks against her mother and Aegisthus when she doesn’t listen to them to stop mourning and continues her train of thoughts on the fact of the injustice that is being done. Both views can be seen in the play for the women in the play. The play has many meaning and themes that are important for society to learn. It is easy t o see what Sophocles wanted to show the audience and help them learn of the consequences of infidelity or murder.

He touches on aspects inside marriage and in a family which many people need to learn and see how these mistakes can have dire consequences. Overall this play shows how one act can have many consequences. Books Cited: Foley, Helene P. Female Act in Greek Tragedy. 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. 410. Print. Jebb, Richard C. Sophocles The Plays and Fragments. 1st ed. VI vol. London, Feller Lane: Cambridge University Press Warehouse, 1907. 244. Print.

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