Study Guide

Electra Genre

By Sophocles


Tragedy, Drama

In one sense, Electra doesn't seem to fit the traditional mold of a tragedy. While tragic events – i.e., the murders of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus – certainly occur, the play does not seem to end on a particularly tragic note. From this point of view, then, it might actually be difficult to see why Electra is classified as a tragedy. After all, our protagonist has been yearning for vengeance for years, and she finally gets it, with no repercussions. And in most translations, the final lines are even celebratory. Where's the tragedy?

The answer lies in the play's thematic focus: the moral consequences of "justice" and vengeance. As we discuss in our "What's Up with the Ending?", one approach to Electra is to see it is an exploration of the moral implications of revenge. If you find this take on the play compelling, then you may see a progression from dutiful daughter to blood-crazed murderer in Electra's character. The tragedy would then lie in the moral downfall of her character.

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