Study Guide

Electra Betrayal

By Sophocles


For we reach the bourn
Of far renowned Mycenae, rich in gold
And Pelops' fatal roofs before us rise (9-10)

Mycenae's great fortune has come at a great expense.

Thou, too, paternal hearth! To thee I come,
Justly to cleanse thee by behest from heaven. (69-70)

Yet in many ways Orestes ends up further tainting his home.

While I behold the sky,
Glancing with myriad fires, or this fair day.
But, like some brood-bereavèd nightingale (105-8)

The "nightingale" refers to Procne, another girl from Greek mythology also consumed with eternal sorrow.

And ye, Erinyës, of mortals feared,
Daughters of Heaven, that ever see
Who die unjustly, who are wronged i' the bed
Of those they wed,
Avenge our father's murder on his foe! (112-116)

The Erinyës are the Furies, the avenging spirits that feature prominently in Aeschylus's trilogy. Though they do not appear in this version of Electra, they are referenced repeatedly in the dialogue.

Time bringeth rest (179)

In another words…time heals all wounds. What do you think – true or not in the context of Electra?

Wherefore, with much constraint
And painful urging of his backward will,
Hardly he yielded;--not for his brother's sake. (575-6)

Electra and Clytemnestra debate this point at great length: they disagree on Agamemnon's reasons for sacrificing Iphigenia.

O heavens! what shall I say? That this is well?
Or terrible, but gainful? Hard my lot,
To save my life through my calamity! (766-8)

Clytemnestra feels as though this news has come as an answer to her prayers. Although, she does feel guilty for having "caused" her sons death.

Then seest thou not
What meed of honour, if thou dost my will,
Thou shalt apportion to thyself and me?
For who, beholding us, what citizen,
What foreigner, will not extend the hand
Of admiration (973-7)

Electra betrays her own ideals by committing murder for the wrong reasons.

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