Study Guide

Electra Fate and Free Will

By Sophocles

Fate and Free Will

THE OLD SLAVE
'Tis no time for shy delay:
The very moment for your act is come. (23)

This theme of action over talk will be re-iterated time and time again in Electra.

ORESTES
Kind faithful friend, how well thou mak'st appear
Thy constancy in service to our house!
As some good steed, aged, but nobly bred,
Slacks not his spirit in the day of war (24-27)

Notice that Orestes uses the image of a charioteer, which will later serve as his false story of death.

ORESTES
Had word from Phoebus which you straight shall hear:
'No shielded host, but thine own craft, O King!
The righteous death-blow to thine arm shall bring.' (35-38)

Is there any ambiguity in Apollo's message?

ORESTES
Gods, but let me found
A wealthy line of fair posterity! (71-2)

Compare Orestes's prayer Apollo to Clytemnestra's later prayer. Are they asking for similar things? Is either one justified in their asking?

ELECTRA
Evil fruit
Cannot but follow on a life of ill. (308-9)

Does this line of reasoning absolve Electra from responsibility for her actions?

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Methinks 'twas some dread vision, seen by night. (410)

Dreams were considered divine intervention; this may be a message from the gods.

CLYTEMNESTRA
vouchsafe
That ever thus exempt from harms I rule
The Atridae's home and kingdom, in full life,
Partaking with the friends I live with now
All fair prosperity, and with my children,
Save those who hate and vex me bitterly. (649-654)

Clytemnestra's prayer is full of the worst kind of arrogance.

THE CHORUS
But through thy loyalty to Heaven's eternal cause
Wearing the stainless crown
Of perfectest renown,
And richly dowered by the mightiest laws. (1093-7)

The Chorus would have us believe that the gods condone Electra's resolve.

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