Study Guide

Electra Isolation

By Sophocles

Isolation

ORESTES
How should this pain me, in pretence being dead,
Really to save myself and win renown? (58-60)

It was supposedly bad luck to have word of one's death spoken aloud. Orestes here claims that no such bad luck will reach him. Is confidence connected to the fact that he is carrying out this mission, in large part, to please Apollo?

ELECTRA
But she that is my mother, and her groom,
As woodmen fell the oak,
Cleft through the skull with murdering stroke. (97-99)

This is a frequent metaphor in antiquity; the death of great men is often compared to the felling of a great tree.

ELECTRA
And o'er this gloom
No ray of pity, save from only me (100-1)

Electra's determination is all the more admirable because she faces opposition alone.

ELECTRA
Alone I cannot longer bide
The oppressive strain of strength-o'ermastering woe. (119-120)

Yet Electra seems to derive strength, when the time comes, from the false news of Orestes's death. Finding out that she must bear the burden alone somehow gives her the strength to do so.

THE CHORUS
Oh, of all love
That ever may you move,
This only boon I crave--
Leave me to rave! (134-6)

Electra wants to be alone. She feels her duty to her father is better served in solitude.

ELECTRA
Orphaned I pine without protecting care;
And like a sojourner all unregarded
At slave-like labour unrewarded
I toil within my father's hall
Thus meanly attired, and starved, a table-serving thrall. (189-192)

Though Orestes was exiled and Electra stayed behind, she ends up a foreigner to greater degree than her brother in many ways.

THE CHORUS
Well may he pause who plans a dreadful deed.
ELECTRA
I paused not in his rescue from the sword. (320-321)

Good point. Electra does seem to overcome typical gender stereotypes in this play.

ELECTRA
But take a ringlet from thy comely head,
And this from mine, that lingers on my brow[3]
Longing to shade his tomb. (448-50)

The locks of hair on Agamemnon's grave unite the three siblings symbolically. Though their actions differ, they all grieve his death.

CLYTEMNESTRA
for not I alone
But Justice slew him; (527-8)

Clytemnestra wants to establish that she had this ally in her murder; that she did not act alone somehow strengthens her defense.

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