Study Guide

Electra Morality and Ethics

By Sophocles

Morality and Ethics

THE CHORUS
O sad Electra, child
Of a lost mother, why still flow
Unceasingly with lamentation wild (121-125)

The Chorus seems to be taking Chrysothemis's more pragmatic point of view. They believe that there is not point to lamenting what can't be changed. If this is true, then why does Electra continue to lament her plight?

THE CHORUS
Doth not thy sense enlighten thee to see
How recklessly
Even now thou winnest undeservèd woe?
Still art thou found
To make thy misery overflow
Through self-bred gloomy strife. (215-19)

Is the Chorus right? Is Electra's grief of her own making?

ELECTRA
She watches for the hour wherein with guile
She killed our sire, and orders dance and mirth
That day o' the month (277-280)

Added info this like convinces the audience that Electra does indeed have the right to kill her mother.

ELECTRA
You say you hate them, but belie your word,
Consorting with our father's murderers. (356-8)

Is Electra right? Is Chrysothemis abetting her father's murderers by not standing up to them? Or do you believe that Chrysothemis's decision to play along with the royal couple is justified?

CLYTEMNESTRA
who else but he
Took heart to sacrifice unto the Gods
Thy sister?- (530-2)

Clytemnestra muddies the moral waters with this extra piece of info.

ELECTRA
But I'll prove
No rightful vengeance drew thee to the deed,
But the vile bands of him you dwell with now. (561-3)

Motive seems to matter as much or more than action in Electra. Think about the fact that Electra doesn't actually do anything – it is Orestes who commits the double murder. And yet, she is considered to be the play's protagonist.

ELECTRA
Not unashamed, assure thee, I stand here,
Little as thou mayest deem it. Well I feel
My acts untimely and my words unmeet.
But your hostility and treatment force me
Against my disposition to this course. (616-620)

Of what exactly is Electra ashamed?

CLYTEMNESTRA
To be a mother hath a marvelous power:
No injury can make one hate one's child. (770-771)

This is a surprising outburst from Clytemnestra. Is she being genuine here?

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