Study Guide

Electra Scene Five

By Sophocles

Scene Five

  • Orestes, Pylades, and some attendants carrying a small urn, enter the stage.
  • Looking for Aegisthus's palace, they ask directions from the Chorus women, who direct him to Electra.
  • Electra, realizing that the urn they hold must contain Orestes's ashes, is more distraught than ever. She begs them to let her hold the urn and grieve properly.
  • Taking the urn, Electra laments for a good twenty lines. She regrets that Orestes had to die in a strange land instead of his own home. She declares that she was more of a mother to him than his real mother was. Finally, she declares that she, too, wants to die.
  • The Chorus leader reminds Electra that they are all mortal, and all bound to die eventually.
  • Orestes, after listening to this speech, laments Electra's own tragic situation (that she is forced to live with her father's murderers). When she reveals that her mother subjects her to violence and psychological torment, he is even angrier.
  • Finally he decides it's just about time to tell her the truth: he is Orestes. He shows her his ring with their father's seal as proof.
  • The two of them embrace, and Electra is filled with joy. She declares that never again will she fear her enemies.
  • Orestes, clearly the pragmatic sibling, recommends that Electra keep her voice down and conceal her joy, as she might reveal the secret.
  • He then declares that he's ready to kill the man who has kept the two of them apart (Aegisthus, namely).
  • Electra is ecstatic to hear this news.
  • She wants to celebrate, but Orestes is ready for action. He wants to devise a plan – what's the best way to kill the royal couple?
  • Orestes tells his sister to put on a guise of distress before she enters the palace.
  • Electra explains that Aegisthus is out of the country, but Clytemnestra is inside at home.
  • Overwhelmed with emotion, she tells Orestes that, had he not come back, she would have "either fought and lived like a hero, or else have died like a hero" (1319-21).
  • The old slave returns from the palace and immediately yells at Orestes and Electra for being fools. They are standing around talking about regicide, (i.e., killing a king), right in front of the palace, where anyone could hear them.
  • The slave urges them to stop delaying and get to the task at hand.
  • Electra is confused; remember that she doesn't know who the old man is (she thinks he's a messenger from Phocis).
  • Orestes explains that the man actually a friend of theirs. In fact, explains Orestes, this man received an infant Orestes from many years ago. Electra gets emotional and thanks the slave for his loyalty.
  • The old slave, once again, tells them to stop talking and act.
  • Before everyone exits, Electra prays to Apollo to keep the two of them safe and show to the world how the wicked are punished.
  • The story breaks for another choral song, which highlights the tension of Orestes and Electra's impending deed.

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