Study Guide

Electra Morality and Ethics

By Sophocles

Morality and Ethics

Whether or not Sophocles was concerned with morality when writing Electra is subject to great debate. One perspective is that the play is not interested in condemning or condoning Electra's actions, as morality is not a direct consideration. Another perspective is that Sophocles morally condones the murders that take place at the end of the play, because the royal couple deserves to be killed. Another is that Sophocles condemns the murders on the grounds that matricide is always wrong, or that murder never justifies murder. Perhaps a middle ground interpretation is that Sophocles leaves his play intentionally morally ambiguous. He is concerned with morality as a topic of debate, but does not choose one side over the other.

Questions About Morality and Ethics

  1. Electra maintains that, "with evil all around you, nothing but evil is left to do" (306-7). Is she a victim of circumstance then?
  2. Are the play's two murders justified? On what grounds?
  3. Is there any moral difference between the murder of Agamemnon and that of Clytemnestra?
  4. Likewise, is there any moral difference between the murder of Aegisthus and that of Clytemnestra?
  5. Should we believe Clytemnestra's story about why she killed Agamemnon? Even if she's telling the truth, does this give her the right to murder him?

Chew on This

Electra is an admirable character, because she is fulfilling a duty to her father.

Electra is not an admirable character, because she acts immorally.

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