Study Guide

Electra Revenge

By Sophocles


Electra examines a "blood for blood" revenge code and asks whether this is a satisfying approach to justice. The problem, tautologically evident, is that "blood for blood" is a never-ending chain. A person murders, someone murders her for vengeance, so then the new murderer must be murdered for vengeance, and so on. Is this a purely destructive kind of reasoning? Is there a better alternative? How can one turn away from vengeance if it truly is a noble and necessary duty? Electra asks these questions, but gives no concrete answers to them.

Questions About Revenge

  1. Why does Sophocles choose to have Clytemnestra die first and Aegisthus second?
  2. What motivates revenge in this play?
  3. What justifies revenge in this play?
  4. Think about the two different cases of revenge we hear about: Clytemnestra against Agamemnon and Electra against Clytemnestra. What is the difference, if any, between these two cases? Does condemning one act of revenge necessarily imply condemning the second act?

Chew on This

Electra wants her mother and Aegisthus dead out of a thirst for revenge, not out of duty for her father.

Electra wants her mother and Aegisthus dead out of duty to honor her father; emotion has nothing to do with it.

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