Study Guide

Orestes, Electra, and Clytemnestra Orestes

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If you look up "mother killer " in the dictionary you'll find a picture of Orestes looking all tortured. This guy has been famous through time as the expert in matricide. (We can think of cooler things to be famous for.) So, whenever some writer wants to explore the consequences of this bloody deed, the Orestes myth is the go-to story. (Check out our "Context" section to stuff your head with all the different versions of the story.)

Even though Orestes is totally guilty of offing his mom, he's also one of the first dudes in myth to be acquitted of a crime in a court of law. In his trial at Athens, Orestes argues that what he did was right because he was ordered to do it by Apollo and because his mother deserved to die for murdering his dad, Agamemnon. Though the Furies argue furiously that killing your mom is never O.K., the judge, Athena, eventually acquits Orestes of the crime. So, Orestes isn't just the posterboy for mother-killers everywhere, he also represents those who are found not guilty due to "extenuating circumstances."

Shmoop just so happens to have a pile of character analyses on our boy, Orestes. Check them out:

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