Sophocles’s Electra Vs. Euripides’s Electra

Euripides and Sophocles wrote their own versions of the Electra story.

The basic plot is as follows: Agamemnon is killed by Clytemnestra and
her lover Aegisthus after he returns from the Trojan war to reclaim his
sister-in-law Helen from the Trojans. Electra and her brother Orestes
plot to kill their mother and her lover to revenge his death. Both
authors wrote about the same plot, but the built the story very
differently. Sophocles focused on Orestes, and Euripides focused more
on the life of Electra.

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In Sophocles’s version, the play opens with Orestes learning his fate
from the Pythian Oracle; he must revenge his father’s death unarmed and
alone. He sends his pedagogue Pylades, as a spy, to learn about the
situation in Mycenae. Electra mourns for her father’s death. She is
unable to avenge her father’s murders without the help of Orestes, her
brother. She is also mad about how her mother and her lover waste her
father’s riches and desecrate his name. Her half-sister Chrysothemis is
no help to Electra and refuses to help in the murder of her mother and
mother’s lover. Pylades arrives bearing the sad news of Orestes death.

He tells Clytemnestra that Orestes was killed in a chariot race at the
Delphian games; his body was cremated and his ashes were sent to
Mycenae. Concealing his identity, Orestes arrives and with the help of
Electra and Pylades, plots the murder of his mother and his mother’s
lover. Orestes enter the palace, kills his mother and returns to
Electra. When Aegisthus arrives, Orestes kills him as well fulfilling
his destiny.

Euripides’s version is much more dramatic. The play begins with
Electra’s marriage to a peasant. Aegisthus had tried to kill Electra
but Clytemnestra convinced him to allow her to live. He decided to
marry her to a peasant so her children will be humbly born and pose no
threat to his throne. Orestes and Pylades arrive. Orestes says that he
has come to Apollo’s shrine to pledge himself to avenge his father’s
murder. Orestes, concealing his identity, talks with Electra about the
recent happenings in Mycenae. She admits that she is sad that her
brother had been taken away at such a young age and the only person that
would recognize him would be her father’s old servant. She also
discusses her scorn of Aegisthus desecrating the monument over
Agamemnon’s grave and his ridicule of Orestes. When the old servant
arrives, after being summoned by Electra, he recognizes and identifies
Orestes to Electra. Only after seeing the scar over his eye, is Electra
convinced that it is him. They then begin to plot Aegisthus and
Clytemnestra’s murder. Orestes follows Aegisthus into the stables
during his sacrifice and kills him with his own knife. They then kill
Clytemnestra when she comes to them after hearing that Electra had a
baby. After the killing, miraculously, Castor and Polydeuces appear
above the house blaming Apollo for instigating the butchery. They then
list all the events necessary for Electra and Orestes to be redeemed.

Both these versions have the same basic plot but go about telling the
story differently. Euripides is much more dramatic. He makes Electra
more involved and discusses the consequences of their act. Sophocles
only tells the story of what happened up until the killing. He focuses
more on Orestes’s role. My favorite was Sophocles’s because to me, he
is a much better writer and puts in better details, but both of these
plays were terrific.



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