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MonkeyNotes-Electra by Euripides
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SECTION Summaries With Notes

Section A

Summary

Agamemnon returns victorious from the Trojan War after killing Priam, the King of Troy. During a banquet, which is held in his honor, he is killed by his wife Clymenestra and her lover Aegisthus. Then Aegisthus and Clymenestra get married and Aegisthus becomes King. Aegisthus wishes to kill Orestes, the son of Agamemnon. An honest old servant takes him to Phocis where Strophius looks after him. Thus the life of Orestes is saved.

Electra, the daughter of Agamemnon stays at home. When she reaches the age of marriage she receives many proposals but Aegisthus fears that if she marries a nobleman, she would bear a brave son who would become powerful enough to avenge the death of her father. So he gives her in marriage to a humble peasant.

One day when Electra and the peasant go out for work, Orestes and his friend Phylades come in disguise to search for Electra. Electra approaches singing a lament. She is lamenting over her own condition and over the death of her father. They both think she is a slave girl.

The chorus enters and interrupts her by giving her the information about the festival, which is to be held in honor of Goddess Hera. The maidens from Argive are to attend it. Electra says that she prefers to stay away from the festivities. Her tattered dress would bring shame to her father, King Agamemnon and the people of Troy would be embarrassed at her plight. The chorus is willing to lend her a lovely gown and a gold necklace, and tells her that she cannot overcome her enemies merely by weeping. It is advisable to pray to Hera, honor the gods and seek their help. Electra is very sad. She says that she prays year after year but no god hears. She mourns for her dead father, her brother who lives exiled and also for her own condition. She also mourns that her mother has married Aegisthus.


Electra sees Orestes and Phylades. She is frightened and tries to go into her cottage to hide. She prays to the gods that they do not kill her. Orestes assures her that he will not kill her, as she is no enemy. He takes her hand, which further scares her. But he assures her that he has brought news from her brother who is alive and is a refugee. He is eager to know about her. She tells him about her plight and reveals that her marriage is a living death. She is married to a peasant who feels that the person who brought about the marriage had no right to do so. He thus never comes near her bed as he does not wish to offend her ancestors. He is truly a virtuous man. Orestes says that such a man ought to be rewarded. She says that Aegisthus got her married to him, so that she may bear feeble sons.

Orestes and Electra resolve to avenge the death of their father and their own suffering by killing their mother. Electra assures full support and participation in the venture. She further tells him how she suffers in poverty having to weave cloth for her own dress or go naked. She fasts on holy days instead of enjoying a feast. She lives in filth while Clymenestra lives in the lap of luxury. She has heard that when Aegisthus is drunk, he jumps on Agamemnonís grave and throws stones on his name, which is inscribed there. He mockingly asks where is his son Orestes who ought to be there protecting his grave.

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