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MonkeyNotes-Electra by Euripides
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THEMES

Major

Theme of Revenge and Murder

Revenge and murder is a theme that runs from the beginning of the play. Electra is burning with discontent and revenge right from the beginning. She is not to be satisfied with anything less than murder of her own mother whom she considers a villain who is responsible for all the evil concerning herself and her brother and father. This intense hatred and desire for revenge combined with Apolloís oracle of Orestes finally results in matricide. The most gruesome of all the murders that one can think of is seen in the play in the form of matricide. It is shocking that encouraged by his sister, he kills his mother. It is also shocking that he is ordered by the oracle of Apollo to do so.

Clymenestra and her lover Aegisthus murder King Agamemnon after he returns victorious from the Trojan War. Before going to war he has sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia. This angers and upsets his wife Clymenestra. She is further angered when he brings Cassandra as a concubine. She avenges the injustice done to her by killing him.


Minor

Theme of Repentance

Though this theme occurs for a short while towards the end of the play, it is an important theme. After the murder of Clymenestra, Electra and Orestes are miserable with guilt. They repent that they have committed the heinous crime.

"Tears my brother-

Let tears be endless.

I am guilty.

I was burning with desperate rage against her.

Yet she was my mother, I her daughter."

Says Electra.

Orestes realizes that injustice has been done not only to his mother but to himself through Apolloís oracle. He realizes that this is a murdererís destiny. No God-fearing man would befriend him. He recalls how his mother thrust forth her breast and pleaded for her life. Yet he killed her. He feels great emotional anguish to think that he has killed his mother who gave him birth and fed him from her breast to keep him alive.

Electra also feels unbearable sorrow and guilt. She cannot be welcomed on any good occasion. "What man will accept me as his wife?" she questions. She and her brother feel cursed for what they have done.

Orestes admits that he cut his motherís throat. Electra admits that she urged him and held the sword beside his. Electra addresses her motherís body saying:

"As we wrap this cloak round you

We love you though we hated you."

Theme of Respect and Celibacy

The peasant to whom Electra is married has tremendous respect for her father and ancestors. He does not approach her in bed, as he does not feel worthy to do so. He feels that though he has been married to her, her father would not have wished so. Thus consummating the marriage would amount to irreverence to him and to her other ancestors. Electra feels that he is a virtuous man, although he is of humble origin. She also regrets being a virgin. She says that she cannot mix with other wives, being a virgin herself.

Theme of Sincerity

An old servant of Agamemnon saves the life of Orestes by taking him away from the palace, so that he is brought up safely in Phocis. If he had not done so, Orestes might have been killed by Aegisthus.

When this old servant is called by Electra, he showers affection on her and helps her to recognize her brother. He also brings for her whatever gifts he can. It is touching that he does this with great love and affection.

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