35 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 409

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Lines 1-716Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Lines 1-315 Summary

The play opens with Electra sitting beside her brother Orestes, who lies sleeping. She explains their cursed family history, beginning with their ancestor Tantalus and ending with Orestes’s recent murder of their mother, Clytemnestra, in revenge for Clytemnestra’s murder of their father, Trojan War hero Agamemnon. Saying that she will allow others to speculate about her mother’s motive, Electra notes that her brother killed Clytemnestra on Apollo’s command, something that “not everyone approved” (141). Since the murder, Orestes has been tormented by the Furies, unable to eat, drink, or wash.

The Argives have declared Orestes and Electra matricides and forbidden anyone from giving them food or shelter. The city’s assembly is preparing to vote on whether to stone the siblings to death. The siblings believe their only hope lies with Menelaus, who has recently returned from Troy, having sent his wife Helen back ahead of him in the night, to avoid her being stoned by angry relatives of men killed at Troy. Their daughter Hermione, who spent the war in Argos being raised by Clytemnestra, is now with her.

Helen enters. She asks Electra how they could have killed their mother, though she does not blame them but Apollo, similarly referring to her own flight to Troy as the product of “god-sent ecstasy” (286).