Electra by Sophocles: Chrysothemis The Forgotten Sister Essay

Electra by Sophocles: Chrysothemis The Forgotten Sister Essay

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In the story of Electra, Chrysothemis “is in many ways the invisible woman” (Choate 183). As stated by Amber Jacobs, “her name has been committed to our mythical corpus, yet with a seeming insignificance” (Jacobs 179). Sophocles is the only Greek playwright who mentions her in his version of Electra’s tale. As the tale goes, Chrysothemis was viewed as the obedient daughter, and in an effort to uphold the story of Electra as well as the social norms of the time, Sophocles depicts Chrysothemis as the perfect daughter — dainty, modest, and obedient. Despite having more scenes than her mother, Clytaemnestra, Chrysothemis was not viewed as the captivating character. Her role was not coveted among actors of the time. She was depicted as the good girl, and her character was considered as static and bland (183). It conformed to guidelines articulated in Aristotle’s Poetics, which stated that a female character in an ideal tragedy should act feminine (Aristotle 60). Hofmannsthal takes a completely different approach on Chrysothemis’s character, molding her in a way that makes her more modern, relevant, and significant to the story. This new approach changes how the relationships in the story are perceived and how Chrysothemis is received by the audience. Despite being the forgotten sister in the House of Atreus, Chrysothemis evolves throughout the various renditions of Electra, going from a reserved, obedient sister in Sophocles’ Electra to an independent, opinionated young woman in Hofmannsthal’s Electra.
Sophocles presents Chrysothemis as a reserved sister who remains obedient to her murderous mother, despite the effects it has had on her lifestyle and family dynamic. Chrysothemis encounters Electra in passing on her way out of the cas...


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...tton. 1st. New York: Norton, 1982. 43-63. Print.
Choate, E. Theresa. "Chrysothemis, the Good Girl." Electra USA. Cranbury: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp, 2009. 183-204. Print.
Donaldson, John William. The Theatre of the Greeks: A Treatise on the History and Exhibition of the Greek Drama. 8th. London: George Bell and Sons, 1879. 106-147. Print.
Hoffmannsthal, Hugo von. Electra: A Tragedy in One Act. Trans. Arthur Symons. New York: Brentano’s, 1908. Print.
Jacobs, Amber. "The Question of Chrysothemis." On Matricide: Myth, Psychoanalysis, and the Law of the Mother. New York: Columbia U P, 2007. 178-182. Print.
Mueller, Martin. "Hofmannsthal's Electra and Its Dramatic Models." Modern Drama 29.1 (1986): 71-91. Print.
Sophocles. "Electra." Sophocles II. Ed. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore. Trans. David Grene. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1957. 125-187. Print.

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