Deceitful Clytemnestra of Euripides' Electra

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Deceitful Clytemnestra of Euripides' Electra

Agamemnon returns from Troy, a victorious general, bringing home spoils, riches and fame. He is murdered on the same day as he returns. Clytemnestra, his adulterous wife, has laid in wait for her husband's homecoming and kills him whilst he is being bathed after his long journey. During the Agamemnon, large proportions of the Queen's words are justifications for her action, which is very much concerned with the sacrifice of Iphigenia to the gods, in order for the fleet to set sail for Troy. Aegisthus, the new husband of the Queen Clytemnestra, and partner in the conspiracy to murder the war hero, had reasons, which stemmed from the dispute between the Houses of Atreus and Thyestes. Was the murder justified retribution for a callous and dispassionate murder of an innocent girl, as well as the fate demanded by the family curse? Or was the death of Agamemnon an unjust action by the traitorous woman Clytemnestra and her lover carried out in aspirations of his wealth and power?

If we take the former of the arguments as the correct one, then the sacrifice of Iphigenia must be considered. For this, the only sources we have are those of the Chorus' songs and the highly biased accounts by Clytemnestra, who has been left to stew on her hatred for over ten years. The account given by the Chorus is full of pathos and pity "gentle curving lips...gag her hard...her glance...wounding every murderer" (235-239). They remember with sorrow, a flashback to her innocent life, and recount how she once "sang to Saving Zeus - transfixed with joy" 245. Emphasis is very much on the purity of the girl and how she did not deserve to die. However, no reference is made by the Chorus that it was Agamemnon's...

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...ght have been a sponge. It is ironic I suppose that Agamemnon, lord of men was brought down by the one thing that neither of the two sons of Atreus were able to control - Women.

Works Cited

Adkins, A.W.H., Merit and Responsibility. A Study in Greek Values, London: Oxford University Press, 1960.

Euripides. Electra. Trans. Philip Vellacott. Medea and Other Plays. Baltimore: Penguin Classics, 1963. 105-152, 201-204.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. Trans. Clifton Fadiman. New York: Dover Publications, 1995.

Perseus Encyclopedia. Revised 1999. Tufts University. <>.

Powell, Anton, ed. Euripides, Women, and Sexuality. New York: Routledge, 1990.

March, Jennifer. Euripides the Mysogynist? Euripides, Women, and Sexuality. Ed. Anton Powell. New York: Routledge, 1990.

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