The Redeeming Features of the Characters in Electra

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The Redeeming Features of the Characters in Electra

In Euripides' 'Electra', there are a number of parts, speaking and non-speaking, that reveal the redeeming features of the otherwise pitiful characters. This essay will consider the roles of Orestes, Electra, Clytemnestra, the Peasant and Aegisthus (whose actions are only reported to us).

It is arguable that the characters are not redeemable due simply to the plot of the play: a son returns, kills his father's unworthy successor, his mother (with the aid of his sister) and was sent away at the end of the play by divine judgement. His sister assisted him in the matricide and is sent away also. However, it is unrealistic for all the characters of a tragedy not to have any good qualities. The nature of tragedy, according to Aristotle, is to invoke pity ('kitharsis'), cleansing the soul - this can not be invoked if the characters are bad people, since we will feel no pity. Aristotle described Euripides as "the most tragic of the poets..." so it is likely for the playwright to conform to Aristotle's' rules for tragedy. Bad happenings ('hamartia') are required to happen to good people, who may not be entirely noble but are still respectably good. For example, in Oedipus Rex, Oedipus scorns the prophecies of Apollo but he is a noble King, who feels compassion for his people and his destined blow was only the result of his uninformed actions.

Orestes is the avenging son of Agamemnon, returned to his homeland. We would expect this man to be the tragic hero of the play but he does not conform to the specifications. He is not a powerful character and is constantly in need of guidance, acting simply as a loaded cannon ("What do you suggest?"). When ...

... middle of paper ... in the play's duration, with a history of murder that seems disconnected from this person as we see her. Finally, Aegisthus, though amiable to his guests, has an undeniable history of murder and the people are happy to see him go. If he does have redeemable qualities, they are few.

Works Cited

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, Barry. Classical Myth. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001.

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

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