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Essay/Term paper: Sophocles's electra vs. euripides's electra

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Papers

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Euripides and Sophocles wrote their own versions of the Electra story.

The basic plot is as follows: Agamemnon is killed by Clytemnestra and

her lover Aegisthus after he returns from the Trojan war to reclaim his

sister-in-law Helen from the Trojans. Electra and her brother Orestes

plot to kill their mother and her lover to revenge his death. Both

authors wrote about the same plot, but the built the story very

differently. Sophocles focused on Orestes, and Euripides focused more

on the life of Electra.

In Sophocles's version, the play opens with Orestes learning his fate

from the Pythian Oracle; he must revenge his father's death unarmed and

alone. He sends his pedagogue Pylades, as a spy, to learn about the

situation in Mycenae. Electra mourns for her father's death. She is

unable to avenge her father's murders without the help of Orestes, her

brother. She is also mad about how her mother and her lover waste her

father's riches and desecrate his name. Her half-sister Chrysothemis is

no help to Electra and refuses to help in the murder of her mother and

mother's lover. Pylades arrives bearing the sad news of Orestes death.

He tells Clytemnestra that Orestes was killed in a chariot race at the

Delphian games; his body was cremated and his ashes were sent to

Mycenae. Concealing his identity, Orestes arrives and with the help of

Electra and Pylades, plots the murder of his mother and his mother's

lover. Orestes enter the palace, kills his mother and returns to

Electra. When Aegisthus arrives, Orestes kills him as well fulfilling

his destiny.

Euripides's version is much more dramatic. The play begins with

Electra's marriage to a peasant. Aegisthus had tried to kill Electra

but Clytemnestra convinced him to allow her to live. He decided to

marry her to a peasant so her children will be humbly born and pose no

threat to his throne. Orestes and Pylades arrive. Orestes says that he

has come to Apollo's shrine to pledge himself to avenge his father's

murder. Orestes, concealing his identity, talks with Electra about the

recent happenings in Mycenae. She admits that she is sad that her

brother had been taken away at such a young age and the only person that

would recognize him would be her father's old servant. She also

discusses her scorn of Aegisthus desecrating the monument over

Agamemnon's grave and his ridicule of Orestes. When the old servant

arrives, after being summoned by Electra, he recognizes and identifies

Orestes to Electra. Only after seeing the scar over his eye, is Electra

convinced that it is him. They then begin to plot Aegisthus and

Clytemnestra's murder. Orestes follows Aegisthus into the stables

during his sacrifice and kills him with his own knife. They then kill

Clytemnestra when she comes to them after hearing that Electra had a

baby. After the killing, miraculously, Castor and Polydeuces appear

above the house blaming Apollo for instigating the butchery. They then

list all the events necessary for Electra and Orestes to be redeemed.

Both these versions have the same basic plot but go about telling the

story differently. Euripides is much more dramatic. He makes Electra

more involved and discusses the consequences of their act. Sophocles

only tells the story of what happened up until the killing. He focuses

more on Orestes's role. My favorite was Sophocles's because to me, he

is a much better writer and puts in better details, but both of these

plays were terrific. 

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