Greek Tragedy


Born 486 BC, the last of the three known poets of tragedy. 
His Electra was written about the same time as as Sophocles' rendition.


Eight years have passed since Agamemnon was killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her cousin Aegistus. Aegistus married Clytemnestra and became king of Mycenae. Her son Orestes had to flee the country to avoid being killed by Aegisthus' soldiers while his twin sister Electra was sent away to be married to an old man, so she could not bear a son to avenge Agamemnon’s death.

Her husband is kind, he does not force himself on her, and while he's working she takes care of the house. They live peacefully but the desire to see her brother again and take revenge on their father's death will not leave her. She has a morbid attachment to her father, who was in fact the purpertrator when he sacrificed her sister. If the Curse on the House of Atrius started with Agamemnon's father, he is personally responsible for precipitating the trail of violent deaths.

All three of the tragic poets represent Electra as a woman obsessed bent on revenge. Her intense hatred for her mother and step-father reaches its zenith in Euripides' version, where she mutilates Aegistus’ dead body.

Freud, to describe a woman’s blind fixation on her father accompanied by jealousy towards her mother, called it the Electra Complex.


A peasant makes a brief recapitulation of Agamemnon’s murder by the hand of his wife and her lover. Their son Orestes was exiled in Phocia where he became close friends with the king’s son Pylades. His sister Electra is married.

Disguised as messengers Orestes and Pylade enter Mycenae and find Electra’s house, while her husband is gone. She tells them her sad story and how she wishes her brother would come back to avenge their father.

Electra’s husband comes in and sends for the servant who saved Orestes’ life by whisking him away from Argos after his father was killed. The old man recognizes Orestes from a scar on his forehead and the twins are reunited. They conspire to kill Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.

The servant goes to Clytemnestra to announce her daughter just had a baby. While the queen hurries to see the child Orestes and Pylades set off to find Aegisthus who is hosting a sacrifice to the gods. The meeting over Orestes stabs and kills Aegisthus, and reveals his identity to those present. He returns to the cottage with the corpse, which she mutilates.

While they wait for their mother Orestes is having second thoughts about killing her but Electra pushes, reminding him of the oracle’s words. When Clytemnestra enters Electra accuses her for her horrible actions. Clytemnestra sees her predicament and pleas for her life but they kill her (offstage). They immediately feel remorse and are tormented by their guilt.

Castor and Polydeuces, Clytemnestra’s deity brothers (Dioscori) reassure the twins their mother was justly punished, and that Apollo was to blame for the ultimate action. Nonetheless they committed a serious crime and they must atone. Electra is to leave Argos, and marries Pylades. Orestes is to be persued by the Furies until he faces trial in Athens, only then will he be free.
The Trojan Trilogy

Unlike Aeschylus’ Oresteia, Euripides broke from convention and created three independant plays. The Trojan Trilogy won second prize at the competition in Dionysia.

Alexandros, the first play, revolves around Paris, son of Priam and Prince of Troy. The second play, Palamede, speaks of racism.

The third play, The Trojan Women (Troades) was written during the Peloponnesian War. It was performed the year Athenian soldiers invaded the island of Melos and killed the population, and the second expedition to Sicily. The four women are the same characters lamenting over the corpse of Hector in the last book of the Illiad.

The Trojan Women

Poseidon comes ashore from his watery quarters greatly saddened to see Troy in ruins. All the heroes are dead and the Trojan women will fall in the hands of the Greeks as slaves. Athena appears to share her anger at the Greeks for defiling her temple, and the two deities agree to cause the Greek fleets misery as the kings made way home.

Hecuba, King Priam’s widow is in Agamemnon’s tent, waiting to be sent off as a slave. The chorus is made of women who will suffer the same fate. The herald Talthybius appears and tells Hecuba that Cassandra is to go with Agamemnon. He does not tell Hecuba about her daughter Polyxena’s death. Instead he tells her she must go with Odysseus. Cassandra is brought in, she tells Hecuba not to worry about her, she will make sure Agamemnon is killed and his family doomed.

Hector’s widow Andromache comes in the tent with her infant son Astyanax. She tells Hecuba the truth about her daughter’s death. Talthybius tells Andromache the Odysseus wants to kill her son.
Menelaus comes in to say that he started the war, not for Helen but to exact revenge on Paris. He wants to kill Helen and Hecuba praises him. When Helen is brought in she tries to explain her actions. Hecuba urges Menelaus to listen. Helen says Aphrodite is to blame and she tried to join the Greek army but the Trojans would not let her. Hecuba retorts that Helen fell in love with Paris, and she changed sides whichever seemed to be winning. Menelaus agrees and sends Helen back to Sparta to face justice.

Talthybius walks in with the dead body of Andromache’s baby. The mother had already been sent off so Hecuba was to told bury it. The order is given to burn Troy, Hecuba tries to run into the fire but is prevented by Odysseus’ soldiers. She and the women of the chorus are taken onto a ship away from Troy.