previous next

While the strictly human interest predominates in the
Supernatural agency
Electra, we must not undervalue the dramatic importance which Sophocles has given to the supernatural agency, or the skill with which it is carried through the texture of the play. In the opening scene we hear the oracle which Apollo has given to Orestes. The enterprise is presently placed under the protection of the Chthonian powers by those ceremonies at the tomb which, as the old man urges, must precede everything else. Then Electra comes forth, and invokes the deities of the underworld. A little later it appears that Clytaemnestra has had an ominous dream; Electra sees in it an answer to her prayer, and the Chorus express the same conviction. Next, the queen makes her offerings and half-secret prayers to Apollo; the very god, though she knows it not, who has already sent Orestes home. With a similar unconsciousness, in her joy at the news from Phocis, she declares that Nemesis has heard those who deserved to be heard, and has ordained aright. The last act. of Orestes and Pylades before entering the house is to salute the images of the gods; while Electra makes a short prayer to Apollo. Lastly, in the moments of suspense before the deed, the choral song reminds us that the Erinyes have passed beneath the roof, and that Hermes is guiding the avenger to the goal.

Thus the whole drama is pervaded by an under-current of divine co-operation; the gods are silently at work; step by step the irresistible allies advance; the very effort of Clytaemnestra to bespeak Apollo's favour is a new impiety, which only makes his wrath more certain. In the Choephori darkness broods over all; the shadow of the curse rests upon the murderers, and then the menace of the Erinyes comes upon the avenger. In the Electra of Sophocles it is the bright influence of Apollo that prevails from the first. Those sights and sounds of early morning with which the play opens are fit symbols of his presence; the powers of the nether world are also, indeed, active, but here they are making common cause with the Pythian god of light and purity.

The Electra of Euripides.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: