Barbican

Ancient Athenian Drama

Euripides: Electra

5th century BC, Ancient Greek.

Electra stands talking to a man she still believes to be a stranger and yet he is, at the same time, someone who is very close to her heart.

It is so sad to see this woman. She is dressed in rags and her hair is cropped close to her scalp although she is a noblewoman. The play is still in its early stages – some are still taking their seats near to me now – but we already know so much about her. Her father was Agamemnon, who returned from Troy to be greeted not with a heroís embrace from his loving wife but with a sight of her lover and a slicing blow from a sharp blade. His grave lies where he was thrown from the palace by the adulterous pair like a piece of refuse.

Agamemnonís young son Orestes escaped an attempt on his life and was taken abroad for safety. Agamemnon's daughter Electra is now married to a peasant in the wild hinterland of Argos.

Here, in the early light of dawn, Electra is talking to a man she believes to be a friend of her brother. But this man is her brother in person. He will not reveal his true identity to her, though. We are puzzled why this should be. A quarter of an hour has elapsed now since they first came upon one another and Electra unknowingly gave away her identity to him almost at once. But here she stands talking to a man she still believes to be a stranger, someone whom she has never before set eyes upon until now, and yet he is, at the same time, someone who is very close to her heart. Her own brother. Is this of any significance?

It is so sad to see this woman. She is dressed in rags and is the wife of a peasant, although she was once a noblewoman.

Story fragment retold from: Vellacott, Philip, 1963, reprinted 2002. Medea, Hecabe, Electra, Heracles (Penguin Classics). Translated from Ancient Greek with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Electra, pp 105–52.

references

Euripides – Wikipedia

Electra – Wikipedia

Euripides: Electra – English translation, Internet Classics Archive (download plain text version)

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