|About the Book|
Sophocles take on Orestes revenge21 March 2012This is probably not my favourite Sophoclean play, but then again after reading the Ajax and discovering that Ajax demonstrates the classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it is very hard to then jump into another play that pretty much has nothing to do with combat trauma. It is probably a good thing though because what it means is that we have a variety of plays to consider as opposed to a collection of plays that deal with trauma and its effects. However, that does not necessarily mean that we do not get into the mind of the characters in this play, it is just that we do not get into it the same way.Electra is the only myth that we have that we have an extant play from all three playwrights, and the classical historians are delighted at that because we get to see how each of the three playwrights tackled the same story. That I must agree is quite helpful as it allows a much better way to compare and contrast the styles of the playwrights. However I have read them in a different order to which they were written: I read the Euripidean play first and I have yet to get onto the Aeschylian play.We do notice a significant difference as we move from Aeschylus to Sophocles, and then notice a further shift when we get to Euripides. My belief is that the difference between Sophocles and Euripides is like the difference between Stephen Spielberg and Martin Scorsesee in that Spielberg writes movies for the popular crowd while Scorsesees movies tend to be a lot more thought provoking. This difference is quite noticeable in the Electra and it is these differences that we will explore here.First of all, in the Sophoclean play, Electra is unmarried and Clytaemnestra plays a much bigger role. There is a lot of dialogue between the characters and Sophocles seems to rest a lot more on the dialogue between the characters than does Aeschylus, who tends to focus more on the background story. Here we have fully developed character interaction, and it is this interaction drives the story.Euripides was concerned with the struggle between Orestes need for vengeance and the fact that to get it involved killing his mother. We do not see any of that in the Sophoclean play. Sophocles is more concerned with seeing justice done and seeking justice for the murder of Agamemnon is of much greater importance than the question of whether it is right to murder ones mother to satisfy the blood guilt.However, we seem to always think of Agamemnon as being the innocent party in all of this. We see it in Euripides and we see it here in Sophocles. What we dont see, and in a sense I dont think the Greeks saw it as well, is that Agamemnon was not a nice person. In a way there is little to no difference between Agamemnon and the Great King of Persia – both had imperialist ambitions. The Greeks did see a difference - Agamemnon was Greek. So I guess his imperial ambitions were okay, whereas Xerxes was Persian and as such his imperial ambitions were bad (because it involved imposing them upon the Greeks).As we have seen in some of the more modern renditions of the Trojan War (such as in the movie Troy), Agamemnon is not portrayed as a man jumping to his brothers aid when his honour has been insulted. Instead Agamemnon is using it as an excuse to extend his power beyond Greece and over to Asia Minor. In a way the Greeks have always considered that part of the world to be theirs, and maybe the victory at Troy gave them that excuse. However, like the foolish man in the Bible who gloated about his wealth and then had it taken away from him, Agamemnon never got to enjoy his new found empire. He was killed upon his return to Argos by his wife and her lover.