Electra and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)
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Four seminal tragedies by the master Greek dramatist, in sparkling new translations
Of the more than one hundred plays Sophocles wrote over the course of his long life, only seven survive. This volume collects four of them, all newly translated. Electra portrays the grief of a young woman for her father, Agamemnon, who has been killed by her mother's lover. Ajax depicts the enigma of power and weakness vis-àvis the fall of the great hero. Women of Trachis dramatizes the tragic love and error of Heracles's deserted wife, Deianeira; Philoctetes examines the conflict between physical force and moral strength.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
(1887). When Orestes enters, stained with blood, he and Electra have a short but significant exchange. This is a moment of great danger —one where one could commit a regrettable excess, or reveal mental instability. In their brief dialogue, both are markedly restrained: ELECTRA Orestes, how does it go? ORESTES Good, so far —at least so far as Apollo's oracle was good. (1897-99) In the dark reading, this line can be taken to mean that Apollo's oracle was not valid, but Orestes himself means that
the right. That is the oracle. Here is the plan: you go into the house at the first chance. Find out all that is happening there. Find out and report to us. Be very clear. You're so old, they won't know you. And your garlands will fool them. Now this is your story: you're a stranger from Phocis, from the house of Phanoteus (he's the most powerful ally they have). Tell them on oath that Orestes is dead. An accident. Fatal: rolled out of his chariot on the racetrack at Delphi. Dragged to death
Menelaus' sake, n o , not at all. But even if—let's say we grant your claim — he did these things to help his brother, was it right h e should die for it at your hands? By what law? W a t c h out: this particular law could recoil upon your own head. If we m a d e it a rule to answer killing with killing, you would die first, in all justice. O p e n your eyes! T h e claim is a fake. Tell me: why do you live this way? Your life is filth. You share your bed with a bloodstained man: once he obliged
Did he have some share in the pain of her birth? No —I did it myself! (711-12) To an audience member who knows his Aeschylus and who routinely thinks in terms of justice versus expediency, it seems that Clytemnestra has challenged Eleetra on her own ground. Electra attempts to refute Clytemnestra's |ustice argument by offering another version of the events at Aulis, in which Agamemnon had no choice but to sacrifice his daughter. This is not a particularly effective counter to Clytemnestra's
reading and assume that this shows that Electra is profoundly mistaken. For one thing, in the mythical time line, so to speak, the world of some higher form of justice than an eye for an eye is still to come. Indeed, Orestes is going to be the catalyst for its appearance. More important, we must keep the context of this defective justice argument in mind. In the overall structure of this speech, it is not presented as the main argument. Electra began on quite a different note: All right then.