Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Zeus (zews), the principal Greek god. He knows that people are completely free, that the gods are in fact powerless over them, and that only those who accept the laws of the gods can be controlled through remorse. Because of this, he successfully breaks the brother-sister alliance between Orestes and Electra and destroys her once-defiant spirit by instilling fear and anguish in her heart. This is also why he warns the compliant Aegistheus of his planned assassination, even though fifteen years earlier he did not warn Agamemnon (a-guh-MEHM-nahn). Electra and Aegistheus have accepted his edicts, but with Orestes, Zeus finds his apparent omnipotence and his blandishments to be useless as he tries to convince the young hero to pledge his total allegiance to the divine order. While admitting defeat in this instance, he reminds Electra of his unshaken power over her and all those who accept the gods’ laws.


Orestes (uh-REHS-teez), the son of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra. If at first he is a disinterested observer of the human scene, he soon is concerned, upon his return to Argos from exile, by the virtual enslavement of the people caused by the guilt they feel concerning the murder of his father years ago. Following his encounter with Zeus and Electra, he becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his rootlessness and searches for the type of commitment that will allow him full expression of his identity. He then decides to avenge his father’s death by killing his mother and her new husband, thereby affirming his free will utterly and irrevocably. Despite his tutor’s wishes and the gods’ threats, he commits himself to the human community and assumes the burden of their remorse as well as the responsibility for his own double crime....

(The entire section is 762 words.)