Farmhouse. Farm near the Greek city Argos. No farmhouse seems fitting for a princess to inhabit. In such locations one expects to encounter wholesome bucolic activities. Ironically, the place is used for royal machinations, including regicide and matricide. In Euripides’ version of the story the queen and usurping king are slaughtered by the queen’s children, not in a castle, but on a farm, where animals may be killed for food. The location challenges and reinforces other challenges in the play to conventional beliefs about the pitch of royalty.
The farm houses Princess Electra, in Euripides’ version of the story married off beneath her class in order to delegitimate any offspring she might have. Once nubile, but now twisted in her desires, Electra has maintained her virginity during her time in rural exile, while perversely embracing what she regards as the demeaning chores of a farm wife. Averse to frequent baths, a privilege of the rich, she ironically insists on hauling water from the well, actively underscoring her outrage at the mean place to which she has been relegated.
Euripides’ play suggests that the farm and its cultivator are morally superior to the palace, its scheming residents, and its exiles. The humble land of a decent farmer, is here a ground of virtue in relation to which the excesses, base motives, and seamy deeds of aristocrats can be evaluated. The farm, the farmer, and people like him are admirable. Tragically, the petty and untrustworthy nobility, who pursue their selfish ends in the guise of heroism, hold dominion over the good.