Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 492
Electra (ee-LEHK-truh), daughter of the slain king, Agamemnon, and his devious wife, Clytemnestra, who spends her virginal life—her name, a variation on A-lectra, means unbedded—mourning the death of her father. Electra, witnessing her father’s murder at the hands of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, with whom Clytemnestra conspires in the killing of her husband, vows to avenge her father’s death, plotting carefully to bring Clytemnestra and Aegisthus to account, which, with the help of her brother, Orestes, she eventually succeeds in doing.
Orestes (oh-REHS-teez), Electra’s brother, son of the slain king, Agamemnon, and his adulterous wife, Clytemnestra. The god Apollo has given Orestes a mandate to avenge his father’s murder, which he sets out to do as soon as he becomes an adult. In order to gain an advantage, Orestes, Paedagogus, and Orestes’ friend, Pylades, implement the deception that Orestes has been killed in a chariot accident. Orestes, now disguised as a Phocian, returns to Mycenae, ironically bringing what are purported to be his own ashes to his mother. Electra does not recognize her brother, who eventually reveals himself to her. He and Pylades leave the stage, where Electra and the Chorus hear Clytemnestra’s death shrieks. Aegisthus arrives, relieved by his misconception that Orestes is dead. Entering a room to find evidence of Orestes’ demise by viewing his ashes, he is astounded to discover Clytemnestra’s lifeless body. He dies immediately afterward at the hands of Orestes, who has, by killing the two, fulfilled Apollo’s mandate.
Clytemnestra (kli-tehm-NEHS-truh), widow of King Agamemnon, adulterous lover of his successor, Aegisthus, with whom she has murdered her former husband, father of her children, Orestes, Electra, and Chrysothemis. When news reaches her of Orestes’ death, Clytemnestra is simultaneously grieved that her son is dead and relieved that the threat he poses no longer overshadows her.
Aegisthus (ee-JIHS-thuhs), King Agamemnon’s cousin who murders and succeeds him as king. Aegisthus has lured Clytemnestra, his lover, into helping him to kill the king, clearing the way for him to succeed Agamemnon as king of Mycenae.
Paedagogus (pee-dah-GOH-guhs), Orestes’ faithful servant and teacher, who helps the orphaned prince plot his vengeance against Aegisthus and Clytemnestra for murdering his father, King Agamemnon. The killing of the two murderers fulfills Apollo’s command.
Pylades (PEE-lah-deez), Orestes’ faithful friend, who, along with Paedagogus, helps Orestes hatch the plot to avenge his father’s death by ambushing and killing Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.
Chrysothemis (kree-sah-THEE-mihs), sister of Orestes and Electra, Clytemnestra’s daughter. She wishes to honor her supposedly dead brother, but she is weak and, when she learns of the plot to bring Aegisthus and Clytemnestra to account, shrinks from involvement in it. Chrysothemis wants only to live comfortably and without conflict.
The Chorus of women of Mycenae
The Chorus of women of Mycenae, who represent the social conscience and moral outlook of the citizens of the city-state of Mycenae.
Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 365
Son of Thyestes, Aegisthos is Clytemnestra's former lover (and now husband) who conspired with her to murder Agamemnon.
Chorus of Mycenaean Women
The Chorus provides background information and narrates the offstage violence. While they recognize the justice of Electra's cause, they urge her to take a stoic position. They deplore Clytemnestra's crime but advise Electra, rather than seek revenge, to leave revenge to the gods and to accept the fact that all people, being mortal, die.
Daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Chrysothemis is the sister of Electra and Orestes. She refuses to help Electra with her planned revenge against their mother, Clytemnestra, for murdering their father. Chrysodiemis urges Electra to be reasonable, though Electra accuses her sister of cowardice.
Agamemnon's wife, who, along with her lover Aegisthos, killed her husband, because of the role Agamemnon played in sacrificing their daughter, Iphigeneia.
The daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Electra's sister is Chrysothemis and her brother is Orestes. Iphigeneia, whom her father sacrificed to the gods, was also her sister. Electra is a strong character, determined and directed, though she is incapable of heeding the moderating voice of the Chorus or the explanations of her mother. She publicly mourns her father's death and her mother's marriage to his murderer. When she believes that Orestes is dead, she mourns for him but is overjoyed to learn he is alive and participates in his revenge against Clytemnestra and Aegisthos.
Son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, Orestes is brother to Electra and Chrysothemis. After her father's murder, Electra protected Orestes by sending him off to Phocis, where he was raised by Paidagogos. Orestes fakes his own death to gain access to the palace, then kills his mother Clytemnestra and her husband Aegisthos. The play ends here, but according to myth, Orestes was pursued and punished by the Furies for his act of matricide.
A loyal friend of Agamemnon, Paidagogos hid, protected, and raised Orestes when, after his father's murder, Electra entrusted her brother into his care. Paidagogos returns to help Orestes and Electra avenge Agamemnon's murder, first pretending to be a traveler with news of Orestes's death and later helping Orestes storm the palace.
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