Electra

by

Sophocles

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Agamemnon Character Analysis

Agamemnon is Clytemnestra’s first husband and father to Electra, Orestes, Iphigenia, and Chrysothemis. According to Greek myth, after Agamemnon offended the goddess Artemis and she stalled the winds, halting the fleet of Greek warriors headed to fight in the Trojan War, Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia to placate Artemis and resume the fleet’s progress. Agamemnon’s sacrifice of Iphigenia began a cycle of revenge killings that leads to Orestes’s murder of his mother, Clytemnestra, in Electra. Like all the killing in Electra, Agamemnon’s murder of Iphigenia was senseless and cruel, and Sophocles implies that his choice to kill his own daughter can’t be justified, even in the name of the gods.

Agamemnon Quotes in Electra

The Electra quotes below are all either spoken by Agamemnon or refer to Agamemnon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Electra published in 2008.
Lines 1-85 Quotes

To the left the famous temple of Hera. The place
We have reached you may call Mycenae, rich in gold,
And here the palace of Atreus, rich in blood.
From here, some years ago, when your father was murdered,
Your sister Electra handed you into my care.
I carried you off, I saved your life, and then
I brought you up as my own, until you reached
Your prime of manhood, to avenge your father’s murder.

Related Characters: Old Slave (speaker), Electra, Orestes, Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, Agamemnon, Atreus, Pelops, Zeus
Page Number: 7-14
Explanation and Analysis:

Our crafty tale will bring them the glad tidings
That my body has been cremated and now consists
Of nothing but charred remains. What harm does it do me
To say I’m dead? None, if the outcome proves
My real salvation and wins me a glorious prize.
In my opinion, no word can be a bad omen
If it leads to gain. A false report of death
Is a trick I’ve often seen used by clever philosophers.

Related Characters: Orestes (speaker), Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Old Slave, Pylades, The Furies
Page Number: 56-63
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 86-120 Quotes

But I shall never
End my dirges and bitter laments
While I still see the twinkling,
All-radiant stars and the daylight,
Nor cease to keen like the nightingale
Who killed her young, crying my sorrow
To the world here by the royal gateway.

Related Characters: Electra (speaker), Clytemnestra, Agamemnon
Related Symbols: The Nightingale
Page Number: 103-109
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 121-250 Quotes

CHORUS:
But how, how will dirges and prayers
Help to summon your father back,
Up from the Lake of Death which none escapes?
No, in your limitless grief you are fatally
Parting from reason for pain without remedy.
This sighing offers no release from suffering’s chains.
So why, why court such senseless anguish?

ELECTRA:
None but a fool forgets their
Parents grievously gone to the underworld.

Related Characters: Electra (speaker), The Chorus (speaker), Clytemnestra, Agamemnon
Page Number: 137-146
Explanation and Analysis:

The shame of your present wretched state,
Is all of your own making.
Your trials are worse than they need to be.
Your sullen soul keeps breeding wars
Which cannot be won. Don’t fight with the strong.
How can you come near them?

Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Electra, Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, Agamemnon
Page Number: 215-220
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 251-470 Quotes

Women, all these laments of mine must make
Me seem so very embittered. I feel ashamed.
I’m forced to do it, though. You must forgive me.
A woman of noble birth could not act otherwise.
When she sees the troubles that haunt her father’s house
Not fading away but growing day and night.

Related Characters: Electra (speaker), Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, The Chorus, Agamemnon, Iphigenia , Atreus, Pelops
Page Number: 254-260
Explanation and Analysis:

Here you are again, holding forth
At the palace gateway! Electra, what are you doing?
Haven’t you learned by now? Your anger’s pointless.
Don’t indulge it for nothing. I must admit
This situation distresses me too. If only
I had the strength, I’d show them how I feel.
But things are bad. It’s wiser to trim my sails,
Not pose as a threat without any power to harm.
I wish you’d do the same. I know full well
That right is on your side, but if I want
To be free, our lords and masters must be obeyed.

Related Characters: Chrysothemis (speaker), Electra, Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, Agamemnon
Page Number: 328-340
Explanation and Analysis:

They say she saw our father beside her again,
Restored to life. He then took hold of the staff
He used to carry and now Aegisthus wields,
And planted it on the hearth. This sprouted up
And grew to a leafy branch which overshadowed
The whole of Mycenae. So much I learned
From someone present when she revealed her dream
To the god of the Sun. That’s all I know, except
That our mother’s frightened enough to send me out.

Related Characters: Chrysothemis (speaker), Electra, Orestes, Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, Agamemnon, Apollo
Page Number: 417-427
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 473-515 Quotes

When Pelops in past ages
Won the race with his chariot,
What never-ending sorrow
Struck this land!
When Myrtilus, his helper,
Was drowned beneath the ocean
Tossed headlong from his chariot,
He cursed the race of Pelops
And died in great anguish.
Since that day
This palace has been haunted
By suffering and anguish.

Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Electra, Orestes, Agamemnon, Iphigenia , Atreus, Pelops, Myrtilus
Page Number: 504-515
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 516-822 Quotes

Your constant pretext is simply this: I killed
Your father. Yes, I did. I’m well aware of that
And won’t pretend to deny it. Justice determined
His death; I wasn’t alone. And you should have taken
The side of Justice, if you’d had any sense.
Listen! This father of yours whom you’re always lamenting
Committed the most barbaric crime: he sacrificed
Your sister to the gods. Iphigenia’s birth
Never cost him the pains of labour that I went through.
Very well. Now answer this question. Why did he sacrifice her?
To help the Greeks? But they enjoyed no right
To kill a daughter of mine. Or did he kill
My child to help his brother Menelaus?
In that case, didn’t he owe me some satisfaction?

Related Characters: Clytemnestra (speaker), Electra, Agamemnon, Iphigenia , Menelaus
Page Number: 525-538
Explanation and Analysis:

Very well, then, listen. You say you killed my father.
What admission could be more shameful than that,
Whether or not justice was on your side?
I put it to you, it wasn’t justice that drove
You to kill him. No, you were seduced by the evil man
Who is now your partner. Ask Artemis, the hunter
Goddess, why she becalmed the fleet at Aulis,
As none of the winds would blow. What was she punishing?
I’ll give you the answer. We can’t cross-question her.
My father, as I’ve been told, was out on a hunt
In Artemis’ sacred grove, when his footfall startled
A dappled stag from its covert. After he’d shot it,
He accidentally let fall some boastful words.
This made the goddess angry, and so she held
The Greek fleet up, to make my father atone
For the stag by sacrificing his daughter.
That’s how it occurred. It was the only solution.
The ships couldn’t sail back home or across to Troy.
He sacrificed Iphigenia under compulsion;
With great reluctance. It wasn’t for Menelaus.

Related Characters: Electra (speaker), Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Iphigenia , Menelaus, Artemis
Page Number: 558-576
Explanation and Analysis:

CHORUS LEADER [to ELECTRA]:
I see she’s fuming with anger. She looks to me
No longer concerned whether she’s in the right.

CLYTEMNESTRA:
Why should I feel any concern for her
When she has hurled these insults against her mother?
She’s old enough to know better. Utterly shameless!
Don’t you believe she’d stoop to anything?

ELECTRA:
Let me assure you, however it looks to you,
I am ashamed of my actions and very aware
Of being untrue to myself. But your hostility
And cruel treatment force this behaviour on me.
Shameful ways are learned by shameful example.

Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Electra, Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, Agamemnon
Page Number: 610-621
Explanation and Analysis:

These visions that came to me last night,
These doubtful dreams, Lycean Lord,
If they boded good, grant them fulfilment;
If evil, let them rebound on my foes.
If any by craft would steal the wealth
That I now enjoy, let it not be.
Vouchsafe me always to live as I am,
With life unharmed, to govern the house
Of Atreus’ sons and all this realm.
To dwell in prosperous joy with the friends
I love, who presently share my home.
And with those of my children who bear
No malice against me nor cause me pain.
These prayers, Lycean Apollo, graciously hear
And grant us our humble requests.

Related Characters: Clytemnestra (speaker), Chrysothemis, Agamemnon, Atreus, Apollo
Page Number: 644-656
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 871-1057 Quotes

So long as I still had word that our brother Orestes
Was alive and well, I went on hoping that he
Would one day come to avenge his father’s murder.
But now that he’s gone for good, I’m looking to you.
You mustn’t flinch. Your sister needs your help
To kill Aegisthus—the man who perpetrated
Our father’s murder. No secrets between us now.
Where will inaction get you? What can you still
Look forward to? Only resentment in being deprived
Of your father’s heritage. Only the pain of growing
Old without the blessings of love or marriage.
Those joys are nothing more than a forlorn hope.
Aegisthus isn’t foolish enough to allow
A son of yours—or a son of mine—to grow
To manhood and so to ensure his own destruction.

Related Characters: Electra (speaker), Orestes, Aegisthus, Chrysothemis, Agamemnon
Page Number: 951-966
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 1398-1510 Quotes

O seed of Atreus, how much you have suffered!
But now this attack has forced you out
Into freedom. You’ve come to the ending.

Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Electra, Orestes, Aegisthus, Agamemnon, Atreus, The Furies
Page Number: 1508-1510
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Electra LitChart as a printable PDF.
Electra PDF

Agamemnon Character Timeline in Electra

The timeline below shows where the character Agamemnon appears in Electra. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-85
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...Electra, gave Orestes over to the old slave’s care after the murder of their father, Agamemnon. The old slave recalls how he raised Orestes as if he were his own son... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
For now, Orestes says, they will “pour libations” onto Agamemnon’s grave, and place lock of hair from Orestes’s own head on it. The bronze urn... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...Orestes refuses, saying that they have to do as Apollo orders and start by visiting Agamemnon’s grave. (full context)
Lines 86-120
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...This is because Electra’s own mother, Clytemnestra, and her second husband, Aegisthus, murdered Electra’s father, Agamemnon. (full context)
Lines 121-250
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
...out to Electra with pity. The women ask Electra why she is still weeping over Agamemnon’s death. Electra knows the women have come to comfort her, but she refuses to stop... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
The chorus asks Electra how her all of her mourning can bring Agamemnon back. They claim that her grief doesn’t make her feel any better, and they wonder... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
...is treated like a worthless stranger in her own father’s house. The chorus cries for Agamemnon and his untimely death. Electra agrees, say that that day was the worst of her... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...“evil” directly and continuing mourning just as forcefully as she’s been doing. She won’t let Agamemnon’s killers get away without “pay[ing] with blood for blood,” adding that she’s bound by her... (full context)
Lines 251-470
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
...Electra and her mother, Clytemnestra, are now enemies, and Electra is forced to live with Agamemnon’s murderers and watch Aegisthus sit on her father’s throne. What’s worse, Electra is forced to... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
...to take pleasure in her despicable behavior. Every month, Clytemnestra dedicates the day she killed Agamemnon to dancing and making sacrifices to the gods. Clytemnestra forbids Electra to grieve and frequently... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
...obey those who are more powerful than themselves. Electra, however, accuses her sister of forgetting Agamemnon and thinking only of Clytemnestra.  (full context)
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
Electra refuses to stop mourning, telling Chrysothemis that irritating Agamemnon’s murderers is a way of honoring his memory. Her sister says that she hates Clytemnestra... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...and to whom she’s bringing offerings. Chrysothemis says that she is carrying Clytemnestra’s libations for Agamemnon’s grave. Electra is shocked and wants to know why her mother is sending libations to... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
...offerings and hide them deep in the earth where they will be unable to reach Agamemnon’s grave. Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon cruelly, Electra reminds Chrysothemis, so there’s no way gifts can undo... (full context)
Lines 473-515
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
The chorus says that it must have been “Justice” that sent the nightmare about Agamemnon to Clytemnestra. They mention a “fearsome Fury” waiting to attack Agamemnon’s murderers, whose union they... (full context)
Lines 516-822
Gender and Society Theme Icon
...that Electra herself directs at Clytemnestra. Clytemnestra knows that Electra hates her because she killed Agamemnon, and Clytemnestra doesn’t deny that she killed him. (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
However, Clytemnestra claims that she had to kill Agamemnon because “Justice” dictated it. According to Clytemnestra, Agamemnon committed the terrible crime of sacrificing Electra’s... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Electra claims that Clytemnestra didn’t really kill Agamemnon for “justice.” Rather, she says her mother committed the crime because she had been seduced... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Even if Agamemnon did sacrifice Iphigenia to help Menelaus, that still does not make Clytemnestra in the right,... (full context)
Lines 871-1057
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
...news with Electra. Chrysothemis claims that Orestes has come back. There are fresh offerings on Agamemnon’s grave, she says, of milk, flowers, and “a lock of hair, newly cut off.” It... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
...risk of letting one of them have a son who might grow up to avenge Agamemnon’s death. But if they kill Aegisthus, they will win their freedom and be admired among... (full context)
Lines 1058-1097
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...The women call again to Zeus, telling of the a “plague” that has fallen on Agamemnon’s house. The children battle with one another; Electra despises Chrysothemis, and it seems as if... (full context)
Lines 1098-1383
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
“You are Orestes?” Electra exclaims. Orestes shows her a ring bearing Agamemnon’s seal, and the two embrace joyfully, promising never to part again. Electra  yells to the... (full context)
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
...can celebrate after their plan succeeds. Electra agrees, saying how miraculous Orestes’s return—it’s much like Agamemnon himself had been restored to life. Aegisthus is not at home, she tells her brother,... (full context)
Lines 1384-1397
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...is descending on the palace. They watch as Orestes paces inside the palace, looking at Agamemnon’s throne and gripping his bloody sword. “The game’s afoot!” the women cry. (full context)
Lines 1398-1510
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...no more time for talking. Orestes orders Aegisthus to the very spot where Aegisthus murdered Agamemnon. Aegisthus wails that because of “the curse of Pelops’s house,” there’s already been so much... (full context)