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Iphigenia Character Analysis

Iphigenia is Agamemnon and Clytemnestra’s daughter and sister to Electra, Orestes, and Chrysothemis. According to Greek mythology, Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis to appease the goddess after offending her. As punishment for Agamemnon’s offense (he shot a stag from Artemis’s “sacred grove”), Artemis stalled the winds, which halted the Greek ships headed to Troy to fight the Trojan War. After Agamemnon returned from the war, Clytemnestra and Aegisthus murdered him as revenge for Iphigenia’s death, and in Electra, Electra and Orestes in turn seek revenge against Clytemnestra and Aegisthus for the murder of Agamemnon. Through the chain of events sparked by the sacrifice of Iphigenia, Sophocles underscores the shortsightedness of the Greek “blood for blood” system of justice, which only leads to a never-ending cycle of revenge and death.

Iphigenia Quotes in Electra

The Electra quotes below are all either spoken by Iphigenia or refer to Iphigenia . 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 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:
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:
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Iphigenia Character Timeline in Electra

The timeline below shows where the character Iphigenia appears in Electra. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 516-822
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...“Justice” dictated it. According to Clytemnestra, Agamemnon committed the terrible crime of sacrificing Electra’s sister, Iphigenia, to the gods. She says that he had “no right” to kill a daughter of... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...the crime because she had been seduced by Aegisthus. Furthermore, Electra says, Agamemnon’s sacrifice of Iphigenia was not for Menelaus but for Artemis, and since the sacrifice was for a goddess,... (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, Electra maintains. “What... (full context)