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Menelaus Character Analysis

Menelaus is Agamemnon’s brother. Clytemnestra claims that Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia to help Menelaus, which is a direct reference to Menelaus’s wife, Helen, and the Trojan War. In Greek mythology, Helen left Menelaus and ran off with Paris, the prince of Troy, and the Trojan War was, at least in part, fought to get her back. Since Agamemnon had angered the goddess Artemis, who then stalled the winds, the Greeks were not able to set sail for Troy until Agamemnon placated the goddess by offering Iphigenia as a sacrifice. Clytemnestra implies that Agamemnon killed their daughter to aid his brother’s war, which both Clytemnestra and Sophocles argue is immoral and unjustified.

Menelaus Quotes in Electra

The Electra quotes below are all either spoken by Menelaus or refer to Menelaus. 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 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:
Get the entire Electra LitChart as a printable PDF.
Electra PDF

Menelaus Character Timeline in Electra

The timeline below shows where the character Menelaus appears in Electra. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 516-822
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...it was to help the Greeks, Clytemnestra knows it was actually to help his brother, Menelaus. Menelaus should have offered one of his own children, not hers, Clytemnestra claims. (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...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, Agamemnon had no choice... (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 was your justification?”... (full context)