Electra

by

Sophocles

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The Chorus Character Analysis

The chorus is a group of Mycenean women. The chorus serves mainly to console Electra and advance and enrich the plot, but they also highlight the sexist nature of ancient Greek society and provide evidence that grief and mourning do not end simply because others say they should. The chorus is sympathetic to Electra’s plight, but they repeatedly encourage her to stop mourning. It won’t bring Agamemnon back, they say, and it “offers no release from suffering’s chains.” Electra’s grief, however, is uniquely her own, and it doesn’t respond to the chorus’s reasoning. The chorus also implores Electra to stop publicly mourning because in doing so, she knowingly angers Aegisthus, and they think that Electra should not “fight with the strong.” In this way, the chorus upholds their society’s sexist belief that Electra must be weak because she is woman. Electra, of course, proves them wrong, and the chorus celebrates her newfound freedom at the end of the play.

The Chorus Quotes in Electra

The Electra quotes below are all either spoken by The Chorus or refer to The Chorus. 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 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:
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

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:
Lines 871-1057 Quotes

Yes, women, if Electra had any sense at all,
She wouldn’t have thrown all caution to the winds
Before giving tongue. What are you trying to do?
Why are you putting on this audacious front
And calling on me to follow? Don’t you see?
You’re not a man, but a woman. You haven’t the strength
To conquer your foes. Their star is rising daily,
While our fortunes are ebbing away to nothing.
Who could plot to murder a man as strong
As Aegisthus and then emerge from the fray unscathed?

Related Characters: Chrysothemis (speaker), Electra, Aegisthus, The Chorus
Page Number: 993-1002
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

The Chorus Character Timeline in Electra

The timeline below shows where the character The Chorus appears in Electra. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 121-250
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
A chorus of Mycenean women arrive in front of the palace gateway, crying out to Electra with... (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... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...messages and says he wants to come home, but he has not yet returned. The chorus encourages Electra to remain hopeful, because Zeus is watching over everything. They tell Electra to... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
...all meaning; she 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... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
The chorus, however, tells Electra that she has caused much of her own misery, because she keeps... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
The chorus tells Electra again that she’ll only get herself into trouble, but she disagrees. She says... (full context)
Lines 251-470
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
Electra tells the chorus that she feels “ashamed” of her laments, since they must make her seem bitter, but... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
...for Orestes to return, and she’s starting to think he might never come. To the chorus, she muses that because everything around her is evil, she might have no choice but... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
The chorus worries that Aegisthus may be close enough to hear, but Electra says that he isn’t... (full context)
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
...called “Clytemnestra’s daughter.” Electra says that Chrysothemis has “betrayed” their family, at which point the chorus interrupts, begging both sisters to listen to each other instead of fighting. (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
Chrysothemis tells the chorus that Aegisthus is going to make Electra stop grieving soon. She claims that if Electra... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
...instead offer strands of hair from their heads and pray for Orestes to return. The chorus agrees and encourages Chrysothemis to do as Electra says. Chrysothemis consents, but she begs the... (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.... (full context)
Lines 516-822
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
The chorus says that Electra no longer seems to care whether she’s right or wrong, and Clytemnestra... (full context)
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
The old slave whether the palace belongs to Aegisthus. When the chorus confirms that it does, the old slave tells Clytemnestra that he has been sent from... (full context)
Lines 823-870
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Electra continues to wail as the chorus wonders where Zeus is and why he isn’t intervening. The chorus begs Electra to stop... (full context)
Lines 1058-1097
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
“Oh, where is wisdom?” the chorus asks, going on to suggest that it lives in the sky with the birds, who... (full context)
Lines 1098-1383
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
Orestes enters with Pylades, carrying the small bronze urn. Orestes asks the chorus where he might find the house of Aegisthus. Electra cries out upon seeing him, afraid... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Deception, Falsehood, and Trust Theme Icon
The chorus again reminds Electra that they all must die, so she shouldn’t grieve too much. Orestes... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
...seal, and the two embrace joyfully, promising never to part again. Electra  yells to the chorus in delight that Orestes has returned. Orestes begs his sister to keep quiet and be... (full context)
Lines 1384-1397
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
“Look at the fire sweeping the bush,” the chorus sings, describing how war is descending on the palace. They watch as Orestes paces inside... (full context)
Lines 1398-1510
Gender and Society Theme Icon
Electra exits the palace alone and the chorus begs to know what’s going on inside. Electra tells the women that Clytemnestra is “dressing... (full context)
Justice and Revenge Theme Icon
The chorus sings that the curse is now taking effect. Then, Orestes and Pylades exit the palace,... (full context)
Gender and Society Theme Icon
...look after everything here,” Electra says to Orestes as he rushes into the palace. The chorus tells Electra to speak calmly to Aegisthus so that he won’t guess he’s about to... (full context)
Grief, Mourning, and Morality Theme Icon
Gender and Society Theme Icon
The chorus cheers that Electra is free at last, despite how much pain she’s gone through along... (full context)