Electra exits the palace and begins to cry to the sky and the sun. She notes that her sorrow continues with each new day, and through the night she continues her mourning as well. What’s more, she reveals that even her own home is a source of her constant mourning for her deceased father. This is because Electra’s own mother, Clytemnestra, and her second husband, Aegisthus, murdered Electra’s father, Agamemnon.
According to Greek myth, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to appease the goddess Artemis, and Clytemnestra and Aegisthus killed Agamemnon to avenge Iphigenia. Many years have passed since Agamemnon’s murder, but Electra’s grief is still raw, which suggests that mourning the loss of a loved one, particularly a parent, is a life-long struggle.
Electra maintains that she will never stop mourning her father and will instead continue crying like a nightingale. Electra calls out to the curse that her father supposedly bore and to the “dread Furies of vengeance.” She prays to them to punish her father’s murderers and bring her brother, Orestes, back to her. She laments that her grief is too extreme to handle on her own any longer.
The nightingale, which is symbolic of Electra’s grief and mourning, is a reference to Procne, a mythological figure who killed her son, Itys, as revenge for the rape of her sister, Philomela, by Procne’s husband Tereus. After killing her son, Procne was transformed into a nightingale, and she is often viewed as a primary figure of grief in Greek literature. This passage also reflects Sophocles’s overarching theme of gender roles and how they play out in individuals’ lives. Here, Electra considers herself too weak to shoulder the burden of her grief because, as a woman, society expects her to be helpless.