Elektra (Sophocles)

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Elektra is a tragedy by the Greek tragedy poet Sophocles . The play premiered in Athens around 413 BC .


Elektra , daughter of Klytaimnestra and Agamemnon , passes away in mourning for her father, who was murdered by her mother and her lover Aigisthus . She demands revenge on Clytaimnestra and Aigisthos and accuses them of having killed Agamemnon only to maintain their love affair. On the other hand, Clytaimnestra, who feels no remorse about the murder, claims that her husband deserved to die because he sacrificed her other daughter Iphigenia at the altar of Artemis in the Trojan War.

Meanwhile, Electra's brother Orestes is far from home in order to escape a fate similar to that of Agamemnon. Elektra sees in him an ally in her plans for revenge and sincerely hopes for his return. Klytaimnestra sees in him a threat to her life and fears a possible return.

In the second appearance, an old man brings the message that Orestes had an accident in a chariot race in Delphi. Klytaimnestra thinks her prayers have been heard, Elektra sinks even deeper into her misery and her lamentation . Electra resignedly asks her sister Chrysothemis for help, but she submits to her mother's authority.

The alleged urn of Orestes is brought to Mycenae by a figure who later surprisingly reveals himself to be Orestes. He pretended to be an accident to mislead his mother. Orestes then performs the act of revenge and kills Clytaimnestra. Aigisthus steps up and thinks that the veiled corpse belongs to Orestes. When he realizes that it is his deceased lover, Orestes forces him to go to the same place where Agamemnon was slain and kills Aigisthus there.


  • Elektra
  • Orestes
  • The old servant
  • Pylades
  • Chrysothemis
  • Clytaimnestra
  • Aigisthus
  • Choir of the Women of Mycenae
  • Leader of the choir

Family table

                                |                  |
Zeus – Leda – Tyndareos      Atreus              Thyestes
 |_____|  |______|           ___|_______           |
    |         |             |           |        Aigisthos
  Helena    Klytaimnestra – Agamemnon  Menelaos
              |      |           |     |
      Iphigeneia   Elektra  Orestes   Chrysothemis


Suffering and the resulting cycle of vengeance are essential elements in Sophocles' work Elektra. According to the principle of vigilante justice, suffering is paid for with suffering, death is avenged by death. This raises the question to what extent this behavior is justified.

Was it justified for Clytaimnestra to kill Agamemnon when he was sacrificing her daughter Iphigenia? But wasn't Elektra just as right when she demanded vengeance on Clytaimnestra, since she learned of her father's death through a motherly hand?

These questions are part of the piece's intention and lead to compassion and empathy . The viewer is supposed to get to grips with their situation through the protagonists' repeated and repeated wailing and is thus able to judge the conflict portrayed in Elektra for themselves. This also happens through the language that Sophocles himself defined as the most ethical and the best . This means that language corresponds most closely to the inner essence, the soul of the individual.


Based on Sophocles' drama, Hugo von Hofmannsthal created his Elektra (premiered Berlin 1903). This was set to music by Richard Strauss ; the opera Elektra was premiered in Dresden in 1909.

See also

Text editions and translations

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