Printer Friendly

"What sacrifices are necessary": the corruption of ritual paradigms in Euripides's Electra.


This diachronic exploration of Euripides's Electra seeks to demonstrate that the play's systematic deviation from normative ritual categories and experiences supplies a dramatic world congruent with the transgressive, divinely ordained violence undertaken by Orestes and Electra. Apollo's punitive intervention, it is argued, comes after and strategically reinforces the miasma initiated by Agamemnon's murder, and in this way the god models his retribution upon an existing pattern of Atreid transgression.


Enter my impoverished house, and take care that its smoke does not soil your robes. For you will make what sacrifices are necessary to the gods.

--Euripides, Electra


As Clytemnestra enters Electra's distant home for the first and last time in Euripides's tragedy, her daughter ironically cautions her not to ruin her fine robes with the soot and smoke that darken its interior space. However, a secondary, unintended irony complicates Electra's barbed invitation, for she supposes that the kinds of sacrifices owed by Clytemnestra to the gods necessitate the appropriation and corruption of existing ritual practice by offering maternal blood rather than that of an animal. Such "sacrifices" have been mandated by Apollo for Clytemnestra's punishment, but they nevertheless produce immense suffering, isolation, and moral turbulence. This tension suggests that the violence and the conditions precipitated by the Delphic god may, in fact, be destructive of the institutions that facilitate discourse between divine and human in Argos. The "bitter contest" (pikron ... t'agonisma), as Orestes describes it (Euripides, Electra 987), of committing such ritually framed atrocities provides the context and governing motif of the play's events, drawing its practitioners into a dramatic world outside the familiar protections of ritually paradigmatic experiences, spaces, and actions.

A number of scholars have applied the lens of ritual practice and religious activity to illuminate the dramatic world, characters, and action of Euripides's Electra. Froma Zeitlin focuses on celebration and sacrifice, and particularly on the Argive festival to Hera, as the play's primary ritual content, arguing that the Heraea serves as an "objective yardstick" (1970, 653) against which the moral and ritual chaos of the play's events is measured. Maria Mirto largely follows Zeitlin's identification of sacrifice as Electro's organizing theme (1980, 301-302), although adopting a more expansive approach to ritual practice in the play and locating in it both "a collaboration between divine ruthlessness and human passion" (una collaborazione tra spietatezza divina epassioni umane) and at the same time "a broken harmony between divinity and human society" (un'armonia infranta tra le divinita e la societa degli uomini) (329). More localized treatments of ritual in Euripides's Electra have also cast light on its use of and response to specific practices and categories: Barbara Goff (1991), for instance, explores the ways in which Orestes's identifying scar situates him as failed initiate in comparison to the Homeric Odysseus; whereas John Porter (1990) sees a disturbing appropriation of the Buphonia ritual in Orestes's assassination of Aegisthus. Such explorations reveal Euripides's Electra to be a particularly rich and challenging engagement with the ritual life of late fifth-century BCE Athens, the place and time of Electra's first production.

However, our appreciation of the play's complex treatment of Greek ritual could be deepened by more broadly synthesizing and tracking the thematic deviation from Greek ritual paradigms through which Euripides represents the moral disturbance occasioned by past Atreid transgressions and the play's revenge action. When considered along these more expansive lines, the notion of ritual in Electra reaches beyond the performance of sacrifice, and ritual misappropriation in the play consistently reinforces the sense of moral chaos established by earlier Atreid crimes and extended by Apollo's punitive mandate. This diachronic exploration of Euripides's Electra, then, will demonstrate that its systematic deviation from ritual categories and experiences supplies a dramatic world congruent with the divinely ordained bloodshed undertaken by Orestes and Electra. (1) Such an approach also offers a much needed departure from the dominant model of genre- and characterization-based discussion of the play, and may thereby enrich our understanding of how this dynamic tragedy drew upon and creatively reconfigured crucial elements of the world in which it was produced. (2)

At this early point, the question may arise whether this analysis will somehow cast Euripides as an atheist or as a critic of religious belief, for the discussion below will address Apollo's role in the continuation of troubling intra-familial violence and ritual corruption. (3) However, the text makes no such claims about either the existence of the gods or the legitimacy of eusebeia (piety). On the contrary, Apollo's intervention comes after and strategically reinforces the miasma initiated by Agamemnon's murder, and in this way the god models his retribution upon an existing pattern of Atreid transgression. This treatment of Electra will therefore make no attempt to reconstruct or assert Euripides's irretrievable religious beliefs. Instead, our focus will be directed entirely toward the effects and implications of the corrupt ritual world inhabited by the Atreids, and the agreement of that milieu with Electro's, events. As our discussion advances through the play, we will find that Electra formulates Apollo's retribution as the destructive perpetuation of the social dissolution and ritual crisis that already characterize the Atreid household and its environs.


David Konstan vividly proposes that "the horror naturally attaching to matricide dissolves the authority of divine ordinances, and renders moot the justice of the cause" (1985, 177). Although Apollo's power remains unchallenged at the drama's conclusion, the form of his punitive intervention raises important questions for a number of the dramatis personae. In the final scene of Euripides's Electra, the violence precipitated by Apollo's injunction comes in for strongly accusatory language from Castor, Clytemnestra's sibling and one of the dei ex machina (Pollux is present but silent) that draw the drama to a close. Castor confirms that, although Clytemnestra deserved punishment for her duplicitous assassination of Agamemnon, the Atreids' matricidal enactment of that penalty was unjust (Euripides, Electra 1244). The deferential aposiopesis that follows affirms Apollo's superior authority, but Castor nevertheless expresses doubt about the wisdom of the Delphic god's oracular mandate: "Phoebus, Phoebus ... and yet I keep silent, since he is my lord. But despite his wisdom, he did not issue wise prophecies to you [ouk ekhrese soi sopha] (1245-46). (4) Orestes and Electra have become the "murderers of their mother" (metros phonion]" (1324), and responsibility for the ritual pollution caused by Apollo's injunction (1266-67, 1296-97) is now explicitly ascribed to the god. (5)

Castor's guarded criticism is emblematic of the play's critical posture regarding Orestes's and Electra's ritualized violence. (6) His late revelation that the Trojan conflict was the baseless but unavoidable result of divine intervention strengthens the speech's association of Olympian intervention with the troubling destruction of human life. Zeus, Castor reveals, sent to Troy a phantom copy (eidolon) of Helen, who resided safely in Proteus's protection for the duration of the war, "in order that strife and murder of mortals might occur" (Euripides, Electra 1280-83). Like the Achaeans who inflicted "strife and murder" upon Troy, Orestes and Electra have perpetrated appalling but divinely mandated violence consistent with earlier patterns of Atreid atrocity. (7) In this context, Apollo's mandate constitutes an extension of existing Atreid violence rather than a conventionally justifiable resolution to the miasma caused by Agamemnon's murder.

This devastating convergence of ritual transgression, miasma, and divinely directed retribution emerges in other tragic texts, in which the gods enact their punishment through the continuation of an existing state of pollution and ritual neglect. In these instances, the tragedians establish a fearsome symmetry between human malfeasance and the gods' devastating punitive response. As in the conclusion to Euripides's Electra, Aeschylus's Eumenides dramatizes the aftermath of the matricide undertaken by Orestes, and here too Apollo's punishment of Clytemnestra takes the form of a repetition of harrowing intra-familial violence. In Eumenides, the tension between normative ritual performance and divine retribution emerges clearly from the sequence of dramatic events, for Orestes requires purification at Apollo's Delphic sanctuary (280-83) before he can seek protection and legal exoneration in Athens. After the cleansing necessitated by the matricide, Orestes gains acquittal from Athena herself, who ends the cycle of Atreid violence by appeasing Clytemnestra's avenging Furies and establishing Athens's first jury. In supplying a compelling religious aition for the rule of Athenian law, Aeschylus has Athens's eponymous deity both justify and arrest an Apollonian strategy of iterative retribution. In this way, Apollo's justice is enacted through repetition of past Tantalid violence, and his authority gains validation through the deciding vote cast by Athena.

Euripides's oeuvre likewise situates divine retribution as the imposed repetition of existing impiety and ritual negligence, and Bacchae provides a stark and distressing instantiation of this pattern. As the drama progresses, Dionysus (in whose annual City Dionysia tragedy has its origin) coaxes Thebes's recalcitrant monarch into a disastrous continuation of his earlier impiety against the god and his mother, Semele. By facilitating Pentheus's voyeuristic intrusion at the pious revelry of his followers, Dionysus catalyzes a scenario in which Pentheus suffers ritualized and ecstatic dismemberment at the hands of his own mother, who now directs her Dionysian fervor at kindred prey rather than an animal. The play's trajectory thus enacts Dionysus's observation about the relationship of ritual action to divine punishment: "The rites of the god detest the one who practices impiety [asebeian]" (Bacchae 476). The drama ends in the jarring display of Pentheus's remains and in disastrous exile for Thebes's royal house (1330-48, 1350-51), but also serves to valorize and extend the deity's authority and religious legitimacy.

Similarly, Castor's remarks at Electra's, conclusion illustrate the drama's broader account of the revenge action as a negative configuration of ritual practice set in motion by Apollo's punitive authority. Far from simply reflecting the ritual activity of Athens in the late fifth century BCE as Kultspiel, the play's action occurs as a series of refusals and failures to engage in the normative performance of ritual worship and the paradigmatic experiences of transition. (8) In this way, distorted ritual and arrested transition become a dramatic lens through which spectators may evaluate the murders of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. In the play's initial episodes, each Atreid sibling occupies a ritually significant stasis between adolescence and adulthood: Orestes remains a transitional figure who wanders the sockrspatial margins of Argos, and Electra's unusual enactment of the marriage arranged by her stepfather places her in an indeterminate position between kore (unmarried, adolescent female) and damar (female participant in a consummated marriage). Each subsequent stage of the drama is performed as an anomic, negated, or distorted version of the ritual practice typically devoted to care for the dead, sacrificial devotion to the gods, and therapeutic familial activity attendant upon childbirth. Electra thus employs the denial of definite social categories and corruption of standard ritual enactment as an illustrative context for Electra's and Orestes's pursuit of a revenge action demanded by Apollo but explicitly scrutinized at the play's conclusion. (9) II. II.


From its first moments, Electra departs from the normative social roles enshrined in Greek ritual by depicting its eponymous character as a married parthenos (virgin). (10) The play opens with a monologue (1-53) delivered by the impoverished Autourgos (11) with whom Aegisthus has arranged Electra's marriage. This soliloquy serves its typical Euripidean function of providing the contextual information requisite for audience comprehension of the events to follow, but the Autourgos also highlights the peculiar circumstances of his marriage to Electra. Regarding their strategically imposed marriage as illegitimate and deeming himself unworthy of the match (45-53), Electra's husband explains that he "has never shamed her bed, but she remains a parthenos" (43-44). In her initial meeting with Orestes, Electra will reiterate her arrested marital status and her consequent stasis between parthenia and feminine adulthood. She claims to "have made a marriage that is like death [thanasimon]" (247) and informs Orestes that her husband "never yet dared to touch my bed" (255), emphasizing the ethically based abstention articulated earlier by the Autourgos himself. Greek rites of transition between female adolescence and adulthood were enacted in ritual and myth as a kind of death and rebirth into a new social identity and stage of life. (12) Electra's characterization of her own marriage as persistently "deathlike" (thanasimon) draws attention to her prolonged occupation of a parthenic middle territory from which she has not fully advanced into the stable Greek category of feminine maturity.

The Autourgos further expresses the idiosyncracy of his relationship to Electra by imagining aloud the judgment of other Argive males, explaining his behavior in terms of the modest prudence that he deems appropriate to the circumstances: "Whoever claims that I'm foolish for not touching the young parthenos that I've taken into my house, let him know that he evaluates prudence [to sophron] by his mind's shameful standards and that he is the one who is foolish" (50-53). By anticipating the criticism of a hypothetical interlocutor, the Autourgos frames his connection to Electra in terms of its departure from expected practice. His admirable violation of the institutionalized marital pattern therefore requires a redefinition of sophrosyne (modest prudence) in terms that demand the avoidance of spousal intimacy. Since the production of children (and particularly citizen children in Athens) served as the primary defining consequence of Greek marital relations, Electra's parthenic stasis places her in an undefinable and isolated space between the ritually significant categories of adolescence and adulthood. Electra's pursuit of domestic labor, in spite of the Autourgos's protestations (64-66), also registers the dissonance between her status as married domestic partner and the parthenia preserved mutually by herself and her husband.

Orestes's assumptions about his sister's relationship to the Autourgos serve further to articulate normative marital patterns and therefore to highlight Electra's isolation as a married parthenos. As Electra and the Autourgos exit the stage, Orestes and his companion Pylades emerge to give a brief account of their arrival in Argos. Orestes recalls the offerings he has left at the hitherto neglected grave of Agamemnon, and his donation of a lock of hair and a sacrificed sheep comprise the only ritual act successfully undertaken by the Atreid siblings over the course of the drama--one that significantly occurs outside of the staged space of the drama. Orestes then raises the broad standard of expectation from which Electra's marriage departs: "They say," Orestes reports, "that [Electra] has been yoked in marriage and that she is no longer aparthenos" (98-99). Like the Autourgos, who responds to an imagined critic of his refusal to exploit Electra's circumstances by following expected marital behaviors, Orestes conveys a predictable, institutionalized association of marriage with the transition from parthenos to gyne or damar (married female who has engaged in sex with her spouse, with procreation as an intended result). By invoking both rumors of Electra's marriage and hypothetical reactions to it, the play's prologue positions Electra's parthenic stasis as a radical departure from the ritually sanctioned enactment of the Greek marital paradigm.


Electro*s first choral passage further highlights Electra's parthenic stasis and her ongoing rejection of ritually established marital relations, as well as foreclosing her participation in ritual care for Hera--an Olympian embodiment of domestic stability and fecundity. When the chorus of Argive women emerge after line hi, they share a passage of lyric dialogue (kommos) with Electra in mutual lamentation of her troubling circumstances (112-66). The chorus then inform Electra of the impending celebration of the Argive festival of Hera, the Heraea, and invite Electra to accompany them, even offering to loan her suitable garments for participation in their display of piety toward the goddess (190-92). The specific language of the chorus's invitation--"all of the parthenikai [females of parthenic status] will travel to Hera" (173-74)--is significant in exploring the play's presentation of Electra's continuing devotion to Agamemnon and her rejection of the ritually formulated transition from parthenos to gyne that Aegisthus wishes to impose. As Froma Zeitlin (1970, 652-53) has observed, the festival's function in enacting sacrifice for Hera, along with celebrating domestic stability and Argive prosperity, is antithetical to both the corrupt ritual world of the play and Electra's continuing occupation of the margin between female adolescence and adulthood.

In response to the chorus's association of Electra with Argive parthenoi, Electra refuses participation in the choral worship of Hera: "I will not stand in the choruses with Argive wives [nymphais], nor will I strike the ground with my foot in a circular dance" (178-80). (13) Aware of Electra's marital arrangement and her unusual status as a married parthenos, the chorus have attempted to coax her into participation by reference to other parthenoi in attendance. Electra's answer, however, registers her association with the Argive nymphai (married women) who will undertake the dance in Hera's honor. The chorus, puzzled by Electra's rejection of Hera's rites, call attention directly to Electra's aloofness from ritual practice, inquiring whether "you suppose that, although refusing to honor the gods [me timosa theous\, you will conquer your enemies with your tears" (193-95). By openly characterizing Electra as me timosa theous and drawing attention to her ongoing lamentation, the chorus foreground her rejection of ritual gestures toward the goddess most closely associated with Greek marriage, domesticity, and feminine adulthood. (14) Following a lamentation of her poverty (303-09) in the play's first episode, Electra reiterates her concurrent avoidance of ritual worship in the company of other parthenoi: "I do not participate in sacred festivals and I am deprived of choruses, and since I have no clothing, I reject parthenoi as well as [the worship of] Castor" (310-12). Her avoidance of ritual piety now extends beyond Hera to exclude the Dioscuri--blood relatives (on Clytemnestra's side) who were her former suitors (312-13) and who serve as the dei ex machina of the drama's closing episode. IV. IV.


Electra's parthenic stasis and the persistent lamentation through which she expresses the intractability of her circumstances accompany a continuing state of inertia vis-a-vis her care for and maintenance of Agamemnon's tomb. The portion of the first episode that precedes the reemergence of the Autourgos and the siblings' recognition reveals a ritual neglect of Agamemnon's grave consistent with the miasma (ritual pollution from bloodshed) and ritual dissolution that afflict both Argos and the Atreid household. When Electra locates Agamemnon's tomb in a space "thrust away [ekbletheis] from the house" (Euripides, Electra 289) of which he was formerly the head, she describes a marginal setting that is both consistent with the lack of funereal rites and offerings owed to the dead, and reflective of her own habitation of Argos's boundary regions. (15) While Clytemnestra remains in the Mycenaean palace along with the blood-pollution of Agamemnon's murder (314-19), Agamemnon's tomb remains "dishonored" (etimasmenos), having received neither the customary libation and myrtle branch nor any other offerings that would typically adorn the grave (323-35). Aegisthus's inebriated and offensive abuse of the burial site exacerbates its neglected state, which Electra attributes to Orestes's continuing absence from Argos (326-31). Although Orestes gives an account of his recent visitation of the grave in the play's prologue, the surprise expressed by the Old Man at finding Orestes's offerings provides a strong indication of the site's prolonged dereliction: "Who of men ever dared to visit the tomb? It was surely no one from Argos" (516-17). On the other hand, the fact that the Old Man notices the offerings while making his own dedication at the grave indicates that such action has previously been possible. Prior avoidance of ritual care for Agamemnon's grave is therefore revealed as a deliberate negligence that accompanies the pollution and dissipation that characterize conditions in Argos.


Like his sister Electra, Orestes occupies an indefinite transitional state between adolescence and adulthood. Whereas Electra remains a parthenos in spite of her imposed marriage, Orestes's extended absence from the Atreid household, his location on the Argive periphery, his limited agency and self-determination, and his previous lack of intervention on behalf of his murdered father situate him as an arrested figure who remains on the cusp of social and political maturity. The ending of this transitional period was typically marked by one's formal inclusion in polis life as an enfranchised male liable to perform military service and able to participate in Athenian political and judiciary institutions. Electra, on the other hand, represents Orestes as a marginal character perpetually isolated from the spatio-political core of Argos. Further, the scar that serves as Orestes's distinguishing feature alludes to Odysseus as a successful benchmark for the transition to adulthood, although the conditions in which Orestes obtains his token of recognition differ significantly from those of Odysseus, and suggest that Orestes can never make the transition to maturity accomplished by his Homeric antecedent.

Before discussion of Orestes's transitional stasis commences, a brief word is necessary concerning how the period of "ephebic youth" can be understood most appropriately and productively in approaching Electra's depiction of Orestes. A number of scholars (e.g., Leitao 1999; Polinskaya 2003; Dodd 2003; Porter 2003, 148) have departed from Pierre Vidal-Naquet's (1986, 106-28) influential structuralist association of the ephebe (whom he situates as a so-called "black hunter") with anti-social deception, hunting, and the occupation of liminal (mediating) spaces between the inside and outside of the polis--attributes which, although theoretically tantalizing, lack a reliable basis in historical practice or literary evidence of fifth-century Athens. Rather, the ephebe must be understood as enacting a ritually meaningful and normative transition from adolescence to adulthood in order to gain formal inclusion in the social and political life of the polis, and this "coming of age" experience (Graf 2003, 15), when successful, is closely administered by and within the space of the polis and its environs. Polinskaya (2003, 14n14) therefore distinguishes a broader notion of the ephebe from its association with the ephebeia institutionalized by Lycurgus in the second half of the fourth century BCE, defining ephebes in this sense "as an age-group, from the onset of puberty to twenty years of age when young men gained full access to citizenship rights." This more open understanding of ephebic youth has the advantage of remaining specifically definable without relying upon the conflation of theoretical metaphor--"the ephebe is like a marginal outlier"--with historical practice--"the ephebe is a lone hunter cast out into liminal space during the initiatory period" (Polinskaya 2003, 85-86, 91-93). The primary defining attribute of Orestes's ephebic stasis, then, is his palpable and ongoing exclusion from the experiences and spaces immediately associated with Greek male adulthood.

The incompleteness of Orestes's revenge action and reclamation of Agamemnon's legacy raises important questions about his status vis-a-vis the realm of masculine adult agency. "It is shameful," Electra concludes, "for a man whose father destroyed the Phrygians to be unable to kill a single man by himself, although he is young and the offspring of a better father" (Euripides, Electra 336-38). Electra's critique, inadvertently delivered directly to her brother, highlights both Orestes's isolation from the social and geographic core of Argos and the postponement of the revenge action required for him to assume authority in the Atreid household. Later, Electra similarly rebukes the Old Man's suggestion that Orestes has returned to Argos in secret, rather than openly opposing Aegisthus: "You, Old Man, don't speak things worthy of a wise man, if you suppose that my intrepid brother returns to this land in secret due to fear of Aegisthus" (524-26). The chorus further observes in their celebration of the recognition's accomplishment that the day of Orestes's return has been "long awaited [chronios] (585), thereby corroborating Electra's statements regarding the stagnation of the Atreid household. Comparing the returned exile to "brilliant firelight," the chorus of Argive women describe Orestes as one "who unhappily wandered in extended flight [palaiai phugai] from his paternal house" (586-89). Orestes's exile, then, has been substantial. His lengthy abstention from intervening in his father's household and his spatial distance from the center of civic affairs have necessarily impeded his transition to Argive adulthood and full social inclusion. This indeterminate and marginalized status is consistent with the tactics that Orestes will employ in enacting Apollo's punitive mandate: he will violently manipulate an in-progress sacrificial ritual in assassinating Aegisthus, and seize upon a fabricated domestic ritual by committing matricide in Electra's home. Further, Orestes's repeated interruption of ritual enactment (on which, see below) situates him as a socially isolated practitioner of deception and subterfuge as his sole martial tactics, in contrast to the enfranchised hoplite (heavily armored infantry soldier) who openly accompanied his civic equals in the lines of the phalanx. (16)

Orestes's delayed intervention carries an important spatial component that corresponds meaningfully with his social and political isolation. Already in the play's prologue, Orestes establishes his continuing removal from his Argive birthplace by explaining that "I do not set foot inside the walls [of Argos], but ... I have arrived at the boundaries of this land" (94-96). Electra expresses grief in the parodos for her brother "the wanderer [alata], who occupies another land somewhere, wandering miserably to a menial hearth" (202-05). Over the course of the play and even after its conclusion, Orestes will never enter the walls of his homeland or approach his father's palace again, instead pursuing the revenge action from the borders of Argive territory. Disguised as his own messenger, Orestes informs Electra that he "lives in ruin and inhabits no polis" (234), characterizing his exile as an anomic occupation of the spaces outside of civilized poleis (17) Orestes is, by his own account, a "fugitive [pheugon] who lacks power" (236) and social inclusion. As Orestes cautiously prolongs the fiction that he is his own messenger, Electra's explanation of his presence to the Autourgos draws further attention to her brother's disconcerting isolation from Argos. She reports that two strangers have come to deliver news from Orestes (346-48), but also exposes the evidentiary limitations of secondhand reports of her brother's welfare: "He lives, at least according to their story [estin logoi goun], and what they say is not implausible to me" (350). Electra's diction situates the messenger's words as a surrogate for her brother's presence, and although Orestes now stands before her, Electra repeats verbatim Orestes's earlier self-characterization as "a fugitive [pheugon] who lacks power" (352). Orestes's homecoming therefore remains complicated by the language in which it is expressed and by the tactics through which it is effected. By Orestes's own admission, he is "both here [paron] and not here" (391), and his return is enacted through a fabricated proxy, distancing him from authentic social contact by strategically conflating presence and absence. Orestes's status, along with Pylades, as his own spy (skopous, 354) in this way emphasizes the indefinite quality of his arrival at the Argive periphery.

The introduction of mythic and Homeric comparandi strengthens Orestes's isolation and transitional stasis established civically and spatially in Electro's early episodes. The first stasimon (432-86) of the play invites comparison of Orestes to Achilles and Perseus--heroic figures who have successfully achieved martial kleos (renown) or completed the sort of defining endeavor that Orestes has only just undertaken. The chorus's invocation of these figures provides a thematically consistent precursor to the recognition scene's allusive comparison of Orestes to Odysseus. In each case, Orestes is depicted as an uninitiated, ephebic youth who remains on Argos's social and ritual margins. (18) Electro's anagnorisis occupies the first half of the play's second episode (487-698), and begins with a strongly reflexive appropriation and rejection of the recognition tokens (lock of hair, footprint, textile) familiar from Aeschylus's Libation Bearers. This meta-theatrical departure from the Aeschylean pattern of recognition opens the way for the scene's reconfiguration of Orestes as occupying an arrested state of transition. (19) Once Electra has erroneously disqualified the Aeschylean evidence invoked by the Old Man, the recognition occurs through the novel token located on Orestes's forehead. As though evaluating the stamp that ensures silver's authenticity (558-59), the Old Man draws Electra's attention to "the scar on his brow--an injury that he sustained once in a fall while he was chasing a fawn with you in your father's house" (573-74). Prior treatments of Orestes's scar have illuminated crucial aspects of his characterization by tracing its connection to the Homeric Odysseus. (20) When interpreted according to its epic antecedent, Orestes's scar casts him as an unheroic youth of pre-initiation status, lacking social maturity and autonomy. The Orestes of Euripides's Electra, unlike Odysseus, suffered his injury in domestic space ("in your father's house") and not in the wilds of Mount Parnassus; chasing not a deadly boar but a fawn; and accompanied not by older males who have completed the transition to adulthood, but by his sister. Orestes's injury is, along these lines, not the result of an aggressively administered wound, such as the one that provides evidence of Odysseus's identity in Odyssey 19 and marks his passage from youth to maturity, (21) but is instead the remnant of an adolescent game with little at stake. As a signifier of Orestes's identity and homecoming, then, the scar accordingly suggests his continuing ephebic stasis.

The questions raised by Orestes's scar about his transition to adulthood and Greek masculine autonomy are reinforced by the plotting sequence that follows Electro's recognition. The limitations of Orestes's ability to formulate and enact Apollo's mandate in the play has been frequently remarked (for an overview, see Cropp 2013, 6-8). Isabelle Torrance (2011, 189), for instance, suggests that the Odyssean motif of the scar "cast[s] Orestes as a failed or flawed hero," whereas Froma Zeitlin (2012, 374) has recently observed that "the play advertises a series of mismatches between the hero and the role (or roles) he is expected to play." Gartner, on the other hand, has proposed that Electra supplies the entire impetus behind the revenge action, describing Orestes as "juvenile, immature and indecisive" (jugendlich unreif und unentschlossen) (2005, 7). Even before the revelation of Orestes's identity--an action prompted and effected not by Orestes but rather by the Old Man--Orestes seeks advice from his sister regarding the pursuit of the revenge action against Aegisthus and Clytemnestra (274-81). Orestes's apparent reliance on direction from other participants at this early moment is confirmed in his dialogue with Electra and the Old Man at lines 596-698. Having celebrated his delayed revelation to his sister, Orestes immediately asks the Old Man "What could I do to take revenge on my father's murderer and my mother who shares in their unholy marriage?" (599-600). As he reminds Orestes of his obligation to reclaim his ancestral home and his polis, the Old Man foregrounds the active role that Orestes must play in the events to come: "You hold all things in your hand and your luck" (610-11). As they develop a plan for Aegisthus's assassination (618-38), the Old Man repeatedly proposes strategic action in response to the inquisitive prompting of Orestes, who at no point advances the articulation of the revenge plot.

The same is true of the dialogue that anticipates the deception and killing of Clytemnestra (647-68), except that in this case the plan is constructed by Electra and the Old Man with no interjection from Orestes. Again, in response to Orestes's solicitation of strategic advice, Electra takes responsibility for planning Clytemnestra's death (647), using the Old Man as a source of information upon which she can draw productively. Orestes's limited participation in each of these plotting sequences culminates in a revealing statement of his own self-conceived role in the revenge action: "I would go, if there were someone who could lead the way" (669). It is, by and large, Electra who must provide the direction and motivation of which Orestes himself expresses his need. In advance of the second stasimon (699-746) and the slaying of Aegisthus, Electra is compelled to tell Orestes that "regarding these matters it is necessary for you to become a man [andra gignesthai]" (693). In response to Orestes's understandable reluctance to commit matricide later in the drama, Electra again intervenes in language that questions not only Orestes's agency but his masculinity: "Do not be a coward [kakistheis] and fall into unmanliness [anandrian]" (982). The verb kakizo conveys moral opprobrium against cowardice which, when taken together with the strongly gendered noun anandria ("unmanliness"), immediately frames Orestes's hesitation as incommensurate with Greek standards of masculine adult agency. In Electra's distorted view, Orestes's failure to embrace maternal violence would demonstrate an attendant inability to assert his andreia ("manly virtue"). On the other hand, Orestes's acceptance of Electra's rebuke attests his malleability in the face of challenges to his autonomy and social status; if Orestes did not feel that his sister's exhortation had some merit, he might act according to the legitimate moral revulsion that he seems intuitively to feel toward the matricide. Instead, Electra's threatening imperative secures Orestes's complicity in intra-familial violence patterned closely upon prior Tantalid abuses.

Finally, the prevalence of transvestitism in Greek rites of transition to male adulthood and its absence from Electro's represenation of Orestes merit brief commentary. (22) In his influential modification of the liminality-approach to Greek male initiation, David Leitao (1999, 253-58) proposes a "grammar of Greek adolescence" that employs female disguise as part of a "dynamic transition from boyhood to adulthood" (258). Initiatory transvestitism therefore signifies an "identity in flux" that progressively abandons the legal and spatial status associated with Greek adolescence and femininity for the world of masculine adulthood and full participation in polis life. (23) Electro's recognition scene draws a strong allusive comparison between Orestes and Odysseus, and clearly establishes an ongoing link between Orestes and the domestic sphere in which he acquired his identifying mark in a youthful chase with his sister. During the intervening period, Orestes has left the spatial and political life of Argos behind, and has returned after his long absence to the marginalized territory in which the play's events are set. Far from undergoing a "dynamic transition" to adulthood, then, Orestes remains outside of the normative ritual and cultural mechanisms of which initiatory cross-dressing is a part. Such rituals of transition, for Leitao (1999, 267-71), dramatize the cultural attributes (femininity, domesticity, pliability) to be left behind in order to enter masculine adulthood. They thereby lead the initiand toward a fuller participation in polis life, and are meant to deflect the sort of anomic violence undertaken by Orestes. As an outward indicator of normative transition, ritualized transvestitism is thus not well suited to Orestes, who remains in a marginalized ephebic stasis that will never allow him to return to his family's household and take possession of his inherited position in Argos. Rather, Orestes's deceptive self-presentation as a messenger (a tragic function typically allotted to subordinate, disenfranchised figures) who is "both present and not present," serves as a far more appropriate reflection of his social isolation and categorical indeterminacy.


The formulation of the revenge action by the Atreid siblings occupies the space from the end of the recognition duet between Orestes and Electra until the play's second choral ode (596-698). In Orestes's presence, Electra and the Old Man explicitly construct the retribution imposed on Aegisthus and Clytemnestra as an appropriation of and violent departure from normative sacrifical devotion. Having framed their plan in terms of "taking back your paternal house and city" (611), the Old Man proposes that Orestes deceptively intervene at Aegisthus's sacrifice to the Nymphs (625), to which Orestes responds by characterizing himself as a "bitter sharer in the sacrifice [pikron ge sunthoinator']" (638). The "bitter" reprisal to be directed at Aegisthus will emanate from Orestes's transgressive shedding of human blood at a sacrifice undertaken by his host for the Nymphs. Electra, in turn, will promulgate a false childbirth that would require Clytemnestra's presence for the completion of cleansing rites (652-62). Electra's invented pregnancy and labor--a scenario meant to lure Clytemnestra to a death at Orestes's hands--draw upon the requisite ten-day period of abstention from social intercourse necessitated by the blood shed in childbirth (654), to be followed by a sacrifice undertaken on behalf of the childbearer. In each case, Agamemnon's avengers express their intention to perpetrate violence that manipulates and subverts the accomplishment of Greek religious practice. The ritually transgressive quality of the siblings' retribution is reinforced by the choral ode (699-746) that immediately follows the planning stage. In this instance, the chorus invoke Thyestes's violation of Atreus's marriage to Aerope in order to obtain the golden lamb provided by the god Pan. Although the chorus doubt the mythic account of the sun's altered course (737-42), they characterize the story of past Tantalid crimes as a cautionary narrative ignored but reenacted by Clytemnestra (745-46). However, the miasmal transgressions enacted by Tantalus and his descendents also provide an established model for Apollo's divinely imposed retribution, and Orestes's and Electra's plans therefore follow the same inherited pattern of overturning ritually stabilized institutions (marriage, religious care for and appeal to the gods) with devastating familial consequences. (24) Clytemnestra herself will refer to Atreid misuse and violation of ritual practice in her acerbic debate with Electra, recounting Agamemnon's deceptive summoning of their daughter, Iphigenia, to Aulis on the pretext of marriage to Achilles (1018-36). Like Agamemnon, Electra and Orestes lure a close relative to her death by employing a fabricated domestic ritual, thus extending the cycle of fatal Atreid duplicity and ritual manipulation.

VI.i. Aegisthus and the Buphonia

Orestes's appropriation of the sacrifice undertaken by Aegisthus deviates violently from the Greek sacrificial rites typically enacted for the gods. As John Porter has cogently argued, Orestes's murder of Aegisthus, reported by a messenger present at the event (1990, 774-858), draws upon the Buphonia, in which a designated butupos ("bull sacrificer") raised himself up on tiptoe to strike the bovine victim in offering to Zeus Polieus ("Zeus of the polis"). (25) As the messenger reports, Aegisthus follows his offer of hospitality to Orestes and Pylades (783-89) by assigning Orestes an active role in his sacrifice of a calf for the Nymphs (810-18). The inauspicious state of the innards that Aegisthus examines (826-29) presages the violence that Orestes will immediately commit by appropriating the ritual and shedding human blood in addition to that of an animal. The messenger graphically recounts Orestes's assault as Aegisthus inspects and interprets the organs:

While he [Aegisthus] was bending forward, your brother stood up on the ends of his toes and struck him on the spinal vertebrae and shattered them. He struggled and contorted his whole body up and down, dying badly in slaughter. (Euripides, Electra 839-43)

As Porter observes, the image of the butupos invoked in the scene induces revulsion in an audience familiar with the ritual, since the heightened detail of Aegisthus's demise foregrounds the violence transgressively directed against a human victim rather than an animal (1990, 265). (26)

Worth further observation is the fact that Orestes enacts this fearsome departure from the sacrificial pattern after having accepted Aegisthus's hospitality. The offer and acceptance of xenia (guest-friendship, hospitality) fell under the authority and patronage of Zeus himself (to whom the Buphonia was directed in historical practice). Orestes's clandestine appropriation of sacrificial ritual therefore occurs in opposition to his status with Pylades as "hearth-mates at the feast" (sunestious ... thoines) (784-85) of their host--an intra-Tantalid, domestically staged violation that loosely recalls Atreus feting Thyestes with the cooked remains of his son. Although removal of Agamemnon's murderer and the usurper of Argive authority is not blameworthy or troubling per se, the method and circumstances of Orestes's execution of the act accord strongly with Electro's thematic departure from normative ritual paradigms.

Human sacrifice attendant upon divinely inflicted retribution has an important antecedent in Atreid family history in the form of Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia. Euripides's Iphigenia among the Taurians therefore serves as an instructive analogue for the sacrificial transgression of the human/animal boundary in Electra. As Iphigenia explains in her opening monologue to the play, Agamemnon promised Artemis "the most beautiful thing that the year produces" (Euripides, Iphigenia 20) in order to ensure passage to Troy from Aulis, and in response Artemis demanded Iphigenia's own ritual slaying. Nullifying the sacrifice without the Achaeans' knowledge, Artemis replaced Iphigenia with a deer and spirited her to the Taurians and the court of Thoas, where the goddess now demands that Iphigenia administer the sacrifice of shipwrecked Greek sailors (28-41). Like Orestes and Castor in Euripides's Electra, Iphigenia expresses her incredulity that Artemis could demand human offerings: "There is no way," Iphigenia surmises, "in which Zeus' wife Leto gave birth to such stupidity [amathian]" (385-86). Finding such rites incommensurate with divinity, Iphigenia ascribes them to the homicidal urges of the Taurians rather than the goddess (388-90). Iphigenia is, of course, wrong in her assumptions about the goddess and the origin of the sacrificial rite. However, rather than constituting a critique of the gods or religious worship, Iphigenia among the Taurians ends in the unlikely rescue of Artemis's image by Orestes and Iphigenia, and the more normative reconfiguration of the goddess's worship as a commemoration of her earlier, more troubling demands. The drama, then, stages the retrieval and redemption of Artemis's rites through their integration into Greek ritual practice at Brauron and Halae (1449-67). In the process, Iphigenia's transition from the eastern Aegean to the Greek mainland highlights the goddess's awful power and her use of past Atreid transgression as a model for punitive intervention. (27) Similarly, Apollo's punishment in this instance of Euripides's Electra demands the repetition of past Tantalid crimes in the form of ritual human bloodshed and the open violation of xenia, thereby securing the self-destructive complicity of a new Atreid generation in the crimes of its forebears.

VI.ii. Clytemnestra and the Dekate

Orestes and Electra explicitly characterize the punishment imposed on Clytemnestra as a murder perpetrated through manipulation of a domestic ritual. Following Electra's speech of invective against the now slain Aegisthus, the siblings await the arrival of their mother, lured to Electra's household on the pretense of Electra having given birth ten days earlier. (28) The siblings' deceit draws upon the Athenian celebration of the day on which a child was named and thereby formally accepted into his household. The dekate hemera, or "tenth day," consisted of a feast commemorating the child's naming and concluded a ten-day period of social abstention necessitated by miasma from the blood shed in childbirth. (29) The blood pollution initiated by the birth was then cleansed by the completion of a sacrifice on the mother's behalf. In this case, the miasma normally occasioned by the process of childbirth is alarmingly replaced by the introduction of Aegisthus's remains into Electra's home, in what Rush Rehm describes as "an unprecedented conveyance of a corpse to a place it does not belong" (2002, 190). Invoking her mother's ritual responsibilities, Electra urges Clytemnestra to "make for me the sacrifice customary for the child's tenth night {dekaten selenen]" (Euripides, Electra 1126). In the absence of the fictitious midwife who administered the birth and who would normally perform the sacrifice (1128-29), Clytemnestra responds that she "will sacrifice to the gods since the requisite time for the child is completed" (1132-33).

As with the tyrannicide, the matricide is explainable (though morally repulsive) in terms of Clytemnestra's murder of Agamemnon and Apollo's divine mandate. However, the occurrence of the retributive act within a ritual context, however fabricated, also agrees with and reinforces the play's thematic deviation from normative ritual paradigms. Even after Clytemnestra has entered the house in which Orestes will complete the matricide, Electra persists in framing the revenge action as a domestic sacrificial rite. Addressing her now absent mother, Electra predicts that "you will make what sacrifices are necessary to the gods" (1141) and even compares Clytemnestra to the bull slain by Orestes in advance of his earlier murder of Aegisthus (1142-44), thereby establishing a direct correspondence between Orestes's appropriation of a sacrifice to the Nymphs and the ritually deceptive violence that they now undertake.

Orestes's vacillation in advance of the matricide betrays his understanding of the revenge action as a slaying enacted beyond the ritual structures that justify the shedding of blood. As Orestes and Electra prepare for their mother's impending arrival, Orestes verbally registers the tension between retributive bloodshed and ritual context. As his trepidation emerges in dialogue with Electra, Orestes describes the revenge action in terms associated with non-ritual (and therefore pollution-inducing) killing. (30) He bids his servants to hide Aegisthus's corpse so that Clytemnestra will not see it before her own "murder" (sphages) (961), and then questions the justifiability of the matricide by asking Electra if "we will, in fact, be murderers of {phoneusomen] our mother" (967). Orestes uses the terminology of unlawful slaying several more times--ktano (969); ktanein (973); phonou (977)--and refers to himself as a "mother killer" (metroktonos) (975). Deploying the vocabulary of Iphigenia's incredulity (amathian) at line 386 of Euripides's Iphigenia among the Taurians, Orestes even directs criticism at Apollo's mandate: "Phoebus, you communicated much ignorance [amathian] through your oracle" (Euripides, Electra 971). The diction in which Orestes expresses and responds to the vengeance plan thus illustrates the uncomfortable conflict between miasmal violence and the ritual context in which it occurs--a tension that Apollo imposes and exploits for his punitive strategy against prior Atreid crimes.

As Clytemnestra makes clear in her altercation with Electra, the Atreids have a history of enacting the sort of ritual transgression that Orestes and Electra now commit. When she confronts Electra just after her arrival, Clytemnestra recalls the events preceding the Trojan campaign, in which Agamemnon invented a nuptial celebration for Achilles and Iphigenia in order to lure his daughter to Aulis. Iphigenia's marriage thereupon became a propitiatory sacrifice in which she, rather than an animal, would be slain at the altar, in order to ensure the Achaean voyage east. According to Clytemnestra, Agamemnon administered the sacrifice of his daughter at the harbor at Aulis, "where he stretched Iphigenia above the altar and cut through her white cheek" (Euripides, Electra 1022-23). Clytemnestra's language thus resonates with that of Iphigenia's prologue to Euripides's Iphigenia among the Taurians, and expresses Agamemnon's perpetration of human slaughter in a ritual context that would typically sanction only animal sacrifice. (31) Electra's immediate response to Clytemnestra's indictment consists not of an attempt to justify her sister's death or absolve her father. Rather, she accuses Clytemnestra of licentiousness in her husband's absence:

Before your daughter's murder [sphagas] had been initiated and while your husband was newly absent from home, you arranged your blonde coiffure in a mirror. Strike out as wicked {kaken] any woman who attends to her beauty when her husband is away from home. (Euripides, Electra 1069-73)

When Electra revisits the topic of Iphigenia's death (1086), she focuses on Clytemnestra's abuse and neglect of her remaining children. Electra may justifiably ask "In what respect did I and my brother wrong you?" However, neither does Clytemnestra's treatment of her children provide the primary motive for their revenge action, nor does Electra attempt to address the fact of Agamemnon's deceptive slaying of Iphigenia. In fact, Electra's description of Iphigenia as "your daughter" may be read as a distancing technique intended to dampen the impact of Agamemnon's crime and minimize its potential to establish a shared perspective with Clytemnestra. Electra's silence on this issue is therefore significant, and her apparent inability to neutralize Iphigenia's death implicitly draws critical attention to the siblings' repetition of Agamemnon's ritually transgressive filicide.

Orestes's own description of the way in which he enacts Clytemnestra's murder further revives past Atreid misappropriations of ritual practice. (32) As Orestes and Electra share a passage of lamentation over the matricide with the chorus, Orestes openly characterizes his mother's slaying as a repulsive mutation of sacrificial action:

I drew my cloak over my eyes [<zpibalon phare korais emais] and initiated the sacrifice {katerxaman} by thrusting my sword into my mother's neck. (Euripides, Electra 1221-23)

Although no ritual framework could support such violence, Orestes uses the language of institutionalized piety (katerxaman, "I initiated [the sacrifice}") to describe Clytemnestra's gruesome death (Mirto 1980, 320-21). Further, the gesture employed by Orestes in averting his gaze from the grizzly scene (epibalon phare korais emais, "drawing a cloak over my eyes") mirrors that employed by Agamemnon at Iphigenia's sacrifice in lines 1547-50 of Euripides's posthumously produced Iphigenia in Aulis. (33) Tragic narrative thus establishes an identifiable correspondence between the ritually transgressive violence enacted in successive generations of the same family. In both cases, Atreids respond to a punitive mandate from Leto's divine offspring by treating human victims as surrogates or replacements for sacrificial animals, thereby blurring the normally fixed ritual boundaries between human practitioners and animaban offerings to the gods. VII. VII.


With the matricide completed inside Electra's house, Orestes and Electra express their evolving regrets about the revenge action in terms that emphasize their continuing isolation from ritual practice and social life in Argos. In counterpoint to the chorus's emphasis on Clytemnestra's murder of Agamemnon and the consequent justice of matricidal violence (Euripides, Electra 1147-64, 1168-71), Orestes anticipates the criticism directed against Apollo by the Dioscuri ex machina, and predicts his ongoing alienation from the religious and civic inclusion requisite to membership in the polis:

Alas, Phoebus, the justice of which you sang is obscure, but the pains that you brought about are clear, and you gave me a murderer's fate separated from Hellas. To what other polis am I to go? What guest-friend [xenos], what pious [eusebes] man will acknowledge me when I have murdered my mother? (Euripides, Electra 1190-97)

Orestes has already explicitly questioned the wisdom of Apollo's injunction before Clytemnestra's arrival ("I would not believe that these prophecies are made well," 981). He now recognizes the primary consequence of the matricide as indefinite isolation from Greek social life, but his self-indictment also corresponds to the play's thematically consistent treatment of the revenge action as ritual transgression. Orestes's complaint that no xenos will receive him recalls his violation of the mutually binding and divinely sanctioned terms of hospitality (xenia) while he and Pylades were Aegisthus's hearth-guests (sunestious) (784). Without a polis or homeland, Orestes infers that his life will remain one of persistent marginality, in which he must continue to be socially alienated and deprived of the ritually substantiated solace of pious guest-friendship.

Despite her prior certainty regarding the justice of the matricide, Electra too conveys her regret about the perpetration of maternal violence in strongly ritualized terms:

Alas for me! Where, to what chorus [choron], to what marriage will I go? What husband will receive me into the bridal bed [numphikas eunas}? (Euripides, Electra 1198-1200)

Like Orestes, Electra characterizes the result of the revenge action as the persistence of the ritually indefinite position that she has occupied throughout the play. Electra assumes that her parthenic stasis will remain in place, and that she will continue to suffer isolation from the choruses in which Argive women collectively engage in religious worship of and care for the gods. So, whereas Orestes's ongoing fugitive status will continue to alienate him from political life and from institutionalized relations between adult males and their households, Electra fears an ongoing removal from the shared ritual experiences of Greek feminine adulthood in Argos.


One of Electra's most poignant expressions of the revenge action's consequences comes in the form of Orestes's and Electra's imminent expulsion from their native Argos and from access to the kinship ties that could ground one in the Greek polis. As Castor reveals from the machine, Orestes's perpetration of the revenge action mandated by Apollo has precipitated his permanent exclusion from the homeland and legacy to which he had hoped to return: "Give Electra to Pylades as a wife for his home, and leave Argos, for you are not able to enter yompolis, since you have killed [kteinanta] your mother" (Euripides, Electra 1249-51). In this brief injunction, Castor both reintroduces the language of homicide (kteinein) to the play's events and effectively exiles the siblings from their homeland and one another. Orestes, then, must continue his state of exclusion from the social, political and religious life of Argos, never to achieve adulthood in his ancestral household or to occupy the civic position that accompanies it. Electra, on the other hand, is given the opportunity for a normative marriage arranged by her semi-divine uncle: she will leave Argos behind and accompany Pylades to Phocis, where her new husband will generously compensate her current "nominal" (1285) husband and establish her in his own household.

At this prospect, however, Orestes and Electra share a duet of lamentation in which both express sorrow over the crime they have committed, their permanent absence from Argos and their deprivation of kinship ties. As an extension of the "one destructive fate from {their} fathers that has worn both [of them} down" (1306-07), Orestes mournfully expresses to Electra that "I am immediately deprived of your love, and I, who have been left behind [leipomenos] by you, will leave [apoleispso] you behind" (1309-10). In response to Castor's conciliatory reference to her new marriage, Electra simply asks "What other hardships are greater than to leave behind [ekleipein} the border of your fatherland?" (1314-15). The language of abandonment, of leaving behind Qeipein), foregrounds the isolation that Electra sees as her new state of being. For Orestes, this new life without kin and homeland is tantamount to a living death, for which he explictlity urges Electra to "wail for me as though at my tomb if I were dead" (1325-26). In spite of Electra's prior indignation at her death-like marriage to the Autourgos, she now fails to embrace the prospect of transition to the status of damar, instead prioritizing her relationship to her brother and birthplace. As Rush Rehm (2002, 199) highlights in his account of space and the body in this play, "the regrets of brother and sister over the matricide, and their bitter sorrow at the separation and exile that lies ahead, undercut Castor's platitudes about their newfound happiness." The consequences of and the extent to which Apollo has punitively imposed "one destructive fate from {their} fathers" now becomes clear to the Atreid siblings, who have enacted the god's retribution by repeating the violations of their ancestors. In this way, the conditions of a morally dubious revenge action, effected through sustained transgression of ritually paradigmatic categories and experiences, linger even after Electra's sorrowful conclusion.

This exploration of ritual deviation in Euripides's Electra has sought to broaden earlier understandings of religious action in the drama beyond sacrificial practice or localized ritual events--lenses through which religiously significant material in this tragedy has previously been assessed. Along these expanded lines of inquiry, ritual in Electra can now be more clearly understood as a rich and provocative motif that consistently governs the play's progression. By diachronically tracking the play's events and evolution, we may now appreciate the full range of ritually significant categories and experiences at work in Euripides's complex tragedy, along with the ways in which these normative patterns are mutated, misappropriated, or rejected. Electra's thematic deviation from ritual paradigms constructs a fitting milieu for its events, and establishes a dramatic world reflective of the troubling familial violence perpetrated by the Atreid siblings and punitively mandated by Apollo.


I would like to thank Graham MacPhee and the anonymous referees from College Literature for their work in improving this essay and bringing into print. I also wish to express my gratitude to my colleague Beth Severy-Hoven, who provided crucial input on an early draft of my work.

(1) define "ritual experiences" as formulaic, religiously motivated actions undertaken at a predetermined place and time, and "ritually significant categories" as definite stages of life initiated (except in the case of one's birth) by a successful transitional or "coming of age" process from a previous stable life stage.

(2) take Euripides's Electra as having been produced between ca. 420 and 417 BCE. The debate about the date of its initial production is highly contentious and has many contributors. Proponents of a late date of around 413 BCE include Wilamowitz (1875, 152-03); Wilamowitz (1883, 223-24); Denniston (1939, xxxiii-iv); Pohlenz (1954, 313); Vogler (1967, 52-62); Leimbach (1972); Roisman and Luschnig (2011, 32) (ca. 415 BCE). The argument for 413 BCE is largely based upon supposed references to the contemporaneous Sicilian expedition at lines 1347-48 and 1350-56, but the assertion is tenuous and ought not serve as the primary basis for dating the play; on which, see, e.g., Zuntz (1955, 66) and Wright (2005, 44-47). Matthiessen (1964, 73-78) dates the play to before 416 BCE (preceding Euripides's Trojan Women and Heracles), and supports his argument with metrical analysis of the play's iambic trimeters (168-71) and lyric passages (171-72). Other proponents of an earlier dating of roughly 422-417 BCE include Zuntz (1955, 64-71); Newiger 1961 (pre-417 BCE, based on a recent revival of Aeschylus's Libation Bearers); Conacher (1967,202-203n9) (with bibliography); Basta Donzelli (1978, 27-71), who provides an ample account of the state of the question up to 1978, and suggests a terminus ante quern of 415 BCE (44-47, 58, 63-64); Diggle (1981, 58) (between 422 and 416 BCE); Burkert (1990,65-69) (420 BCE); Cropp (2013,31-33) (422-417 BCE). Statistical analyses of the play's meter invariably suggest an earlier date; on which, see Devine and Stephens (1981, 47-55); Cropp and Fick (1985, 60-61). These suggest a date of 421/20, and no later than 417 BCE.

(3) I am heartily grateful to the anonymous readers from College Literature, who proposed several fruitful lines of further inquiry around Euripides's position vis-a-vis religious worship and the persistent ritual corruption dramatized in Electra, and who suggested to me a number of tragic comparanda that have enriched my reading of this play. Improvements occasioned by their guidance are therefore evident throughout this essay, particularly in the sections on "framing moral disturbance" in the play (section 1) and on ritual misappropriation in the revenge action (section 6).

(4) Compare, for example, the similar aposiopesis directed by Iphigenia toward Artemis at line 37 of Euripides's Iphigenia among the Taurians: "But concerning the rest I remain silent, since I fear the goddess." I have relied in this essay on the Greek text of Martin Cropp's (2013) edition. All translations from the Greek are my own.

(5) I find untenable the proposal of Roisman and Luschnig that "the act of matricide is not divinely sanctioned in Euripides's Electra--in fact it is repudiated by the gods. Apollo is as ignorant as the rest of us" (2011, 252). Although the oracle is not given the detailed treatment it receives in Aeschylus and Sophocles, its invocation by the Dioscuri ex machina would make little sense if it did not give Apollo an active role in mandating the matricide.

(6) Hartigan (1991, 107-25), for instance, argues that the play raises questions about the "respectability" (107) of the tradition around Orestes's matricide by encouraging the audience critically to examine its own acceptance of earlier iterations of the myth, and further proposes that the Dioscuri ex machina "annul the purpose of the Trojan War" (123). Apropos of questions raised in the exodos about the Trojan War, Morwood comments about Electro's so-called "Achilles Ode" (432-86) that the "heroic vision of [lines] 432-51 gives way to a horrific evocation of the brutality of the Trojan War" (1981, 363).

(7) The goal and strategy of the revenge action undertaken by Orestes and Electra have prompted many negative assessments of the Atreid siblings through the lens of characterization-focused analysis; for which, see, Wilamowitz (1883, 228-9); Sheppard (1918,139); Schadewalt (1926,103-04); Adams (1935, 120-22); Denniston (1939, xxvi-xxvii); Pohlenz (1954, 1.313); Grube (1961, 301); Fritz (1962,140,147,151-59); Matthiessen (1964,84); O'Brien (1964,28-30); Conacher (1967, 203-05); Solmsen (1967, 17-18, 40); Arnott (1973, 51); Knox (1979, 254); Arnott (1981, 181-83); Morwood (1981); Tarkow (1981); Halporn (1983,101-03); Goff (1991); Marshall (1999/2000,339-40); Gartner (2005); and Torrance (2011, 189). However, Risovach (1978,194-95), Lloyd (1986,10-19) and Burnett (1998, 235-46) provide more positive assessments of the play's protagonists. My reading of Electra, however, will avoid character assessment in favor of locating the revenge action and its practitioners within the play's thematic ritual aberration.

(8) Throughout this essay, I avoid the terms "liminal" and "rite de passage" as over-determined and too strongly evocative of the anthropological models of Arnold van Gannep, Victor Turner, and Pierre Vidal-Naquet. Instead I will employ such terms as "transitional" and "ritually significant stasis" for this examination of ritual categories and experiences in Euripides's Electra. On the necessity of new critical vocabularies for crucial periods of transition in Classical Athens, see in particular Leitao (1999), Dodd (2003), Graf (2003) and Porter (2003), whose contributions are especially conspicuous in my reading of Orestes's ephebic stasis in section 5 of this essay.

(9) Although Zeitlin (1970) identifies the performance of sacrifice as the play's primary motif, I approach Electra through the even broader lens of its systematic deviation from a range of ritually significant practices and experiences.

(10) Ormand (1999,1-34) traces female subjectivities in the context of Sophoclean representations of marriage, and draws attention to the way in which Athenian law viewed the boundary between married and not married as "dependent specifically on the couple behaving in an appropriate manner in a variety of social contexts" (2). This includes feminine complicity in the Athenian formulation of marriage as a contractual exchange of property. Electra's removal from this pattern is clear both from her status as a married parthenos and from her isolation from the ritual activities of her peers. As Rehm (2002, 187-88) suggests, Electra's status as a married parthenos serves as a physical expression of her other experiences of isolation and dislocation.

(11) The Greek word "autourgos" (literally "self-employed laborer" or one who "works for him/herself) is conventionally used of this character. Cropp (2013, 14n49), who translates this word as "Peasant," points out that the dialogue never employs it of Electra's spouse.

(12) On the frequent conflation in Greek tragedy of marriage and abduction/death, see in particular the crucial analyses of Foley (1994,4-42 and 2001,310-12); along with Kaempf-Dimitriadou (1979,47-53); Sowa (1984,121-44); Zeitlin (1986,126, 142-43); Seaford (1987,112-14); Sourvinou-Inwood (1987,139-41); Rehm (1994); Ormand (1999, 25-30); Deacy (2002, 45-46). Typically in Greek tragedy, the beleaguered parthenos dies before marriage, and is thus characterized as a "bride of Hades." Electra, on the other hand, presents her marriage to the Autourgos as a kind of living death.

(13) I follow Zeitlin's proposal that the events of the Heraea serve "as an ironic counterpoint to the mythos of the play" (1970, 659), and I suggest that Electra's rejection of the festival implicitly acknowledges that the proper performance of such a ritual has no place in the skewed world of the play's staged ritual action. Further, Electra's parthenic stasis precludes her from taking part in the worship of Hera among Argive parthenikai or nymphai.

(14) Lloyd (1986) provides a much needed corrective against negative assessments of Electra's lamentation as somehow self-indulgent or inappropriately ostentatious. Lloyd argues in general that such gestures are determined by the conventions of traditional lamentation and the exigencies of dramatic coherence.

(15) Luschnig draws attention to the fact that "the two houses, the one we see, and the other where the usurpers live, are constantly on our minds and form the focus of the contrasts between rich and poor, fertile and sterile, inside and outside (both of the house and of the city/state) that characterize this play" (1995,1x9).

(16) Leitao is prudent in his reluctance "to accept the premise that trickery is especially characteristic of the young and runs contrary to the ethos of the adult hoplite" (1999, 255). However, the adult hoplite, unlike Orestes, has frequent recourse to other, more public and collaborative strategies of opposition and self-assertion.

(17) Polinskaya (2003) raises important questions about Vidal-Naquet's notion of liminal space in the Greek ephebeia, suggesting that the ephebe is a metaphorical outlier and observing that border areas in historical Attica (the region in which Athens was located) were not understood as liminal spaces. In the world of Euripides's Electra, on the other hand, the space in which the play's action occurs is significantly (even uniquely) marginal, as Medda (2007, 55-65) has recently observed; see also Rehm on the play's shift "to an impoverished farmstead in the country" (2002, 187). That is, Electra occurs in a peripheral setting thematically consistent with its manipulation of ritual practice and its depiction of the divinely mandated revenge action.

(18) O'Brien, for instance, has suggested that allusions to Perseus in the play's first stasimon (1964, 432-86) invite comparisons of Orestes to both Perseus and the Gorgon, thereby foregrounding fear as a motivating factor for the characters of Electra and drawing Orestes's heroic status into question. Konstan counters O'Brien by locating a "world of moral certitudes" (1985,177n5) in the images on Achilles's shield and Athena's aegis (variously, "breastplate/cuirass" or "shield"), against which the morally chaotic world of the drama destabilizes familiar, unified notions of philia (friendship). This account is consistent with my own treatment of ritual turbulence in Electra as a reflection of the moral disturbance occasioned by the divinely ordained revenge action. King likewise draws a contrast between the "impoverished" setting of the play and the "traditional heroism of the Trojan War" (1980, 195-96) as described in this choral ode, and a similar discrepancy is noted by Goldhill (1986, 164); Walsh (1977); and Rehm (2002,195-97). More broadly, Morwood (1981) identifies a pattern in all of the play's stasima of consistent departure from an idealized order and balance often associated with the heroic age. Arnott, on the other hand, sees Electra as "deglamorizing" (1981,181) the Homeric tradition around the Trojan campaign.

(19) In contrast to traditional readings of Electro's recognition as a burlesque of its Aeschylean antecedent, Torrance (2011, 182-88) has recently proposed a meta-poetic reading of the scene as a meditation on the "difficulties of producing 'new' poetry" (187). Zeitlin draws attention to the "sense that Euripides has gone too far in the collision he stages between tradition and so-called reality" (2012, 370). Scodel (1990) already approaches Euripides's Electro in terms of its invitation to consider issues of verisimilitude and tragic mimesis, whereas Goff (1999/2000) addresses its reflexive engagement with a range of literary and performance genres.

(20) Tarkow (1981) and Goff (1991) provide sustained readings of the scar as an Odyssean critique of Orestes's prolonged youth, although other scholars have discussed it similarly; for which, see Denniston, on Electro (1939, 573-74); Matthiessen (1964, 123-24); Aelion (1983, 1.117-18); Halporn (1983, 108), who treats the scar as a "neutral" sign with personal rather than representative value; Hartigan (1991, 114-15); Burnett (1998, 232n26), who proposes that the scar "emphasizets] his youthful, pre-initiation status"; Roisman and Luschnig (2011, 572-74); Torrance (2011, 188-89); and Zeitlin (2012, 373-74), although Zeitlin rightly urges caution about focusing on the scar to the exclusion of the "intertextual matrix" that enriches the scene as a whole. Dingel (1969) and Lloyd (1986, 6) adduce the recognition between Odysseus and Laertes in Odyssey 24 rather than Eurycleia's recognition of the scar in Odyssey 19.

(21) On the scar as a manifestation of Odysseus's maturity and heroic identity, see, e.g., Austin (1966,310); Kohnken (1976,109); Cave (1988, 23); Goff (1991, 263).

(22) Mitchell-Boyask (1999, 45-49), for instance, relies heavily on ephebic gender inversion in his characterization of Hippolytus as an "ephebe manque" (55) who reaches male adulthood only at the moment of his death in the final scene of Euripides's Hippolytus.

(23) Porter (2003) associates Greek tragic representations of ephebes with both femininity and the youthful eromenoi ("beloved males") who were pursued by older Greek males as passive participants in an erotic relationship. As a figure in transitional stasis, however, the Orestes of Euripides's Electro qualifies not as a descriptive representation of ritual categories, but as an aberrant variation to which all paradigmatic ritual functions cannot apply.

(24) My reading of the "Golden Lamb Ode" (699-746) departs from that of Risovach (1978), who suggests that this stasimon locates Orestes as a "new dawn" (195) that departs from prior Tantalid crimes.

(25) Burkert (1983, 136-43) provides a rich description of the Buphonia ("ox-slaying"), which he suggests "stood out by virtue of its singular, even grotesque, features" (136).

(26) Despite Cropp's recent argument against a "rehabilitated" Aegisthus in this scene, I am not fully convinced that the viciousness of Orestes's revenge action or the nauseous detail of the messenger's account does not "compromise the justice of the tyrannicide" (2013, 4). A similar proposition is made by Lloyd (1986, 15-16), although he measures the justice of the act solely according to the assessments of the drama's characters, instead of accounting for a variety of possible audience responses to Aegisthus's conspicuous hospitality and the gruesome details of his assassination. For Aegisthus in the "role of polite host" and the "sordid viciousness" of Orestes's violence, see Arnott (1981, 185-87). Zeitlin (1970, 660) also observes his violation of hospitality. If, as Cropp (2013, 11-12) rightly proposes, the play's violence requires a "complex moral response" and ultimately conveys a sense of the limits of human understanding of divine purpose (25), one is drawn to Porter's suggestion that "Aegisthus simply does not appear to be as villanous--nor Orestes as heroic--as he should be" (1990, 257). Rehm (2002, 192-93), too, highlights the tension between Aegisthus's disarming hospitality and Orestes's brutal disturbance of a ritual setting.

(27) A similar dynamic obtains in Euripides's Ion--a play roughly contemporary with his Iphigenia among the Taurians. Ion provides us with another tragedy in which reproach is directed at apparent Apollonian malfeasance (in this case, by Ion and Creusa). Here too, Apollo's ostensible negligence and destructive behavior give way to a narrative of redemption that acknowledges and validates the god's authority and supremacy.

(28) Kubo (1967) highlights the importance of Electra's potential offspring and examines its impact in Electra's strategic manipulation of procreative ritual.

(29) On the Athenian Dekate and its purificatory role after childbirth, see, e.g., Zeitlin (1970, 652026); Mirto (1980, 314-15); Cropp (2013, on Electra lines 654 and 1125-26).

(30) Hartigan observes this progression from relative certainty to revulsion: "Orestes deceived himself into thinking he was to play this role and wanted to do the deed, but when faced with its actuality, he feels only doubt, shame, and fear" (1991, 118).

(31) The fact that the sacrifice occurred in response to an oracle communicated from Artemis through the seer Calchas should not be adduced as an a priori justification for human sacrifice. Clytemnestra's blaming language against Agamemnon strongly suggests that the sacrificial action was chosen and enacted by him, and Euripides's later dramatization of the sacrifice in his Iphigenia in Aulis also situates Artemis's oracle as a dilemma rather than a mandate, thus constructing Iphigenia's slaying as a choice upon which the voyage to Troy depends.

(32) O'Brien observes the "essential sameness of Electra and Clytemnestra, of Orestes and Aegisthus," (1964, 38) caused by the pervasive fear embodied in the figure of the Gorgon.

(33) The transmitted exodos to Euripides's Iphigenia in Aulis is likely spurious, but if the gesture described in the text is genuine, it explicitly invites comparison of Orestes's post-sacrificial gesture with his father's. Regardless of the state of the passage in Iphigenia in Aulis, Electra's broader treatment of ritual transgression invites comparison of Orestes and Agamemnon within an inherited pattern of behavior. Mirto (1980, 321-23) also notes the correspondence.


Adams, S. M. 1935. "Two Plays of Euripides." Classical Review 49.4:118-22.

Aelion, Rachel. 1983 .Euripide, heritier d' Eschyle. Paris: Societe d' edition "Les Belles Lettres."

Arnott, W. Geoffrey. 1981. "Double the Vision: A Reading of Euripides' Electra." Greece and Rome 28.2:179-92.

--. 1973. "Euripides and the Unexpected." Greece and Rome 20.1: 49-63.

Austin, J. N. H. 1966. "The Function of Digressions in the Iliad? Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 7.4: 295-312.

Basta Donzelli, Giuseppina. 1978. Studio null' Elettra di Euripide. Catania: University of Catania Press.

Burkert, Walter. 1990. "Ein Datum fur Euripides' Elektra: Dionysia 420 v. Chr." Museum Helveticum 47: 65-69.

--. 1983. Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. Translated by Peter Bing. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Burnett, Anne Pippin. 1998. Revenge in Attic andLater Tragedy. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Cave, Terence. 1988. Recognitions: A Study in Poetics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Conacher, Desmond J. 1967. Euripidean Drama: Myth, Theme and Structure. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Cropp, Martin J. and Gordon H. Fick. 1985. Resolutions and Chronology in Euripides: The Fragmentary Tragedies. London: Institute of Classical Studies.

Deacy, Susan. 2002. "The Vulnerability of Athena: Parthenoi and Rape in Greek Myth." In Rape in Antiquity, edited by Susan Deacy and Karen F. Pierce, 43-63. London: Classical Press of Wales.

Devine, A. M. and Laurence D. Stephens.1981. "A New Aspect of the Evolution of the Trimeter in Euripides." Transactions of the American Philological Association ill: 43-64.

Dingel, Joachim. 1969. "Der 24. Gesang der Odysee und die Elektra des Euripides." Rheinisches Museum 112:103-09.

Dodd, David B. 2003. "Adolescent Initiation in Myth and Tragedy: Rethinking the Black Hunter." In Initiation in Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives: New Critical Perspectives, edited by David B. Dodd and Christopher A. Faraone, 71-84. London: Routledge.

Dodd, David B. and Christopher A. Faraone, eds. 2003. Initiation in Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives: New Critical Perspectives. London: Routledge.

Euripides. 1938. Electra. Edited by J. D. Denniston. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

--. 1981. Euripidis Tabulae II: Supplices, Electra, Hercules, Troades, Iphigenia in Tauris, Ion. Edited byjames Diggle. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

--. 2013. Electra. 2nd Edition. Edited by Martin J. Cropp. Warminster, UK: Aris and Phillips Classical Texts.

Foley, Helene P. 2001. Female Acts in Greek Tragedy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

--. 1994. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Fritz, Kurt von. 1962. "Die Orestessage bei den drei grossen Tragikern." In Antike undmoderne Tragodie: Neun Abhandlungen, 113-59 and 475-78. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Gartner, Thomas. 2005. "Verantwortung und Schuld in der Elektra des Euripides." Museum Helveticum 62.1:1-29.

Goff, Barbara. 1999/2000. "Try to Make it Real Compared to What? Euripides' Electra and the Play of Genres." Illinois Classical Studies 24/25: 93-106.

--. 1991. "The Sign of the Fall: The Scars of Orestes and Odysseus." Classical Antiquity 10.2: 259-67.

Goldhill, Simon. 1986. Reading Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Graf, Fritz. 2003. "Initiation: A Concept with a Troubled History." In Initiation in Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives: New Critical Perspectives, edited by David B. Dodd and Christopher A. Faraone, 3-24. London: Routledge.

Grube, George Maximilian Anthony. 1961. The Drama of Euripides. New York: Barnes and Noble.

Halporn, James W. 1983. "The Skeptical Electra." Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 87:101-18.

Hartigan, Karelisa V. 1991. Ambiguity and Self-Deception: The Apollo and Artemis Plays of Euripides. Frankfurt am Mein: P. Lang.

Kaempf-Dimitriadou, Sophia. 1979. Die Liebe der Gotter in der Attischen Kunst des 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. Bern, CH: Francke.

King, Katherine Callen. 1980. "The Force of Tradition: The Achilles Ode on Euripides' Electra." Transactions of the American Philological Association no: 195-212.

Knox, Bernard MacGregor Walker. 1979. Word and Action: Essays on the Ancient Theater. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kohnken, Adolf. 1976. "Die Narbe des Odysseus: Ein Beitrag zur homerischepischen Erzahltechnik." Antike undAbendland 22:101-14.

Konstan, David. 1985. "Philia in Euripides' Electra." Philologus 129:176-85.

Kubo, Masaaki. 1967. "The Norm of Myth: Euripides' Electra" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 71:15-31.

Leimbach, R. 1972. "Die Dioskuren und das Sizilische Meer in Euripides' Elektra." Hermes 100:190-5.

Leitao, David D. 1999. "Solon on the Beach: Some Pragmatic Functions of the Limen in Initiatory Myth and Ritual." In Rites of Passage in Ancient Greece: Literature, Religion, Society, edited by M. W. Padilla, 247-77. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell Review.

Lloyd, Michael. 1986. "Realism and Character in Euripides' Electra." Phoenix 40.1: 1-19.

Luschnig, Celia A.E. 1995. The Gorgon's Severed Head: Studies in Alcestis, Electra, and Phoenissae. Leiden: Brill.

Marshall, Christopher W. 1999/2000. "Theatrical Reference in Euripides' Electra." Illinois Classical Studies 24/25: 325-41.

Matthiessen, Kjeld. 1964. Elektra, Taurische Iphigenie und Helena: Untersuchungen zur Chronologie und zur dramatischen Form im Spatwerk des Euripides. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

Medda, Enrico. 2007. "La casadi Elettra. Strategic degli spazi e construzione del personaggio nelle due Elettre." Dioniso n.s. 6: 44-67.

Mirto, M.S. 1980. "Il sacrificio tra metafora e mechanema nell' 'Elettra' di Euripide." Civilta Classica e Cristiana 1: 299-329.

Mitchell-Boyask, Robin. 1999. "Euripides' Hippolytus and the Trials of Manhood (The Ephebia?)." In Rites of Passage in Ancient Greece: Literature, Religion, Society, edited by M.W. Padilla, 42-66. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell Review.

Morwood, J. H. W. 1981. "The Pattern of the Euripides Electra." American Journal of Philology 102.4:362-70.

Newiger, Hans-Joachim. 1961. "Elektra in Aristophanes' Wolken." Hermes 89.4: 422-30.

O'Brien, Michael J. 1964. "Orestes and the Gorgon: Euripides' Electra." American Journal of Philology 85.1:13-39.

Ormand, Kirk. 1999. Exchange and the Maiden. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Padilla, Mark W., ed. 1999. Rites of Passage in Ancient Greece: Literature, Religion, Society. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press.

Pohlenz, M. 1954. Diegriechische Tragodie. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

Polinskaya, Irene. 2003. "Liminality as Metaphor: Initiation and the Frontiers of Ancient Athens." In Initiation in Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives: New Critical Perspectives, edited by David B. Dodd and Christopher A. Faraone, 85-106. London: Routledge.

Porter, John R. 2003. "Orestes the Ephebe." In Poetry, Theory, Practice: The Social Life of Myth, Word and Image in Ancient Greece: Essays in Honour of William J. Slater, edited by Eric Csapo and Margaret C. Miller, 146-77. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

--. 1990. "Tiptoeing through the Corpses: Euripides' Electra, Apollonius, and the Bouphonia." GRBS 31.3: 255-80.

Rehm, Rush. 2002. The Play of Space: Spatial Transformation in Greek Tragedy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

--. 1994. Marriage to Death: The Conflation of Wedding and Funeral Rituals in Greek Tragedy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Risovach, Vincent J. 1978. "The 'Golden Lamb' Ode in Euripides' Electra? Classical Philology 73:189-99.

Roisman, Hanna and Celia A. E. Luschnig. 2011. Euripides' Electra. A Commentary. Norman: Oklahoma University Press.

Schadewalt, Wolfgang. 1926. Monolog und Selbstgesprach: Untersuchungen zur Formsgeschichte dergriechischen Tragodie. Berlin: Weidmann.

Seaford, Richard. 1987. "The Tragic Wedding." Journal of Hellenic Studies 107: 106-30.

Scodel, Ruth. 1990. "Euripides and Apate." In Cabinet of the Muses: Essays in Honor of Thomas G. Rosenmeyer, edited by Mark Griffith and Donald J. Mastronarde, 75-87. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Sheppard, J. T. 1918. "The Electra of Euripides." Classical Review 32.7-8:137-41.

Solmsen, Friedrich. 1967. Electra and Orestes: Three Recognitions in Greek Tragedy. Amsterdam: Mededeelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandsche Akademie van Wetenschappen.

Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane. 1987. "A Series of Erotic Pursuits: Images and Meanings." Journal of Hellenic Studies 107:131-53.

Sowa, Cora Angier. 1984. Traditional Themes and the Homeric Hymns. Chicago: Bolchazy-Carducci.

Tarkow, Theodore A. 1981. "The Scar of Orestes: Observations on a Euripidean Innovation." Rheinisches Museum 124:143-53.

Torrance, Isabelle. 2011. "In the Footprints of Aeschylus: Recognition, Allusion, and Metapoetics in Euripides." American Journal of Philology 132:177-204.

Vidal-Naquet, Pierre. 1986. "The Black Hunter and the Origin of the Athenian Ephebia" In The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society in the Greek World, translated by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, 106-28. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Vogler, A. 1967. Vergleichende Studien zur sophokleischen und euripideischen Elektra. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitatsverlag.

Walsh, George B. 1977. "The First Stasimon of Euripides' Electra." Tale Classical Studies 25: 277-89.

Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, Ulrich von. 1883. "Die beiden Elektren." Hermes 18: 214-63.

--. 1875. Analecta Euripidea. Berlin: Borntraeger.

Wright, Matthew. 2005. Euripides Escape-Tragedies: A Study of Helen, Andromeda andIphigenia among the Taurians. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Zeitlin, Froma 1.2012. "A Study in Form: Recognition Scenes in the Three Electra Plays." Lexis 30:361-78.

--. 1986. "Configurations of Rape in Greek Myth." In Rape, edited by Sylvana Tomaselli and Roy Porter, 122-51 and 261-64. Oxford: Blackwell.

--.1970. "The Argive Festival of Hera and Euripides' Electra," Transactions of the American Philological Association 101: 645-69.

Zuntz, Giinther. 1955. The Political Plays of Euripides. Manchester: University of Manchester Press.

BRIAN LUSH is Assistant Professor of Classics at Macalester College. His recent articles on Euripidean tragedy appear in Helios and in the American Journal of Philology.
COPYRIGHT 2015 West Chester University
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2015 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Lush, Brian
Publication:College Literature
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUGR
Date:Sep 22, 2015
Previous Article:Can an algorithm be disturbed? Machine learning, intrinsic criticism, and the digital humanities.
Next Article:From Cold War politics to post-Cold War fiction: Philip Roth's I Married a Communist and the problem of cultural pluralism.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters