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Clytemnestra enters the stage once the chorus has finished its song, marking the start of the second episode. A servant attends her, carrying garlands for a sacrifice. Clytemnestra chides Electra for being out in the streets as usual and embarrassing the family. If Aegisthus were not away, Clytemnestra says, he would keep Electra indoors and out of sight. Clytemnestra maintains that Electra has no cause to blame her, because what Clytemnestra did to Agamemnon she did out of justice, exacting revenge for Agamemnon's sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia. Clytemnestra, perhaps from the unnerving effect of her dream, is more lenient with Electra than usual and grants her daughter the right to respond, which Electra does with full force. She maintains that her mother's reason for killing Agamemnon was out of lust for Aegisthus, and that Agamemnon's sacrifice of Iphigenia was legitimate and necessary. An angry goddess had halted Agamemnon and his fleet on their way to free the army at Troy and refused to let them go unless Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter. Electra maintains that Agamemnon hated making the sacrifice, but that he had no choice in the matter.
Clytemnestra angrily breaks off their discussion so that she might proceed with the sacrifice, which was her initial intent. She calls on Apollo and explains to the god that her sleep was troubled with dreams. She prays that if these dreams were good omens, that they should come to pass, but if not, that they should befall her enemies and not herself. She prays for wealth and long life, and in euphemistic, guarded terms, she prays that Orestes might not return.
The moment Clytemnestra finishes her prayer, the Old Man enters the stage in the character of a messenger from a Phocian friend. He relates to the women that Orestes is dead, and he describes in great length and detail the manner of his death at a chariot race in Delphi. Electra is visibly overcome with grief, and the chorus, too, laments the death. Clytemnestra has confused and mixed emotions at the news. She is affected slightly by maternal feelings and vaguely horrified that her prayers might have brought about the death of her own son. At the same time, however, she is delighted that the possibility of Orestes's return and vengeance has been eradicated. Clytemnestra invites the Old Man inside the palace to receive her hospitality, and the two exit the stage, leaving Electra alone with the chorus.
Alone together on stage, Electra and the chorus engage in a mournful duet, during which Electra gives herself up to sorrow as the chorus tries in vain to console and comfort her. She expresses disgust at the ultimate joy her mother demonstrated at the news of Orestes' death, and she despairs at the thought that her one remaining hope for revenge has been taken away from her. She resigns herself to a life of mourning, and she openly welcomes death.
Chrysothemis returns to the palace after having left her offering at Agamemnon's grave, marking the second phase of the second episode. She is apparently filled with joy, and she rushes up to Electra, who is mourning the death of Orestes in front of the palace gates. Chrysothemis tells Electra that their brother Orestes is alive, and that she is sure of this because, as she made her offering at Agamemnon's grave, she found newly offered wreaths of many flowers and a lock of fresh cut hair. The hair, she is convinced, could belong to no one but Orestes. Electra's grief is renewed, and she relates to Chrysothemis the news of Orestes death. Chrysothemis's joy is immediately replaced with despair, and she willingly listens as Electra puts forth a plan to ease their sorrow. The plan, of course, is for the sisters to take the matter of revenge into their own hands, and to kill both Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. Chyrsothemis rejects the plan, which she considers as lacking in sense and moreover without any possible chance of success. Electra voices her lack of surprise at her sister's unwillingness to take the risk and vows to exact revenge on her own. Chrysothemis issues skeptical words of warning to her sister before going inside the palace.
Chrysothemis's exit marks the end of the second episode, and immediately the second stasimon, consisting of the chorus's song, begins. The chorus bemoans Electra's isolation. Electra, they sing, has been betrayed and abandoned by her sister, left alone by the deaths of her father and brother, and is mistreated by her wicked mother. It celebrates her undying sense of virtue and her inability and unwillingness to live either amongst evil or with shame. Abandoning its traditional conservative stance, it encourages Electra to retaliate against those who have acted against her, in the name of faith, justice, and reverence.
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