Electra

by: Sophocles

Clytemnestra

Characters Clytemnestra

Clytemnestra also adds to the complexity of the final revenge. Electra tells us that Clytemnestra is a cruel, pitiless, woman, a killer of her own husband who deserves to be punished for her actions. According to Electra, Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon so that she could be with Aegisthus. Clytemnestra, however, paints a very different picture of the murder. She says that she was exacting revenge for Agamemnon's unnecessary sacrifice of their daughter. If this is the case, the problem of revenge takes on a new shape. The unsettling ambiguity of Clytemnestra's motivation in killing Agamemnon calls into question the very need for revenge.

Clytemnestra's response to the news of Orestes' death is also unsettling. She prays that Orestes might never return to disrupt her life, but her reaction to his death is not one of unqualified delight. Her expression of maternal feelings, however brief, point a level of human decency and undermine Electra's villainous depiction of her. We cannot help but recall her brief expression of maternal pain and love as her own son stands above her, dealing her her fatal blows.