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Electra is the eldest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. Poorly treated by her mother and her mother's husband, Aegisthus, she spends her days mourning her father's murder and awaiting the return of her brother, Orestes, whom she believes will help her to carry out that which she most longs for: vengeance for her father's death. She is stubbornly devoted to the principles of justice, reverence, and honor, although oftentimes her grasp on these principles seems questionable.
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Orestes is the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, and therefore, he is the rightful king of Argos. Saved as a young child by Electra and smuggled away to Phocia after Agamemnon's murder, he has now returned to Mycenae to avenge his father's death, as instructed by the oracle of Apollo. He is advised and accompanied by his tutor and keeper, the Old Man, and his silent friend, Pylades. Still a youth, Orestes is somewhat naïve and inexperienced. He acts because he has been so instructed by Apollo's oracle, and not as motivated by intense or deep emotion.
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Clytemnestra is the Queen of Argos. Formerly married to Agamemnon, whom she murdered, she now reigns corruptly alongside Aegisthus, her paramour. She despises and poorly treats her daughter, Electra, whose constant mourning and desire for revenge threatens Clytemnestra. She loves wealth and well being, both of which she enjoys, but she is clearly haunted by her past actions and aware that her current happiness rests on uneasy ground.
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Chrysothemis is the younger daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. Although she recognizes her mother's corruption and although she understands the injustice of her father's murder, she refuses to mourn in the way that her sister, Electra, does. She realizes that she will gain the greatest benefits by siding with those in control. Unlike Electra, who adheres to the principles of justice, Chrysothemis clings to the principle of expediency in the hopes of maximizing her own comfort and profit.
The Old Man is the faithful servant to whom Electra entrusted Orestes as a young boy. The Old Man smuggle Orestes to Phocia, where he served as the boy's tutor and guardian. A voice of wisdom and practicality, he acts as Orestes' advisor in exacting revenge for Agamemnon's death, paying strict attention to detail, focus, and timing.
Aegisthus is the paramour of Clytemnestra and responsible for the murder of Agamemnon. Like Clytemnestra, he is aware of the uneasy foundations upon which his position rests. His great desire is to eliminate threats to his way of life; always cruel to Electra, he wants to lock her away along with her perpetual grieving, and he celebrates Orestes' supposed death.
The chorus is comprised of the virgins of the palace. Traditionally reserved and conservative, this chorus abandons its conventional stance to whole-heartedly support both Electra and the play's final act of vengeance.
Pylades is Orestes's silent friend who accompanies him and the Old Man to Mycenae to exact revenge for Agamemnon's death. He is the mute witness to the play's drama in much the same way that the audience is.
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