Father, father, father! Your perpetual excuse—Your father got his death from me. From me! That's right! I make no denial. It was Justice who took him, not I alone. And you should have helped if you had any conscience. For this father of yours, This one you bewail, This unique Greek, Had the heart to sacrifice your own sister to the gods.
Clytemnestra utters this quotation after she has found Electra out mourning on the streets as usual. Although only a small part of a larger speech, this quotation alone serves a variety of functions, which include character and thematic development and complicating the plot. Clytemnestra's angered frustration at encountering her daughter on the street again demonstrates the lack of maternal love and patience of which Electra repeatedly accuses her; her evident frustration simultaneously points to Electra's dogged persistence in bemoaning her fate in public. Perhaps of most importance, though, is the exploration of Clytemnestra's motive in killing Agamemnon, whom, we learn for the first time here, sacrificed his own daughter to the gods. In Clytemnestra's opinion, the sacrifice was unnecessary and therefore justly demanded the retribution she delivered by killing her husband. This adds a level of moral complexity to the plot, for if Clytemnestra's action of answering a killing with a killing was "wrong," then Electra's desire to avenge her father's death by killing her mother is similarly "wrong." The situation raises other questions as well: was Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter necessary? Did it demand retribution? Was Clytemnestra justified in killing her husband, and, if so, is the revenge Electra desires truly necessary?