Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews March 8, 2024
March 1, 2024
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Electra discovers a lock of hair on Agamemnon's grave. The chorus becomes agitated, asking whose it is. Electra says that it is identical to her own. She knows that it is Orestes's hair, for she can see his curls, and assumes that he sent it in order to honor their father. The chorus says that it is all the more cause for grief, as it must be a sign that Orestes will never return.
Electra gives a long, emotional speech, torn by the hope that the lock of hair might actually belong to her brother. She wishes the lock of hair could speak and tell her where it came from. She then finds a second sign, a set of footprints that match her own in proportions. Her mind is reeling with shock and anticipation.
Suddenly, Orestes enters and tells Electra to thank heaven for fulfilling her prayers. She asks how so, what prayer has been answered? He says that she sees her wish come true, and that he is Orestes. She disbelieves him, saying it must be a trick, or that he is mocking her. He says that he shares her distress, and if he were to mock her, he would be mocking himself. When she continues to doubt, Orestes calls her a slow learner. He challenges her to hold up the lock of hair to his head and see how it matches, and also provides the third token of a piece of weaving he has that she made herself.
Electra finally gives in to her hope and rejoices. She implores him to save their father's house. She says that four aspects of her love now belong to Orestes: that which should go to Agamemnon, who is dead, that which should go to Clytamnestra, who murdered Agamemnon, that which should go to Iphigineia, who was killed by Agamemnon, and that which naturally would go to Orestes as her brother. She hopes that Might, Justice, and Zeus himself will help him in his quest.
This section of the text covers the recognition scene between Orestes and Electra. There are three stages. First, Electra discovers the lock of hair. Instead of telling her how to speak, the chorus is suddenly asking her for information. In this special case, the young will teach the old rather than the other way around. Electra says that someone could have brought it from her brother as a message. Second, Electra discovers the footprints. She begins to realize that Orestes himself must have left the hair on the grave. Third comes the confrontation between brother and sister, with the final proof of embroidery from Orestes.
Electra's hope that the lock of hair might have come from Orestes seems almost comically coincidental, until we realize that only a family member would have been likely to leave a lock of hair on Agamemnon's tomb. Since she knows that she did not leave it, and that her mother never would have, her assumption that it belongs to her brother is not as ridiculous as it first appears.
Having followed the clues to Orestes himself, Electra then refuses to recognize him at first. In her inability to follow her own logic, she shows herself to be the opposite of her mother, who is relentless in her ability to manipulate logic and language towards her own ends. Emotional wavering and irrational hoping are strong feminine traits. Clytamnestra, on the other hand, is portrayed in the Agamemnon as possessing strong male tendencies, which a Greek audience would have found disturbing. Unlike her mother, Electra plays an appropriate female role. Electra has said that she wishes to be entirely different from her mother (line 140–141), and here we see her fulfilling that desire.
Orestes's first words to his sister are that she should thank the gods for fulfilling her prayers. Just as Electra appeared immediately after Orestes prayed for help in avenging his father's death, so Orestes appeared after Electra wished for the same. Electra should be grateful, as the gods are clearly on their side. The immediate fulfillment of some part of their prayers indicates that their main wish will also come true, that Clytamnestra and Aigisthos will pay for their crimes.
Electra doubting of Orestes's words is significant in the context of the trilogy, as Clytamnestra lured Agamemnon to his death with persuasive words. She says, "No, it's a trap, stranger a net you tie around me?" This strongly evokes the high-pitched scene in the Agamemnon when Cassandra recognizes Clytamnestra for the murderer that she is: "No no, look there!— what's that? some net flung out of hell—No, she is the snare." Orestes assures his sister that he is on her side. Her pain is his own. They are to work together to devise plots against the queen herself. The lock of hair and the footprints were signs of a deep affinity, the strongest of blood ties.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Libation Bearers!