Electra by Sophocles

Truth, Justice, and the Greek Way

In Sophocles’ Electra the driving force behind the plot is the notion of achieving justice outside of a formal justice system. The play shows how seeking justice can quickly turn into plotting revenge. Without any formal authority, cycles of violence quickly develop as tit for tat justice is played out among rival factions. The thin line between justice and vengeance is one that the characters in “Electra” tread. Despite all of the horrible deeds that transpire in the plot, all of the characters feel that they are in the moral right. This leads to the question of how justice is best served, and who has the right to determine what that justice is. As a modern audience we must ask ourselves if the outcome of the play conforms to what we would consider a fair system of justice.

The culminating event in the plot of the play is a brutal home invasion that leads to a double homicide. If we saw an event like this played out on the news we would be aghast at the barbarity of such a vile act, but in the context of the play we are meant to view this as a triumph for Electra and Orestes. The chorus joyously sings out, “O seed of Atreus: you suffered and broke free, you took aim and struck; you have won your way through to the finish”...

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