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The Strangeness of Tragedy$
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Paul Hammond

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572601.001.0001

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Sophocles

Sophocles

Electra

Chapter:
(p.63) 3 Sophocles
Source:
The Strangeness of Tragedy
Author(s):

Paul Hammond

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572601.003.0004

Sophocles' Electra is shadowed by the past of the house of Atreus. In particular, in a departure from the emphasis in the Oresteia, the tragic milieu is the mind of Electra. Though memory plays its part, more than memory is at work here, for the very way that the characters exist in time is determined by the death of Agamemnon, which remains present throughout in its own dimension, and is restaged at the end of the play when Orestes kills Aegisthus on the same spot where Aegisthus had killed Agamemnon. The central character, Electra, lives in a version of the past, not only never forgetting the murder of her father, but having her whole life and way of thinking, from moment to moment, compelled by it. She seems to exist tangentially to the time and space shared by other characters. Here we have both tragic and non-tragic forms of displacement, some destructive, some recuperative. This is the estranged territory of tragedy, and here in Electra we have a tragedy within a tragedy.

Keywords:   Sophocles, Electra, Agamemnon, death, murder, Orestes, time, space, displacement, tragedy

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