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Electra | Parados | Summary

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Summary

Electra, dressed as a servant, comes out of the house, mourning her father as she has all the years since his death, about eight or nine years earlier. She reviews how he died: her mother and Aegisthus "cleft his head with murderous axe." She prays for her brother Orestes to come and help her take revenge, saying that her burden of grief is so great that it has made her too weak to do it alone. Electra worries that he will never arrive.

The chorus enters and tries to comfort Electra, telling her that constant grieving won't bring her father back. But she tells them there is no "cure" for her grief.

Analysis

The Parados is traditionally the entrance ode, or chant, of the chorus, but here it is also Electra's entrance, and she actually chants the beginning of the entrance song, powerfully introducing the play's pervasive motif of mourning.

The chorus then enters—the official beginning of the play as the women sing the opening ode. The typical structure of a choral ode is strophe, lines sung as the chorus moves from right to left across the stage, followed by antistrophe, lines sung as the chorus turns and moves from left to right. This strophe/antistrophe pattern may be repeated any number of times. During the parados, as it moves from right to left across the stage, the chorus sings the first strophe and Electra responds, then the chorus responds with the antistrophe. This pattern occurs three times.

Thematically, each pairing of strophe and antistrophe sometimes explores two sides of an issue, allowing for some argumentation, in this case between Electra and the chorus. For instance, in strophe 3, the chorus recounts how Agamemnon died, clearly siding with Electra by agreeing that his murder was "dreadful." Electra then breaks in to pray passionately for revenge against his murderers. In antistrophe 3 the chorus responds, cautioning Electra against continuing to antagonize her mother and stepfather. Electra then explains why she cannot act any differently.

After the pattern of strophe/antistrophe comes the epode, the conclusion of the ode. The epode concludes the argument, with the chorus explaining that it speaks out of motherly love for Electra, which raises the theme of motherhood. The audience learns that Electra is not married. It is highly unlikely that she or either of her sisters would be allowed to marry since any son they bore might challenge Aegisthus or his sons for the throne of Argos. Denying Electra and her sister the option to bear children is politically motivated, just one instance of the overlap between bloodline and politics that appears throughout the play.

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