Date of Award
Master of Arts (AM/MA)
The Electra plays of both Euripides and Sophocles respond to Aeschylus’ Choephori. While Choephori belongs to the Oresteia trilogy that narrates an intergenerational curse sealed by divine forces, Euripides and Sophocles concentrate more on the characterization of human beings, especially Electra. In each play, Electra becomes helpless and despairing after Agamemnon’s death at the hands of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus; Orestes’ return and reunion with Electra liberate her from her desperation and signal the revenge against Clytemnestra and Aegisthus that takes place after the recognition. While Sophocles spends a larger portion of his Electra on the depiction of Orestes’ homecoming, Euripides concentrates on the revenge. The different emphases of the two plays invite scholars to examine the two playwrights’ different characterizations of Electra.
Long-lasting scholarly controversies surround the character of Electra in both plays. These controversies are closely related to Euripides’ and Sophocles’ attitudes towards the vengeful matricide. This work argues that an awareness of musical patterns can help us respond to those scholarly controversies and also to debates about how Greek theatrical music worked. I examine the sung parts of each play that are associated with Electra: the first songs, including the parodos and the lyric part leading up to it; the songs at the recognition scene; and the kommos after a death that is either just reported or just happened: in Sophocles’ Electra the kommos sung after the fake report of Orestes’ death; in Euripides’ Electra the kommos sung after Clytemnestra’s murder. I pay special attention to the correspondence between words and meters, the rhythm of specific meters, the distribution of lyric parts, and the musical communication between different characters. By examining metrical patterns, performance aspects, and the structure of these lyric parts and by viewing them in parallel, I show that in both plays Electra’s music and musical performances do much to determine her character, and that Euripides and Sophocles created distinct heroines through music.
Chair and Committee
Rebecca Sears, Zoe Stamatopoulou
Chen, Zixing, "For Whom is She Singing? The Songs of Electra in Euripides’ and Sophocles’ Electra" (2020). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2265.