A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for baccalaureate degrees in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Art History with honors in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies

Reviewed and approved* by the following: Anna Peterson Assistant Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies Thesis Supervisor

Mary Lou Zimmerman Munn Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies Honors Adviser

* Signatures are on file in the Schreyer Honors College.


In this paper I will address the relationship between sisters in classical Greek tragedy. I will look at the sisters Antigone and Ismene as well as , , and in the relevant Greek of and , in order to examine how the dynamics of their sisterhood interact within the realm of patriarchal statehood of Thebes and respectively, and how this dynamic potentially disrupts mainstream ideologies of dominating cultural orders.



Chapter 1 Introduction ...... 1

Chapter 2 Antigone ...... 4

Chapter 3 Electra...... 15

Introduction ...... 15 Sophocles’ Electra ...... 17 Euripides’ Electra ...... 29

Chapter 4 Conclusion ...... 36




I am grateful for the support of so many people around me, without which this project would have been impossible. I want to thank Dr. Stephanie Larson, who guided me on my semester in , inspired me in so many ways, sparked my interest in women in Greek tragedy, and helped me stumble through Herodotus translation with patience and grace. Your support and influence in Greece has meant so much to me. I also have to thank Dr. Zoe

Stamatopoulou for similarly fostering my gradual transition from dreading to loving Greek, who shepherded me through translation neuroses and has provided an overwhelming abundance of support and belief in my abilities. I am extremely grateful to my thesis advisor, Dr. Anna

Peterson, who has patiently and intelligently helped me organize my frantic thoughts. I also want to thank Dr. Mary Lou Zimmerman Munn, who has been a wonderful advisor whose support and assistance has been integral in navigating my collegiate career and on, as well as Dr. Mark

Munn, who first recruited a very enthusiastic freshman me into CAMS, for which I will forever be grateful. Thank you to my parents, Kathy and Tony Papile, who have given me nothing but love and support. 1

Chapter 1


Women speak, act, and irrevocably change the shape of their worlds in classical Greek tragedy.

They have a powerful presence that allow modern readers to hear ancient women, albeit fictional ones, in a unique way. Tragic women are a remarkable phenomenon that stems from a culture that encourages their silence and submission. Understandably, for many modern scholars these characters engender a fascination. Tragic women are messy, complex, murderous, admirable, and at least as important as their male counterparts in the tragic worlds they inhabit.

Tragic women are often understood as members of a few, codified categories that pervade the history of scholarship on the subject. Namely, they are viewed as mothers or murderers—they are on a binary axis between being masculine, crazed gender-transgressors who commit horrible acts of violence, or else they are weaklings who fulfill a feminine ideal of passivity and obedience. Many of the most famous tragic women are understood by these designations. and Medea, for example, are often understood as the latter group. They slay their husbands and children out of a masculine desire to gain glory from their deeds: Clytemnestra murders her husband for revenge for her slain daughter, Iphigenia, and Medea slays her children out of revenge and a sense of shame when her husband

Jason’s spurns her for a new bride.1 As women who act in this way, they are too radical and mentally unstable, and often meet terrible ends for their deeds (as in the case of Clytemnestra). The other category of women is that of those who fulfill the expectations for their gender. These are usually women who sacrifice themselves for their husband or children, or else embody the proper degree of passive obedience.

Examples of this group include Jocasta, mother and wife of Oedipus, and Alcestis, who sacrifices herself

1 See Foley 2001. 2 to save her husband’s life.2 These women are, on the one hand, portrayed positively for their proper performance of womanhood, but, on the other, still are women, who are naturally inferior to men in the

Greek gender hierarchy. Thus while characters who are read traditionally as hyper-feminine, like Ismene, who is discussed extensively in this paper, are paragons of femininity, they still at the very least are disregarded, especially in comparison to other valorously masculine characters. Not to mention, they usually end up dead as well, often because they have passively received fate’s hand and either are killed or kill themselves out of horror and shame (Jocasta, for example, is not faulted for being a proper Greek woman but her fate is still death). This binary is functional and logical in many aspects, but ultimately reduces these complex characters and silences extant nuances within their characterizations.

The other way that scholars have traditionally understood tragic women is through their relationships to other kin (almost always men), specifically, as mothers, daughters, and wives.

Occasionally they are regarded as sisters foremost, but that is in cases like that of Antigone and Electra, who deal with a legacy of dead fathers. Tragic women are always engaged with how they relate to their families, as the proper denizens of the oikos, or the Greek private sphere. In this way they must be in constant dialogue with the fulfillment of their duties as women, namely as wives and mothers. More to the point, they always exist in relation to their value as the sources of the next generation (or perhaps merely stewards—as even in tells the Athenian court that women are only the incubators for the father’s germ, and provide no essential contribution to procreation). Considering women in these ways has resulted in a generous scholarly corpus as well, but exploring other relationships among tragic women also deserves consideration.

For these reasons, I explore here the relationships between tragic sisters. Considering the two sister sets of Antigone and Ismene and Electra and Chrysothemis or Iphigenia, I examine the ways these sisters engage with each other, and the ways these relationships shape the overall plot of the play. Using

Judith Butler’s framework established in Antigone’s Claim, I first apply her theory to the Antigone and

2 See Wohl 1998. 3 consider the ways Antigone and Ismene reveal and disrupt the mainstream ideologies established in the public sphere of the state within Thebes. After this, I expand the discussion to include Electra, examining the respective plays of Sophocles and Euripides and how Electra’s relationship with her sisters

Chrysothemis and Iphigenia influence the presentation of competing ideologies that mirror the public- private, masculine-feminine dualities taken from Butler’s framework. Ultimately, I wish to demonstrate how these sisters interact and relate to each other and how this then disrupts monolithic presentations of mainstream ideologies within these tragedies, and thus complicates the evaluation of how we approach the rhetoric and ethical judgment employed by these characters.

4 Chapter 2 Antigone

Women in tragedy occupy a unique position between dramatic expression and real-world gendered expectations of their behavior. This position is further complicated by the relationships that the plays construct between these women. Tragedy, as a genre, gives women a voice, even as it restricts their agency and interactions. Tragic sisters especially form a relationship that places these women in a complex dynamic that can reveal and often disrupt the primary ruling ideology of the world within Greek tragedy. The relationship between Antigone and Ismene represents an important example of this type of relationship.

I will start by examining the language of Antigone. The play opens with Antigone talking to her sister. Antigone invokes Ismene in the very first line, calling on her sister as κοινὸν αὐτάδελφον, my own common sibling.3 The importance of their shared kinship reveals itself in this phrasing: the κοινὸν suggests an urge on the part of Antigone to express the common blood they share, while αὐτάδελφον modified by

κοινὸν provides added force to the idea of this shared, mutual relationship. Already the concept of kinship

(problematized by the incestuous lineage from which they come) marks itself as a key piece of the play in this wording. Antigone’s focus on her sibling undeniably sets a guiding force for the play by invoking this bond with Ismene. Further, the invocation of Ismene as “my own common sibling” emphasizes their equal, lateral relationship, while the use of “common” recalls the other siblings they share, namely, Polyneices,

Eteocles, and Oedipus.4

At the end of Antigone’s initial address to Ismene, she asks her what she knows of Creon’s proclamation, saying, “Have you heard anything?”5 Antigone’s purpose, then, is to ask her sister what knowledge she has concerning the driving conflict of the play, namely that Creon will not permit Antigone

3 See Goldhill 2006, 145-146. 4 Oedipus is both half brother and father to Antigone via Jocasta. See Butler 2000, 57 for further analysis of the ramifications of this. 5 ἔχεις τι κεἰσήκουσας; (Soph. Ant. 9). 5 to bury their brother Polynieces. This initial address deserves attention if for no other reason than that

Antigone considers Ismene as a potential source of information. Ismene must have, if not an authority, then some kind of position that differs from Antigone in such a way that she may or may not have knowledge that Antigone deems important. This appeal to Ismene’s expertise on a subject creates a dynamic that places

Antigone in a position of asking her sister for her help, first for information and then for direct aid. Here she further establishes Ismene’s authority and equal footing by treating her as an equal.

Antigone also addresses Ismene in a way that recalls the initial invocations of gods at the beginning of a variety of genres of poetry. This contributes to a sense of urgency when Antigone calls on her sister. To call on a god is to appeal to a being outside of oneself, a request for a favor for something that one cannot provide on one’s own. Antigone appears to invoke Ismene in this way, with similar language, as a muse, or else a goddess. For example, Sappho’s iconic Fr. 1 begins with an invocation of Aphrodite and a request for her intervention.6 Antigone, too, calls upon her sister and asks her for her help and information. In addition,

Antigone’s appeal to her sister parallels the masculine language Sappho uses when she calls on Aphrodite as a military ally. Her interest in entering a joint venture, and even Ismene’s dissent as she instead follows her particular feminized ethics, affirms Ismene’s shared status with Antigone. This focus on Ismene, while not asserting her as a super powerful or knowledgeable agent, still emphasizes her as a figure of potency or at least importance for her sister Antigone.

The very first lines of this play illustrate some of the relationship structure between the two sisters, and how that affects the play overall. Transmission of information is an immediate concern for Antigone, one which already seems destabilized.7 Antigone asks Ismene if she has heard the proclamation of Creon, which she has not. This is troubling news for Creon, who later states that the decree was meant to be ubiquitous. When Ismene denies her knowledge of the edict that will set the play in motion, she creates an

6 See Sappho fr.1. πο]ικιλόθρο[ν’ ἀθανάτ’ Ἀφρόδιτα,/ παῖ] Δ[ί]ος δολ[όπλοκε. 7 See Butler 2000, especially chapter three (57-82) “Promiscuous Obedience” for further development of the idea of aberrant transmission of symbolic order/information by Antigone, also Pollock 2006 for broader concepts concerning this issue and its implication for the Oedipal family. 6 ambiguous space in which the question of why there is discrepancy between what Creon says and what

Ismene says arises. Why doesn’t Ismene know? Is Creon an ineffective ruler? Is Ismene just too simple and feminine for the urgent spread of Creon’s law to be applicable? If so, why is that? Does Creon’s Thebes have a dysfunctional mechanic that excludes Ismene? It cannot be that women would be excluded from this knowledge, or Antigone would not know about it.8 The fact that Ismene occupies a space that is both external to the mainstream patriarchal political system but still dwells within the system in the feminine kinship sphere creates a site of dissonance in which Creon’s potential shortcomings as a ruler are already revealed within the first few lines.

The repeated emphasis on the discrepancy between performance or appearance and reality is mirrored in Antigone’s confrontation with Creon. When Creon asks her outright if she committed her crime, she says, «I say that I did it and I do not deny it» (καί φημί δρᾶσαι κὀυκ ἀπαρνοῦμαι τό μή , Ant. 443).

Antigone emphasizes the action of speaking, using vocabulary of confirmation or denial.9 The two primary verbs here are φημί and ἀπαρνοῦμαι, which are both verbs of speaking, while any reference to action takes a secondary position as the infinitive δρᾶσαι, a general verb of ‘doing.’ This appearance of qualifying her confession (i.e., she is certainly claiming responsibility but doesn’t actually say that she did it) stands out as a distinction from merely saying “Yes, I did it.” Why this forced removal of immediate confession? Is it a purposeful ambiguity? Why bother saying that you’re saying it, if we (we being Creon, we being an

Athenian audience) can clearly see that you’re saying these words?

Words and speech become an issue again with Antigone’s retort, specifically, «And I do/ not tolerate a loved one who shows her love only in words. »10 The relevant Greek is φἰλην φιλοῦσαν λὀγοις which very literally translates to “a loved one who loves with words.” This is a powerful qualifier if

Antigone is suggesting that Ismene, whose love for her sister is her main driving force, acts on a primary

8 Goldhill 2006. 9 Goldhill 2006, 147. 10 λόγοις δ’ ἐγὼ φιλοῦσαν οὐ στέργω φίλην.(Soph.Ant.543). 7 core value with her words. The importance of speech and performance is once again of paramount importance, in which the words of these women are deciding which of them lives and dies.

Ismene’s second and final scene is during Antigone’s confrontation with Creon, when she has been caught in the act of burying her brother the second time by a guard. The chorus introduces her: “See, here before the gates is Ismene, dropping tears of love for/ her sister; and a cloud over her eyes marks her flushed/face, wetting her fair cheeks!” 11 When Antigone and the chorus introduce Ismene in her first and second scene, they do so in significant ways. In the first scene of the play, Antigone invokes her, almost like a deity, and calls on their common bond to ask for help. The chorus in this second scene, however, does not address her directly but instead describes her appearance, doing so in a way that presents Ismene’s grief almost as a mask. There is literally a cloud (νεφελή) that covers her eyes or brow, obscuring her and mottling her cheeks so that they are ‘made ugly’ (αἰσκύνει) and ‘flushed’ or ‘blood-red’ (αιματόεν). Ismene is transformed, her true visage hidden, and made to be something entirely outside of a face that a young royal maiden would possess. Creon reinforces this imagery of obfuscation by addressing her as one who he never noticed (λήθουσά μ᾽, perhaps more literally as ‘having escaped my notice’) but lurked in the house

(῾υφειμενένη οἴκους) and drained him, like a viper (῾ως ᾽έχιδν᾽ ἐξεπίνες). Creon paints Ismene as an almost primordial creature, invoking imagery of a chthonic snake filled with venom. If in the first scene she is framed as a divine being capable of helping Antigone in her quest, perhaps now she truly is an evil spirit haunting the oikos and spreading havoc throughout Creon’s interior realm, just as Antigone is openly doing so in the external political realm.

Notably, Ismene isn’t actually doing anything contrary to her prescripted role. She is fulfilling the expectations of her gender, albeit in a manner that is somewhat extreme, but nonetheless adheres to the values assigned to her as a proper Theban woman. However, the extreme degree of her compliance puts her in an interesting position: she is so outside of the masculine ideal that she is in the position of feminized

11 The full line reads: νεφέλη δ’ ὀφρύων ὕπερ αἱματόεν/ῥέθος αἰσχύνει,/ τέγγουσ’ εὐῶπα παρειάν (Soph. Ant.528-530). 8 Other in relation to the both feminine and masculine model of her sister. This allows for the creation of space for criticism and the disturbance of problematic structures of Thebes’ society, thus enacting through, by, and for her a critique of the society that has fashioned her. In this way, she performs non-compliance through compliance; she rebels while obeying. This is an important position to occupy because it both engenders a performance that is beyond reproach (she is the proper hyper-feminized woman) but also gives her the freedom to deny the primacy of masculine ideals, unlike her sister, who does buy into the hierarchy that prioritizes masculine heroism and honor above feminized regard for life. This is similar to Butler’s idea of “promiscuous obedience,” in which Antigone, through an attempt to obey the customs of kinship duties, distorts their meaning and perverts the force of the paternal symbolic order by repetitive performance of kinship duty to her male relatives.12

Thus far Ismene has been established as a provocative, disruptive, and present force that has a meaningful part in the Antigone, contrary to previous scholarship which is often dismissive of her characterization.13 While she is important as a figure in her own right, her relationship with her sister

Antigone is by far the most meaningful. Their relationship is one characterized by sibling desire, although each for a different sibling: Antigone for Polyneices, Ismene for Antigone. Both siblings also respect the other’s ethics: Ismene wishes to support her sister and tries to die with her in her final scene, but Antigone refuses her, at first because she will not let Ismene share in a fate that she fled from as a coward. After, however, she urges Ismene to remain alive. Ismene does not need to share Antigone’s fate—she is not wedded to death. Antigone encourages Ismene to pursue her ethics of life and feminine physical survival.

She is the surviving member of the Oedipal legacy—she is the “final girl” of the devastating cycle of bloodshed. Antigone is too far gone in her ethical choice, but that does not mean that Ismene cannot follow the path she has already begun to carve out for herself by refusing to help Antigone bury her brother and

12 Butler 2000, 98. 13 See Honig 2011, 32-39 for an account of Ismene’s reception through history, as well as Honig’s counter-reading that considers Ismene more positively. 9 instead choose a life that shuns the masculine ideals that prioritize a ritual for a dead man over the survival of a beloved family member.

Antigone and Ismene, ultimately, in the language Sophocles uses seem to be framed in terms of performance. Antigone, Ismene, and Creon each emphasize through their language that the acts of speaking, of appearing, and of performing visually are the important issues here. Issues of performance, speaking, and action become a matter of visibility: Ismene is hidden, but subsequently revealed, but when she is revealed she is done so in a manner that is masked, face clouded and mottled, another face hidden beneath. Or is this red faced, wet cheeked creature, disfigured and made ugly by her tears of love for her sister, the true Ismene hidden beneath the performance of ideal femininity she wields so expertly earlier in the play? Creon certainly seems to be afraid of this, seeing her as a blood-sucking viper hidden within the oikos. Thus

Antigone wields her masculine appropriation as a shield behind which she navigates the external political sphere, justifying her actions through claims to kleos and bold proclamations of her ethical behavior. Ismene wields her femininity to act outside of a value system that prioritizes a masculine sense of morality in a manner that is both subversive and obedient, and so avoids detection. As sisters, they perform, through words, actions, and appearances, in a parallel but opposite ways so that they disrupt Creon’s ordered world from outside and in respectively.

Creon’s language is also revealing. He goes on after accusing Ismene of deception and traitorous behavior within the oikos to further underline the parallel nature of the two sisters. He refers to them in the dual as both plagues (ἄτα) and rebels (κἀπαναστάσεις) who threaten the throne.14 In Creon’s eyes, Ismene and Antigone are equally dangerous and equally culpable—or at least until Ismene confesses to the crime and Antigone refutes her. Ismene persistently asks to die with her sister. Her specific entreaty to her sister is that she allow her to share the blame, once again emphasizing the importance of language and the power of denial or affirmation. Antigone refuses, saying that justice would not permit it. Ismene then responds, “But

14 See Goldhill 2012, 31-32 about the Antigone’s use of the dual, and especially Antigone’s avoidance of plural singular pronouns when she uses the dual instead. 10 in your time of trouble I am not ashamed (οὐκ αἰσχύνομαι) to make myself a/ fellow voyager in your suffering.”15 Ismene uses the verb αἰσκύνω, a verb that generally deals with shame and propriety but is also the same verb used before by the chorus to describe the state of Ismene’s face, which is marked and flushed, her brow clouded and crying. This verb in general relates to the Greek word αἶσχος which is usually literally translated as shame, although it ties into notions of propriety and modesty for a woman, somewhat in the way the idea of kleos is a marker for male honor. The discrepancy in the gendered words regarding honor and propriety are split between Ismene and Antigone—Antigone’s language, seeking a man’s honor, is her tool for navigating and disrupting the male sphere, while Ismene wields her feminine αἶσχος like a weapon, performing rebellion through submission to disrupt order in conjunction with her sister.

The figure of Antigone has experienced an extensive legacy of scrutiny from a variety of scholars.16 Some have looked to Antigone as a model of feminine/feminist resistance that embodies the personal versus the political.17 Judith Butler addresses this discourse by resituating Antigone in a framework that orients itself around gender and a political resistance that seeks to transcend gender, rather than one that pits Antigone in a debate over the identity of state-defying Woman. Butler frames Antigone as “not quite a queer heroine” who undermines mainstream patriarchal ideologies in a variety of ways. 18

In particular, she examines Antigone in terms of a pre-political kinship mode, which Antigone champions through her relentless pursuit of her claim to the kinship relationship with her brother, Polyneices, as she defies the voice of the law, personified by Creon.19 Antigone thus disrupts the political superstructure through her position as a woman within this system, but also within the kinship sphere, the appropriate domain for a woman.20 Framed as such, she thus undermines the integrity of the system from a position

15 ἀλλ’ ἐν κακοῖς τοῖς σοῖσιν οὐκ αἰσχύνομαι/ ξύμπλουν ἐμαυτὴν τοῦ πάθους ποιουμένη. (Soph. Ant.540- 541). 16 This legacy includes Lacan, Hegel, Freud, etc. Also see Steiner 1984 for a comprehensive examination of Antigone as a figure read through a variety of lenses. 17 Holmes 2012, 150-168. Also see Söderbäck 2010. 18 Butler 2000, 2. 19 Butler 2000, 1-27. 20 See Holmes 2012 and Butler 2000 for articulation of Butler’s framework in which kinship sphere takes on the role of the “internal enemy of the State.” 11 inherently related to the political value set but also from a position excluded and inferior to the dominant hierarchy of symbols.

Antigone has been the point of departure for a variety of lasting and influential modes of discourse and her sister Ismene is a natural point of continuation for further scrutiny and analysis. Ismene is the last surviving direct relation of the Oedipal legacy besides the maimed Oedipus himself. If we are to adopt Judith Butler’s framework as a starting point, the importance of Antigone’s relationship with

Ismene contributes to Butler’s interest in the kinship relationships within this much fractured family.

Oedipal sisterhood is already a perversion of the social norm; a hiccup in the naturalized ethics of the state. Antigone and Ismene are both daughter and sister to Oedipus and daughter and granddaughter to their mother, both proxies by which this mistaken doubling has taken place. Scholars use the perversion of family roles to emphasize transgressions of family relationship taboos, such as Lacan’s theory of

Antigone’s desire for her brother, or Butler’s emphasis on the chaotic nature of the kinship relationships, promises, and curses with which Antigone is forced to act in conjunction. To be sure, the confused web of family relationships is already a disruptive force. It highlights and creates friction with mainstream ideologies that enforce the state/patriarchal ethics that dictates the taboos which control kinship and non- kinship relationships (i.e., don’t sleep with your sister, mother, etc.). Familial relationships are what drive

Antigone to bury her brother, and specifically what she feels is the honorable way to act towards kin.

Antigone is caught in the legacy of her father; she has inherited his incestuous identity. That said, even while acting out of a complex desire to perform this act for her brother (incestuous or otherwise), the sibling relationship that the play dramatizes is the one she has with Ismene, and not Polyneices, whose body is never present on stage.

Lacan suggests that Antigone’s uncompromising drive to bury her brother is a product of her

“universalizing desire” to enact the ultimate feminine duty. Her duty, by which I mean the ritual treatment of his remains, becomes the final confirmation of the male identity in the play. Holmes uses Lacan’s tautological explanation of this individual essence compared with the individual elements/events which 12 have defined Polyneices (i.e., his tainted parentage, his attack on Thebes, etc.) to show how Antigone, according to Lacan’s logic, is pursuing an ethics beyond logic. This ethical framework privileges such tautological truisms as the one previously mentioned, and exists outside of the realm of the logic of the state’s mainstream ideology. 21

The idea of the pursuit of a post-logic ethics through a feminine task is important for understanding how the play construes the relationship between Antigone and Ismene. Ismene is the embodiment of feminine duty: her ethical priority is the pursuit of her sister’s safety. Her ethics is one of love, family preservation, and pacification.22 True, Ismene stands as a foil to her sister’s ethical conduct, but that dismisses the possibility that she may possess her own ethics. Ismene may embody the feminized

Other’s ideal: one that privileges everything that Antigone’s patriarchal value set considers inferior, such as human life, happiness, etc. Ismene then is a kind of non-ideal in relation to the ideal established by the figure of Antigone. Following Butler’s framework in which women and the sphere of kinship are an internal but vilified enemy of the state, Ismene becomes a kind of feminine anti-ideal: she is non- compliant through her compliance. What Ismene achieves which Antigone fails at is a complete effacing of masculine ideals. She does not subscribe to her sister’s civil disobedience, which the play foregrounds. Within this framework, her compliance to gendered expectations is itself a form of non-compliance or rebellion in comparison to her sister. Ismene’s relationship to her sister is a balancing, rationalizing attempt to steady her sister, one that is ultimately a failure but still lends legitimacy to her position of feminine logic.

So, if we put Ismene in Antigone’s place, and have her acting on Antigone with the same universalizing desire, the same tautological compulsion, as Antigone acts on the dead/absent

21 Holmes 2012, 158-163. Lacan’s tautology: “My brother is what he is, and it’s because he is what he is and only he can be what he is, that I move forward to the fatal limit.” Lacan 1992, 278-9. 22 See Honig 2011, 62-62 for her consideration of Ismene as a symbol of feminist ethics. 13 Polyneices, what work does this do? If Ismene is inscribed with the same legitimacy as Antigone has grown to have recently in the face of her mainstream opposition, namely Creon, what kind of material grows from this increased prestige and attention? What emerges from this reading is a view of Ismene that draws attention to her desire to preserve Antigone’s life in a way that is both mental and physical. Antigone’s priority is the honor for her ethical order and her brother’s ethics—her relationship to gods and to the individual articulated as such. Ismene pursues her sister on another level, one that privileges a feminine physical basis; she prioritizes the reproductive physicality of their identities as women but also recognizes Antigone as an individual. The two together bear the fertile Oedipal blood from which the political realm must spring, a legitimization of their survival via the values of the state, but they also display together a precious individual conscious—one that is valued even over the priorities of the state, such as the removal of the polluted Oedipal blood or the salvaging her family’s honor. Ismene seeks to save her sister out of love for her, out of a selfish prioritization of her sister, while Antigone similarly acts out of a prioritization of the individual (her brother) over the state. This is highlighted in one of the most controversial quotes frequently lifted from the Antigone:

For never, not even if I had been a mother of children, nor if I had a dead husband rotting away, would I have assumed this labor against the will of the citizens. In deference to what principle do I say these things? If a husband had died, there might have been another, and a child from another man, if I had lost this one. But with my mother and father hidden in Hades, no brother could ever be born again.23

23 οὐ γάρ ποτ’ οὔτ’ ἂν εἰ τέκν’ ὧν μήτηρ ἔφυν/οὔτ’ εἰ πόσις μοι κατθανὼν ἐτήκετο/βίᾳ πολιτῶν τόνδ’ ἂν ᾐρόμην πόνον./ τίνος νόμου δὴ ταῦτα πρὸς χάριν λέγω;/ πόσις μὲν ἄν μοι κατθανόντος ἄλλος ἦν,/ καὶ παῖς ἀπ’ ἄλλου φωτός, εἰ τοῦδ’ ἤμπλακον,/ μητρὸς δ’ ἐν Ἅιδου καὶ πατρὸς κεκευθότοιν/ οὐκ ἔστ’ ἀδελφὸς ὅστις ἂν βλάστοι ποτέ. (Soph. Ant. 905-912). 14 Antigone and Ismene, while working within the political system (Antigone by aspiring to masculine ideals from a position of feminized kinship, Ismene as an embodiment of the traits of feminized kinship in Thebes) are simultaneously privileging a feminist sensibility of the individual. They prioritize their desire as women acting from a place of love for their parallel, lateral relations, and not just their reproductive functions that normally would justify and characterize their position as women through vertical transmission of family prestige of marriage and childbearing. Their desire is oriented around an appreciation of kinship bonds championed by the female kinship realm, and not one that is focused on reproductive potential for the sake of the state.

15 Chapter 3



If the sibling relationships of Antigone present a framework of gendered interaction within a generation of siblings, it logically follows to consider Electra and her siblings. Electra, of course, first makes her way to the tragic stage via Aeschylus’ Bearers.24 The original trilogy of

Aeschylus presents the cycle of revenge and bloodshed instigated by the sacrifice of Iphigenia carried out by her father Agamemnon. In the Libation Bearers, it is not just Electra’s relationship to her brother

Orestes that drives the plot to kill their mother Clytemnestra, but also indirectly Electra’s relationship to her sister Iphigenia. Iphigenia is an integral part of the Oresteia’s mythic cycle, and has an important relationship with all her surviving family members including Electra and Chrysothemis in Sophocles’

Electra. Grappling with her absence/silence is a task with genuine rhetorical ramifications that reflect onto her family, an issue that both Sophocles and Euripides explore in their respective plays. In addition to Iphigenia, Sophocles introduces another sister in his Electra, Chrysothemis. This is the only extant example that we have as modern readers of Chrysothemis’ dramatization; she does not appear in other versions of this myth. Chrysothemis plays an important role as sister to Electra, and their dialogue has significant consequences for the definition and evaluation of ethical sets of the characters in these plays.

Historically, the character of Electra has inspired a legacy of scholarship akin to Antigone’s, although perhaps not as infamously robust as that of Antigone.25 Electra generally faces much of the same scholarly anxiety that Antigone does, namely that Electra is somehow masculine (through her use of

24 Neither the Electra of Sophocles nor Euripides are definitively dated, and I will not attempt to address issues of chronology here. I also will not argue that either Sophocles or Euripides are imitating one another. I will consider each play separately and, when appropriate, discuss its relation to the Libation Bearers of Aeschylus. For a further evaluation of the relationship between Aeschylus and Euripides’ Electra, see Torrance 2011. 25 For a summary of the history of Electra’s modern reception, see Goldhill 2012, 201-230. 16 language like the male conception of honor or kleos, for example) or else an embodiment of shrieking feminine mourning.26 Her gendered language is considered from this perspective and is supplemented by the auxiliary female characters of Chrysothemis in Sophocles’ version and Clytemnestra in both versions.27 Especially in regard to Chrysothemis, Electra is framed often as a moral superior to her sister, who acts as a foil to highlight Electra’s moral superiority, in much the same way Antigone is considered in relation to Ismene.28 I want to consider Electra and Chrysothemis together in the same manner as I did previously for Antigone and Ismene, as moral agents who complicate each other and support each other in their opposing morality’s destabilizing effect on mainstream ideologies, while considering how

Iphigenia’s relationship as a sister to these two inflects their rhetoric.

Much of the preceding framework discussed regarding Antigone can be applied in a similar manner to Electra. In this chapter, I will primarily examine the Electra plays of Sophocles and Euripides, and compare what each poet’s treatment produces in terms of Electra’s relationships to her sisters. These plays reveal how dialogue between sisters motivated by different ethical positions can produce both a more complex concept of gendered values and a clear elucidation of what belongs to ideologies of the private and political. Moreover, it reveals how the rhetoric of sisterhood destabilizes mainstream ideologies by interrupting the idea that certain codified value sets are universally considered superior to others in the classical Greek tragic setting.

26 Goldhill 2012, 242; Woodard 1966, 125-145; also see Seaford 1985 for consideration of Electra as mourner especially. 27 Ringer 1998, 152-172. 28 Woodard 1966, 134; Kitzinger 1991, 312-317. 17 Sophocles’ Electra

If we look at both Sophocles’ and Euripides’ Electra, we can make a comparison between the tragic poets’ treatment of siblings. Beginning with Sophocles’ Electra, Sophocles seems particularly preoccupied with how sibling interactions inform the plot of the play. Significantly, he introduces another sister for Electra, Chrysothemis, who is a restraining force for Electra paralleling the role Ismene plays for

Antigone. Electra most often plays a part in tragedy that is contingent on the role of her brother Orestes, with the specter of the slain Iphigeneia to varying degrees looming in the background. The act of adding an additional, otherwise absent character in the form of Chrysothemis must be an act with a specific motivation behind it, as her role is auxiliary at best. When examining her primary function, it is clear that she mostly serves as a foil or interlocutor with Electra, in much the same way as Ismene does for

Antigone. She does move the plot along slightly when she agrees to help Electra by delivering a lock of hair as an offering to the grave of Agamemnon, but otherwise she does not perform any action that is necessary to advancing the plot. Without any real plot-based function for Chrysothemis, and no real precedent or legacy in extant tragedy, Sophocles must have a unique agenda by introducing her into the narrative. By analyzing her function as an opponent and interlocutor with Electra, we can see that their relationship in Sophocles’ Electra parallels the relationship of Antigone and Ismene in his earlier

Antigone. Antigone and Electra share a great deal of language, especially in terms of vocabulary involving glory, honor, and vengeance that defines their ethical set.29 This results in a similar effect of creating intra-generational kinship relations that question the limits of the political and private orders of the societies within each play.

Both Electra and Antigone are protagonists of their namesake tragedies, and both center their efforts around desire for their brothers. Antigone, certainly, is in a different situation as her brother is

29 See Nooter 2011, 405 for analysis of gendered language and comparisons to Antigone, also Goldhill 2012, 13-37 for analysis of lusis as a term that pervades Sophoclean tragedy and specifically the dialogue of Antigone and Electra. 18 dead and she does, indeed, end up dying a virgin “married to death.” But in Sophocles’ Electra the tripartite sibling dynamic of brother and two sisters replays what we saw in the Antigone, even replaying the central more masculine sister fixated on her brother, with a second more traditionally feminine sister preoccupied with the title-character sister. Sophocles used this structure when establishing the central characters of each play.

When the audience first meets Electra, she has recently come from outside the house, loudly mourning her father. Both the chorus and Chrysothemis scold Electra for exiting the house, and subsequently risking the wrath of . Thus the first perception of Electra that is presented is one seeking to rebel against and destabilize the distinction between private and public spheres. She greets the audience with the following speech:

But I shall not cease from my dirges and miserable lamentations, so long as I look upon the sparkling of the bright stars, and upon this light of day, like the nightingale,30 slayer of her young, crying out loud and making loud proclamation to all before my father’s doors. O house of Hades and , O of the underworld and powerful Curse, and , revered children of the gods who look upon those wrongfully done to death, who look upon those who dishonour the marriage bed in secret, come, bring help, avenge the murder of our father, and send to me my brother!31

Electra is relentless in her lamentations for her dead father. She accuses her mother of dishonor and will not rest until she can have her revenge. Electra here begins to read like Antigone reborn, a woman who will sacrifice her personal well-being for the sake of her conception of honor. Certainly, her

30 Notably, this is not the only time a nightingale is brought up as a symbol of mourning. The nightingale in is the transformed Procne, who killed her husband after he raped and mutilated her sister Philomela . Mythological sisterhood here echoes as important kin bonds that shape the nature of even this story of bloodshed. Beare 1927, 17-19 also discusses the Greek tradition of associating birds and bird imagery with mourning. 31 ἀλλ᾿ οὐ μὲν δὴ/λήξω θρήνων στυγερῶν τε γόων,/ἔστ᾿ ἂν παμφεγγεῖς ἄστρων/ ῥιπάς, λεύσσω δὲ τόδ᾿ ἦμαρ,/ μὴ οὐ τεκνολέτειρ᾿ ὥς τις ἀηδὼν/ἐπὶ κωκυτῷ τῶνδε πατρῴων/πρὸ θυρῶν ἠχὼ πᾶσι προφωνεῖν./ὦ δῶμ᾿ Ἀίδου καὶ Περσεφόνης,/ὦ χθόνι᾿ Ἑρμῆ καὶ πότνι᾿ Ἀρά,/ σεμναί τε θεῶν παῖδες Ἐρινύες,/αἳ τοὺς ἀδίκως θνῄσκοντας ὁρᾶθ᾿,/αἳ τοὺς εὐνὰς ὑποκλεπτομένους,/ἔλθετ᾿, ἀρήξατε, τείσασθε πατρὸς/φόνον ἡμετέρου,/καί μοι τὸν ἐμὸν πέμψατ᾿ ἀδελφόν, (Soph. Elect.103-117).

19 preoccupation with honor as well as death appears in her language repeatedly. This obsession with honor and dead kin recalls Antigone’s same fixations. Additionally, Electra yearns for her missing brother

Orestes, who she has sent away when he was still an infant, paralleling Antigone’s yearning for her own brother who in her case will never return. Both sisters obsessively orient their fates around absent brothers and thus the action of the plays revolve around these figures.

The absence of Iphigenia is curious, especially if we are to compare it to the works of Euripides, who uses the character of Iphigenia quite a bit, both discussing her in his Electra and in the much later plays Iphigenia at and Iphigenia in . Sophocles’ motivations are perhaps based at least partially on a desire to follow more in the vein of the Antigone/Ismene sibling dynamic that he recreates in his Electra, but Iphigenia is still an important specter to consider in terms of Sophocles’ choices.

Specifically, his active choice of making her absence, both in terms of her physical presence and the vocalization of her memory by her surviving family members, allows Iphigenia to speak in her own way, through silence.

Certainly the act of killing Iphigenia is one that took place both in dramatic time and in the world within the plays a long time ago. Yet, in these plays in which cross-generational transgressions are central to the narrative, she must still be an object of consideration whether Sophocles has decided to name-drop her with frequency or not. What is perhaps most remarkable is that Electra does not seem to feel the need to emotionally invest in Iphigenia in any of her passionate exchanges. Clytemnestra, certainly, she scorns, and the same is true to a lesser extent for Chrysothemis. In terms of male characters,

Agamemnon is beloved and deeply mourned and Orestes similarly is much loved and longed for.

Sophocles presents us with these two parallel cross-generational, gender-divided attitudes toward

Electra’s family members, but where does the unspoken ghost of Iphigenia fit in? Further, why has

Sophocles abstained from mentioning her while introducing an entirely new sister character who is unique in her presence in tragedy and does not provide any significant plot interactions? 20 Iphigenia’s ghost is not completely absent from Sophocles’ Electra. Clytemnestra does discuss her briefly, which I will examine below. Other than the speech in which Clytemnestra justifies her actions as revenge for the death of Iphigenia, she is notably absent. Iphigenia and Electra are separate from each other in essentially every play either one appears in. Even in Euripides’ plays in which Iphigenia is either still alive or rescued by , Electra is not a serious concern for her. But, as mentioned before,

Iphigenia is the one major catalyst for the tragic cycle within the house of Tantalus that we have seen in classical Athenian tragedy. This is inherently a problem—why is she absent if she is so important? This comes up in the classical tradition all the time; women who are important to the plot of a story or play

(perfect example—Helen) end up with very little to say, are rarely present, and often are barely even mentioned by those acting on account of the events they set in action. This silence, however, cannot simply be explained away by the ancient tendency to regard women and female characters as means to ends that should be dealt with as economically as possible. This is especially true in the case of the

Oresteia of Aeschylus. In the Agamemnon the sacrifice of Iphigenia is given a considerable, evocative accounting by the chorus. Given this precedent, if Sophocles wants to derive the basic story from the plays of Aeschylus, then he has to do something with Iphigenia. Her absence becomes an arrow pointing to a notable lack of grief and remembrance, especially in the overabundance of these for Agamemnon and

Orestes. It serves as a reminder of the lack of attention to the direct cause and effect structure that the cycles of bloodshed produce, so that even as the weight of moral ambiguity weighs down on Orestes and

Electra, they fail to see further into the past than the murder of Agamemnon.

Chrysothemis, however, serves as a figure who strives to remember the cost her family has paid.

She urges Electra not to provoke further action, because the irrevocable damage that has been done will only be magnified by Electra’s open defiance (992-1014). Similar to Ismene, much of what she does involves urging caution and using rationality to circumvent blunt concepts of honor and duty when they serve primarily as routes to failure and death. The dialogue between Electra and Chrysothemis mimics the way Sophocles writes Antigone and Ismene. When Chrysothemis and Electra first interact, they meet 21 outside the house. Chrysothemis bears news of Orestes, whose lock of hair she identifies on the tomb of

Agamemnon. Electra counters her news, however, telling her that she has heard from a traveler, who is, in fact, the disguised Orestes, that Orestes is dead. Notably, Sophocles brings up the same motif of discrepancies in the transmission of information that we find in the first scene between Antigone and

Ismene. Here, there is an inconsistency between the information of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra’s public realm transmitted through Electra and the direct experience of Chrysothemis.

Chrysothemis accepts that Orestes is dead and begins to mourn. Again, in a direct mirror of the actions of Antigone and Ismene, Electra’s next exchange with her sister is to ask for her help so that they

“will lighten/the weight of our present pain.”32 Chrysothemis retorts, “Shall I ever make the dead rise again?”33 Employing stronger and clearer language than what Ismene uses towards Antigone to make the same point, Chrysothemis tells Electra that there is no true effective change they can make that could approach redeeming the death of their last male relative. Orestes was their last hope for any kind of restoration as legitimate progeny of the line of , and without him Chrysothemis believes that there is no course of action in regard to family politics that could produce any positive outcome for either herself or Electra. Electra proceeds regardless, and Chrysothemis agrees to help however she can. When

Electra tries to persuade Chrysothemis to help her kill Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, she employs language that reveals her values: “You can lament at/being cheated of the possession of your father’s wealth, and you/ can grieve at growing/older to this point in time without a wedding and without a marriage.”34 Electra herself assumes that Chrysothemis mourns the loss of Agamemnon’s fortune, as well as the loss of any possibility of marriage and children. Mourning perpetual virginity makes sense, as proper classical Greek women were expected to want to fulfill the role of wife and mother as the successful way to complete their feminine duty. Lamenting the loss of wealth is an additional point of

32 οὕτως ἔχει σοι ταῦτ’· ἐὰν δ’ ἐμοὶ πίθῃ,/ τῆς νῦν παρούσης πημονῆς λύσεις βάρος. (Soph. Elec.938-939) 33 ἦ τοὺς θανόντας ἐξαναστήσω ποτέ; (Soph. Elect. 940). 34 ᾗ πάρεστι μὲν στένειν/πλούτου πατρῴου κτῆσιν ἐστερημένῃ,/ πάρεστι δ’ ἀλγεῖν ἐς τοσόνδε τοῦ χρόνου/ ἄλεκτρα γηράσκουσαν ἀνυμέναιά τε./ καὶ τῶνδε μέντοι μηκέτ’ ἐλπίσῃς ὅπως/τεύξῃ ποτ’ (Soph. Elec. 959-964). 22 contention, however, that is less ideal for a proper, well-behaved woman, and perhaps questions Electra’s integrity or judgment. Next, Electra tries to convince her sister by envisioning the benefits of their successful vengeance:

But if you fall in with my counsels first you will earn credit for piety from our dead father below, and also from our brother; and further, for the future you will be called free, that which you are by nature, and you will obtain a worthy marriage; for what is excellent draws the eyes of all. Then as to fame on the lips of men, do you not see how much you will add to you and me if you obey me? Which of the citizens or strangers when he sees us will not greet us with praise? 'Look on these sisters, friends, who preserved their father’s house, who when their enemies were firmly based took no thought of their lives, but stood forth to avenge murder! All should love them, all should reverence them; all should honour them at feasts and among the assembled citizens for their courage!’ Such things will be said of us by all men, so/ that in life and death our fame will never die. Come, my dear, comply, work with your father, labour with your brother, save me from my sorrows, and save yourself, recognising that a shameful life is shameful for those nobly born!35

Electra craves honor, piety via honoring her male relatives, fame that appeals to the polis and potential suitors, and ultimately to work with her father and brother. In this speech she spells out all of the things she values, the same things that Antigone prioritizes, and the same things that are prized most by the masculine political order as Judith Butler defines it. Just as Chrysothemis acts as a clearer, louder echo of

Ismene, Electra echoes even more forcefully the ethical set of Antigone. The dynamic between the sisters

35 ἀλλ’ ἢν ἐπίσπῃ τοῖς ἐμοῖς βουλεύμασιν,/ πρῶτον μὲν εὐσέβειαν ἐκ πατρὸς κάτω/ θανόντος οἴσῃ τοῦ/ κασιγνήτου θ’ ἅμα·/ ἔπειτα δ’, ὥσπερ ἐξέφυς, ἐλευθέρα/ καλῇ τὸ λοιπὸν καὶ γάμων ἐπαξίων/ τεύξῃ· φιλεῖ γὰρ πρὸς τὰ χρηστὰ πᾶς ὁρᾶν./ λόγων γε μὴν εὔκλειαν οὐχ ὁρᾷς ὅσην/ σαυτῇ τε κἀμοὶ προσβαλεῖς πεισθεῖσ’ ἐμοί;/ τίς γάρ ποτ’ ἀστῶν ἢ ξένων ἡμᾶς ἰδὼν/ τοιοῖσδ’ ἐπαίνοις οὐχὶ δεξιώσεται,/ “ἴδεσθε/ τώδε τὼ κασιγνήτω, φίλοι,/ ὣ τὸν πατρῷον οἶκον ἐξεσωσάτην,/ ὣ τοῖσιν ἐχθροῖς εὖ βεβηκόσιν ποτὲ/ ψυχῆς ἀφειδήσαντε προὐστήτην φόνου./ τούτω φιλεῖν χρή, τώδε χρὴ πάντας σέβειν·/ τώδ’ ἔν θ’ ἑορταῖς ἔν τε πανδήμῳ πόλει/ τιμᾶν ἅπαντας οὕνεκ’ ἀνδρείας χρεών.”/ τοιαῦτά τοι νὼ πᾶς τις ἐξερεῖ βροτῶν,/ ζώσαιν θανούσαιν θ’ ὥστε μὴ ’κλιπεῖν κλέος./ ζώσαιν θανούσαιν θ’ ὥστε μὴ ’κλιπεῖν κλέος./ἀλλ’, ὦ φίλη, πείσθητι, συμπόνει πατρί,/σύγκαμν’ ἀδελφῷ, παῦσον ἐκ κακῶν ἐμέ,/παῦσον δὲ σαυτήν, τοῦτο γιγνώσκουσ’, ὅτι/ ζῆν αἰσχρὸν αἰσχρῶς τοῖς καλῶς πεφυκόσιν. (Soph. Elect. 965-989) 23 in the Antigone is replayed between Chrysothemis and Electra, and once again the struggle between conflicting ethics plays out in their personal conflict.

Chrysothemis responds with strong language as well. She tells Electra to be cautious about such severe actions, and in language that is incredibly similar to Ismene’s own language in her first scene, says,

“Do you not see? You are a woman, not a/ man, and your strength is less than that of your adversaries.

Their/fortune prospers day by day, and ours ebbs away and comes to/ nothing.”36 What is remarkable about this statement is not only that it so closely parallels Ismene’s words when she reminds Antigone that they are women and do not have equal strength to men, but also that Chrysothemis goes a step further and alludes explicitly to the structural inequality they face. Ismene’s phrasing is much more vague; she suggests that women are simply inferior to men and incapable of acting with the same degree of agency and power. Chrysothemis explains the fact that they are at a disadvantage as women because their fates as women are unstable, and ultimately diminish to nothing while men’s fates improve. Chrysothemis and

Electra’s disadvantage lies not in an inherent gender based deficit but the nature of their situation as women subject to the male political sphere.

After this, they exchange individual lines that continue to mimic the discussion between Antigone and Ismene when Ismene refuses to help her sister. Chrysothemis and Electra express parallel sentiments to Ismene and Antigone respectively. Electra tells her sister, “Well, know to what point of dishonor you are bringing me!”37 Chrysothemis responds, “Not of dishonor but of care for you!”38 They acknowledge explicitly that each are at war over their beliefs: Electra next asks, “Must I comply with your notion of what is right?”39 Chrysothemis replies, “Yes, when you are sensible then you will be our leader.”40 Electra continues to question her sister, saying, “What? Do you not think that what I say is right?” Chrysothemis

36 γυνὴ μὲν οὐδ’ ἀνὴρ ἔφυς,/σθένεις δ’ ἔλασσον τῶν ἐναντίων χερί./ δαίμων δὲ τοῖς μὲν εὐτυχὴς καθ’ ἡμέραν,/ἡμῖν δ’ ἀπορρεῖ κἀπὶ μηδὲν ἔρχεται, (Soph. Elect. 997-1000). 37 ἀλλ᾿ οὖν ἐπίστω γ᾿ οἷ μ᾿ ἀτιμίας ἄγεις, (Soph.Elect.1035). 38 ἀτιμίας μὲν οὔ, προμηθίας δὲ σοῦ, (Soph.Elect.1036). 39 τῷ σῷ δικαίῳ δῆτ᾿ ἐπισπέσθαι με δεῖ; (Soph.Elect. 1037). 40 ὅταν γὰρ εὖ φρονῇς, τόθ᾿ ἡγήσῃ σὺ νῷν, (Soph.Elect.1038). 24 answers, “But there are times when being right does one harm.”41 This conversation reveals a direct display of competing ethical sets and a conflict between two sisters who are unable to prove to each other that their concept of what is right will save the other.

The chorus also seems drawn into this conflict. They say, “Why, when we see birds above that are so wise taking care to/ sustain those that give them life and pleasure, do we not render/ the same services?”42 They recognize and lament that these sisters are trying to care for each other, and especially

Chrysothemis who seems concerned with the preservation of their lives more than Electra, who is preoccupied with honor. They continue, “O voice that for mortals travels/ below the earth, cry out a sad message to the Atreidae below,/ carrying a joyless message of dishonour!” and then, “But the daughter is betrayed and alone tosses on the sea,/ ever lamenting her father’s fate in sorrow, like the ever-grieving/ nightingale.”43 In these subsequent lines, they reveal their concern for honor and end with sympathy for

Electra who is alone in her desire to avenge her father. Although they ultimately side with the title- character sister, they encapsulate some of the nuance and lack of moral clarity portrayed just before by the words of Chrysothemis and Electra.

Electra accuses Chrysothemis of cowardice and self-interest, and she is correct in some aspects.

Chrysothemis is ultimately the most able to separate out from the cycle of bloodshed, and bears the memory of the violence and trauma enacted before her while transcending the blind, irrational grief of

Electra. Chrysothemis is not of the same opinion as Clytemnestra and mourns their family’s losses too, but is hyper-rational about what must be done to survive and end the constant violence. She bears in mind the memory of their lost sister, and does not let her memory and her legacy be overwhelmed by

41 Electra: τί δ᾿; οὐ δοκῶ σοι ταῦτα σὺν δίκῃ λέγειν; Chrysothemis: ἀλλ᾿ ἔστιν ἔνθα χἠ δίκη βλάβην φέρει.,(Soph.Elect.1041-1042). 42ἐσορώμενοι τροφᾶς κη-/δομένους ἀφ᾿ ὧν τε βλάστω-/σιν ἀφ᾿ ὧν τ᾿ ὄνησιν εὕρω-/σι, τάδ᾿ οὐκ ἐπ᾿ ἴσας τελοῦμεν; (Soph.Elect. 1059-1063). 43 ὦ χθονία βροτοῖσι φάμα,/ κατά μοι βόασον οἰκτρὰν/ὄπα τοῖς ἔνερθ᾿ Ἀτρείδαις,/ἀχόρευτα φέρουσ᾿ ὀνείδη.…πρόδοτος δὲ μόνα σαλεύει/ἁ παῖς, οἶτον ἀεὶ πατρὸς/ δειλαία στενάχουσ᾿ ὅπως/ ἁ πάνδυρτος ἀηδών (Soph. Elect.1066-1069, 1074-1077).

25 blind grief for Agamemnon. The absence of Iphigenia from Sophocles’ Electra is a second death, a second violent sacrifice, perpetuated by Electra’s refusal to remember her or openly grieve for her.

Chrysothemis in contrast to Electra’s actions, becomes a way to anchor Iphigenia in the very present, very real manifestation of this previously unconsidered sister. Sophocles switches who is the present sister, and this shift makes visible the significance of Iphigenia’s absence.

Iphigenia is not completely absent from the play. Notably, Clytemnestra does discuss her as she defends herself against Electra’s attacks. Her agony is clear, and stands in contrast to Electra’s own indifference. She asks why killing Iphigenia was necessary, when the reason such a sacrifice was needed was Helen, who was aunt to Iphigenia, and not Helen’s own children. Clytemnestra in this speech brings into relief how her family specifically incorporates the web of tragic bloodshed that, like a tangled line of cause and effect, complicates the way each family member relates to one another. Helen catalyzed the

Trojan War, Agamemnon killed Iphigenia for the war, Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon for the sacrifice of her child, and by the end of the Electra Orestes will have killed Clytemnestra. Sophocles reveals pieces of this chain throughout, and here Clytemnestra specifically undermines its rationale, questioning who gets killed for what reason, and who is morally preferable in terms of the endless cycle of violence.

Thus the play presents us with four women and their decisions: on the one side, Clytemnestra and

Electra, who choose to seek action and perform violence on others, and, on the other side, Iphigenia and

Chrysothemis, passive participants who allow their personal subjugation for the sake of resolution of bloodshed and strife. In this framework, Chrysothemis and Iphigenia become foils for especially Electra as both negotiate conflict from a place of internalized versus externalized violence. Chrysothemis and

Iphigenia actively choose to be passive recipients of violence, mirroring the rebellion through obedience performed by Ismene in the Antigone. As those acted upon, they are not actors and thus through passivity are also performing non-violence. True, they are victims, but they do not actively victimize. Which route is the right one to take? Isn’t then Iphigenia more like Orestes than Electra is; aren’t they the ones who are willing to risk and ultimately sacrifice their well-being for the sake of conflict resolution? Chrysothemis 26 is perhaps not as similar to Orestes in this manner, but still suffers the reign of Clytemnestra and

Aegisthus. Even Orestes is hesitant, agonized as his father was when faced with the decision of whether to sacrifice Iphigenia or not, and probably would not follow through but for Apollo’s oracle and the urging of .

This perhaps gets closer to the heart of what distinguishes Sophocles as a tragic poet—he forces characters to truly confront their choices and the different modes of morality that are performed by each family member. In his plays, even the explanations of those who dissent from the hierarchy of gendered values are plausible and worth consideration. We can sympathize with Electra for her desire to act for honor, but we can also sympathize with Chrysothemis who dares to prioritize personal safety and loved ones over honor and revenge, and Clytemnestra who was forced to grapple with a husband who killed the child she bore. Thus the destabilization of traditional political value sets happens internally (rather than

Euripides who, as we will see, focuses on more of an external destabilization), and characters face their fates within the world they have created for themselves via the paths they chose.

Even further, the characters’ already complex and competing moral sets are only compounded by the weight of the family members who were victim to violence. They contend with how each perpetrator and victim performed a certain ethics either within or outside of mainstream ideology that ultimately led both to their fates and catalyzed the actions that would lead to their surviving family members’ fates.

Characters who act on behalf of their family members(family members who are disrupting the mainstream dominant ideology via actions that are morally specific to a certain ethical set), produce a disruptive or unorthodox value set that is working from already unsteady conditions. Clytemnestra is morally grey and thus subversive to dominant ideology in terms of what parts of her actions and attitudes are just. This is only increased by the unclear morality of Iphigenia and Agamemnon. Is Iphigenia truly the victim? Was she, like Antigone, willing to die for honor, content that she could earn something like kleos as a contributor to the efforts within the ? How willing was Agamemnon? Did he trick her? Who was more active in the decision to sacrifice Iphigenia, and to what extent were they active? 27 These questions are relevant because a reader or audience cannot answer them definitively, and they thus undermine the certain legitimacy of the characters’ rationale. In this context, Iphigenia and Clytemnestra serve as destabilizing ghosts for Electra and Orestes, so that even their already questionable justification of further bloodshed is based on and exacerbated by the moral and intentional ambiguity of the bloodshed that precedes them.

A further parallel can be made between Antigone and Electra in that they both are connected, cross-generationally, with the male members of their family. Both have to contend specifically with the legacies of their fathers; Antigone with the corruption of her family via the incest of Oedipus, Electra with the death of her sister Iphigenia at the hands of their father Agamemnon, which set in motion the phase of the tragic cycle for the house of Atreus that is portrayed in these tragedies. Antigone and Electra both act as serious agents and bridges between the generations, ones who must contend with the devastating actions of their fathers and strive to redeem their families by acting around their brothers.

Further, we must examine the motivations and rationales of those who oppose Electra and

Antigone. Antigone, as discussed previously, is opposed by the radical justifications of Ismene, who prioritizes the survival of her sister (her only surviving family) and herself over the honor and prioritization of male family members that Antigone espouses. Electra, in turn, is opposed by both

Chrysothemis and Iphigenia. Electra sides with and urges on Orestes, who wishes to seize the throne of

Argos from Clytemnestra and restore his line by removing the usurper blood of Aegisthus. Electra’s goals are at least somewhat more pragmatic than Antigone’s, as she too would presumably be restored to a position of prestige and finally marry, properly fulfilling her role as a woman. But Electra does aim for the death of her mother, perpetuating the cycle of bloodshed to which most recently Clytemnestra has contributed, which Antigone does not perpetuate in any way other than offering her own life. Therefore, although it does make sense that Electra would desire to kill Clytemnestra logically, it makes her morality in terms of the political sphere even more questionable than Antigone’s as it promotes intra-family violence for the sake of personal gain. Chrysothemis, then, begins to emulate Ismene in her radical 28 disinterest in the political morality of Electra, instead choosing to seek personal safety and peace within her family—an effective way to end the cursed house’s violence without simultaneously resulting in all the main characters’ deaths. Chrysothemis raises the same subversive questions that Ismene does; namely she questions the logic of violence and prioritization of such values as honor, revenge, and restoration of prestige over personal wellbeing and the safety of loved ones. Trying to kill Clytemnestra is, at worst, a death sentence for oneself, at best, the loss of a mother with no damage undone or prevented from happening (specifically in terms of personal well-being, Orestes obviously has a vested interest in reclaiming the throne). Who is advocating for the better position? Even as Electra tries to transgress her place within the private feminine sphere of kinship and become a political espousing masculine priorities and values, Chrysothemis enacts that same opposite as Ismene, the internal enemy of the state who is both necessary for the existence of the state and also inherently subversive of the structure of state ideology.

Iphigenia, on the other hand, acts in an interesting role in a dynamic between Chrysothemis and

Electra, a dynamic that portrays moral complexity. As previously mentioned, Iphigenia’s role in this play is similar to how Helen is often portrayed. Both act as quiet catalyzers to the action, but both are also plagued by persistent questions regarding their intentions and agency. For Helen, the question is whether she followed willingly, for Iphigenia it is whether she complied with her father in her sacrifice, as well as to what extent Agamemnon tried to force his daughter into the sacrifice. In Aeschylus’

Agamemnon, she is portrayed as a truly heartbreaking victim, one who is dragged weeping and supplicating in her bridal clothes to the sacrificial altar. Agamemnon is described by the chorus as being certainly troubled by this decision, but ultimately succumbing to the greater purpose of the Trojan War.

However, in Euripides’s Iphigenia at Aulis, the action is present as Iphigenia comes to Aulis to be sacrificed and must grapple with her fate as her father’s true intentions become clear. At first she faces death with fear and a desire to avoid being sacrificed, but in the end she decides to comply to her death and acts out of a desire to die honorably and serve her father in his goals to regain Helen and the honor of 29 his brother . Iphigneia at Aulis is, of course, a much later play than the Electra of Sophocles.

However, Iphigenia’s silence in Sopchocles’ play complicates how both the characters on stage and the audience approach the consequences of her death, in terms of her ambiguous intentions or motivations.

Her silence opens up to her observers the fact that there are many possible justifications for the decisions of Iphigenia. Through her silence, the play poses a variety of questions. Even beyond the question of how willing she was, who was Iphigenia acting for? Was it truly for her father? Was it for his shame, absorbed by him from Menelaus and Helen? Is it for her weeping mother that she acts, so that she can go peacefully with a willing heart in order that Clytemnestra not pursue revenge for her death? What about her sisters, who could have been sacrificed in her place as virgin daughters of Agamemnon? For whom does she die?

Euripides’ Electra

Turning now to Euripides’ Electra, we see a much different setup. Euripides begins the play by putting Electra out in the country, married to an impoverished but noble farmer as a pretense to keep her safe. According to Electra, she has been sent by Clytemnestra as a way of saving her from Aegisthus, who wants to kill her to avoid the possibility of her producing an heir that could threaten Aegisthus’ and

Clytemnestra’s claim to the throne. Euripides begins his Electra with a startling shift from the typical beginning of other versions of Electra’s plays. Rather than focus on her place in Argos, Euripides moves

Electra from the royal palace to the countryside, and opens with Electra’s unnamed husband discussing how Clytemnestra has mercy on her daughter. The audience thus faces the beginning of the play in an entirely new place, with no familiar characters other than Electra who enters as a farmer’s wife with a water jug on her head. Additionally, the initial speech of the farmer recounts first how Agamemnon met his tragic end, before grudgingly admitting that Clytemnestra saved her daughter from Aegisthus. The farmer’s language, however, is not especially sympathetic towards Clytemnestra: “But her mother, cruel- 30 minded though she/ was, rescued her from Aegisthus’ hand”44 and justifies Clytemnestra’s actions by stressing what she could have done with “For as regards the/husband she slew she had some excuse, but she feared/resentment if she killed her children.”45 The farmer presents a characterization of Clytemnestra that is ambiguous in its sympathies. He admits that she did care for her children and that this lent a certain, perhaps semi-excusable, legitimacy to her murder of Agamemnon, but the farmer still describes her as cruel of heart and emphasizes more the stigma she fears she would face were she to let her child be killed by her new husband (admittedly it would be a full reversal from her policy towards Agamemnon).

This spatial and psychological shift significantly sets the tone for the rest of the play.

Electra walks onto the stage bearing a water jug on her head, and begins her lament, “O black night, nurse of the golden stars!”46 She announces that she is not carrying water out of any need, but instead to show the gods how thoroughly Aegisthus has wronged her. Although set in the less politically charged countryside, Euripides still initially characterizes Electra by having her make an act of public defiance against Aegisthus, the new head of state, while announcing to the gods and the earth that she is doing so in rebellion and that she is lamenting her father’s death. Euripides then brings in Orestes and

Pylades, who have freshly come from making an offering at Agamemnon’s grave.

Orestes and Electra encounter each other in the farmer’s home while Orestes and Pylades, spurred by the prophecy of the Delphic oracle, are making their way to Argos to kill Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.

In a frequent tragic formula, both take an exceptionally long time to recognize each other as brother and sister, even with the assistance of the old slave who rescued Orestes when he was an infant and knows him by his present form as well. Euripides seems to be specifically in dialogue with Aeschylus’ Libation

Bearers when Electra scorns all of the methods of recognition employed in Aeschylus’ play, refusing to compare locks of hair, footstep size and shape, or any other likeness that would prove their shared bond.47

44 ὅμως/μήτηρ νιν ἐξέσωσεν Αἰγίσθου χερός (Eur. Elec. 26-27). 45 ἐς μὲν γὰρ ἄνδρα σκῆψιν εἶχ’ ὀλωλότα,/παίδων δ’ ἔδεισε μὴ φθονηθείη φόνωι. (Eur. Elec. 28-30) 46 ὦ νὺξ μέλαινα, χρυσέων ἄστρων τροφέ, (Eur. Elec. 54) 47 See Torrance 2011 for full analysis of Euripides’ dialogue with Aeschylus. 31 Euripides instead creates a new mechanism of recognition, namely a small scar that Orestes has that

Electra remembers from when they were chasing a fawn together as children and Orestes fell and cut his head. Finally the two are reunited, and together plan to get their revenge by killing Aegisthus and


The use of the fawn anecdote as a mechanism of recognition is an important addition by

Euripides. The fawn is frequently associated with the story of Iphigenia, who in Euripides’ version of events was saved by Artemis from the sacrificial altar and replaces her body with a fawn’s, an animal associated with Artemis. Often depictions of the story will include visual references to deer, whether they be a physical fawn leaping through the air or perhaps the addition of antlers.48 Iphigenia is not in this childhood tale, but her symbol is what leads the two surviving siblings to recognize each other. The intimation of her presence via an elusive fawn recalls the ghost around which her family focuses and collapses.

Euripides also establishes early on a formula that would later become common within his tragedy, namely that of the tragedy-adventure romance, in which the tragic female lead becomes more of a traditional helper maiden than a tragic heroine, and her corresponding male lead assumes the role of the that will rescue her. Electra largely functions as a helper maiden in this play, enabling Orestes to murder Aegisthus and their mother despite Orestes’ hesitance at shedding their blood. Electra and the old slave exclusively plan and aid in an auxiliary function, while Orestes acts when he is told. Even in

Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers, Electra’s role as speaker and planner is emphasized, as is Orestes’ role as one who is guided by external forces (Apollo, Electra,or Pylades, for example).49

Electra weaves traps like her mother—she lures Clytemnestra into the farmer’s house to trap her and murder her, accusing her of “lying in a bloodstained bed/[living] as wife to another,”50 as she pulls

48 See Black, Edgar, Hayward, and Henig 2012 for some examples. 49 This is also related to a long line of scholarship relating Electra to speech and rhetoric and Orestes to action, particularly in Aeschylus and Sophocles. Nooter 2011 discusses the Sophoclean version of this dynamic, as does Ringer in terms of Electra’s language and performativity (Ringer 1998, 127-160). 50 μάτηρ δ’ ἐν λέκτροις φονίοις/ ἄλλωι σύγγαμος οἰκεῖ (Eur. Elect. 211-212). 32 her into the house. Initially, it seems as if Electra herself will kill Clytemnestra, as Clytemnestra killed

Agamemnon to avenge her loved ones. Electra’s excuse to lure Clytemnestra in is that she has just given birth to a child, and needs help from her mother to perform the proper purifying rites that are necessary after childbirth. Electra in her plotting has become a parallel of her mother in the blink of an eye: she traps her victim, plans on killing them by her own hand, and even meets her mother playacting as a new mother, acting on behalf of her child, having transitioned from virgin daughter and sister to mother and wife. Electra transforms into the gender transgressing monster that her mother is in Aeschylus’

Agamemnon; she is a grown woman acting out her revenge as if she had a claim to the male political sphere of action. The difference between Electra and Clytemnestra is that Electra is acting on behalf of her male relatives, while Clytemnestra is doing so to avenge her slain daughter. Electra here, however, also emulates Antigone, acting as an almost surrogate for her brother as an actor or aggressor and espousing the ideals of the political realm, namely the prioritizing of honor and male relatives over the personal well-being of her relatives, women or otherwise. Still, Electra cannot escape the pathology of her gender, which dictates she scheme and be weak like a woman, and forever be doomed to be an unwelcome foreigner in the realm of the state.

When Clytemnestra does come, heeding her daughter’s call, she gives an evocative speech in defense of her actions. She explains that she only acted on behalf of her lost child, saying she would never kill Orestes for the sake of Menelaus—a statement with bold implication as to her values. Clytemnestra claims here that she values her daughters just as much as her sons, and that she would not have made the sacrifice for the sake of honor or an important male relative. This is a powerful defense of her actions, especially if comparing to those of Agamemnon, who, according to her values, has acted out of a desire to save face and disregard for the value of his own daughter’s life. Probably the most stirring line is when she bluntly notes, “After this it is we who are loudly blamed, while men/ the authors of this situation, hear 33 no criticism.”51 Clytemnestra succinctly captures in this the inherent problem of being a woman in tragedy, namely that she is subject to forces outside of her control, but is doubly condemned when she tries to regain some agency from her tragic fate by becoming an actor. This is inherently an improper position for a woman to inhabit as she transgresses the boundary of the private, kinship realm into the world of public action.

Electra is not swayed, and argues with Clytemnestra until Clytemnestra concedes her argument, and tearfully voices her regret for killing Agamemnon. Electra is still unappeased, saying “the black blood of my father still lies rotting in the house,”52 a pollution and constant reminder of the transgressions of Clytemnestra that took place within the private sphere. Finally, after Orestes has killed Aegisthus by shattering his spine, kill Clytemnestra together. With the threats of Aegisthus and

Clytmenestra gone, Orestes can take his place as ruler of Argos (after he is cleansed and rid of the Furies) and Electra marries Pylades, no longer a bitter, mourning virgin.

Euripides’ Electra shares a sense of destabilization of the traditional plot of the Oresteia that transcends all his plays dealing with the mythology of the house of Atreus.53 Examining the play that narratively comes after the Electra, the Orestes, Euripides presents a strange version of Orestes, who alone can see the Furies and seems driven insane by them. Orestes is afflicted by the weight of his own sins, and Pylades, Electra, and Helen all enter the mix to create a truly unique version of the events that resolve the familial conflict of the Oresteia. Certainly, we can take away from this that Orestes’ characterization, and really his credibility, has been robbed as he is feverishly plagued by specters that only he can see. This lack of credibility raises questions about just who is a reliable witness and why acts were committed the way they were.

51 κἄπειτ’ ἐν ἡμῖν ὁ ψόγος λαμπρύνεται,/οἱ δ’ αἴτιοι τῶνδ’ οὐ κλύουσ’ ἄνδρες κακῶς (Eur. Elec. 1039- 1040). 52 αἷμα δ’ ἔτι πατρὸς κατὰ στέγας/μέλαν σέσηπεν (Eur. Elec. 316-318). 53 See Torrance 2011 for the notion of metapoetics in Euripides. 34 In his later plays, Euripides continues this motif of ambiguity in this mythic cycle specifically through the destabilizing character of Iphigenia. Iphigenia at Aulis, as discussed above, centers around the problem that the Greek army is stranded at Aulis on account of a wrong Agamemnon has committed against Artemis. A prophet determines that in order to makes the winds blow again to propel the Greek army to , Agamemnon must sacrifice Iphigenia. He calls Iphigenia and her mother Clytemnestra to

Aulis, under the pretense that Iphigenia is to be married to . When they arrive havoc ensues, and ultimately Iphigenia and Clytemnestra must decide what to do. Despite Clytemnestra’s protests, Iphigenia in the end goes willingly to her death, as a means of dying gracefully and honorably for her father,

Agamemnon. To avoid repetition, I will not discuss how Iphigenia’s willingness to go to her death and potential motivations destabilize the basis on which any of the subsequent characters act. It is sufficient to say that the heart of the disturbance in the story’s progression lies in what happens in this play: whether

Iphigenia is like a warrior dying for her people and for honor like her false-betrothed, or she is a true victim. Not only does Euripides’ portrayal of these events lead to these questions, but probes further into whether these questions even matter: is Clytemnestra justified regardless of Iphigenia’s consent or lack thereof? How much, ultimately, are any of these characters acting on a direct need to save or avenge their loved ones?

Iphigenia in Tauris casts the basic premises of the cycle of bloodshed within these plays further into doubt. In this play, Artemis saves Iphigenia from being sacrificed at the last minute, replacing her body with a body of a deer and instead whisking her away to Tauris, where she is stranded until Orestes comes to save her. Here is a sibling relationship that has been previously unexplored, as Orestes is always paired with Electra. Iphigneia is supposed to sacrifice the unknowing Orestes, as she has become the head priestess for the Taurians and is obligated to ritually sacrifice all foreigners who come to the land of

Tauris. Instead she plans to spare them so they may escape together. In the end Artemis intervenes, and

Artemis reveals that she has spared Iphigenia but that her fate is to return to Greece and become a kind of cult figure at , where Artemis will be celebrated. 35 Euripides establishes two considerable innovations with this play. First, we see Orestes with

Iphigenia together. This is important because Euripides never sets up the tripartite sibling dynamic that

Sophocles does by introducing Chrysothemis. By doing this, Euripides shows the audience the mirror image of the sibling dynamic typical to the house of Atreus, in which Orestes and Electra must come together and put an end to the series of violent acts that began with Iphigenia’s death. Euripides here completely flips the ways in which the siblings act: Orestes is back at the source of the conflict with

Iphigenia, instead of next to the end of the conflict with Electra.

The second considerable innovation of Euripides is that Iphigenia’s very existence after the events that took place at Aulis destabilizes the entire series of rationales that were behind every act of violence within this tragic cycle. If Iphigenia is alive, on what basis is Clytemnestra murdering

Agamemnon? And then further, what does this initial mistake perpetuate with each new act of violence?

What happens to each actor? Was Agamemnon then justified, concretely, once and for all? Is

Clytemnestra then equally as concretely doomed? Does it matter for either, even? The events of this play take the questions Euripides presents in Iphigenia at Aulis and makes them even more pressing when the daughter and sister on whose behalf everyone is inevitably acting in Agamemnon’s family survived her sacrifice at the hands of her father.

36 Chapter 4


Classical tragic poets portray the relationship between sisters in a manner that invites critical analysis of their interaction with the political and male-centered ideological centers of the play. Building on the work of Hegel, Judith Butler has shown the ethical ramifications of

Antigone for the traditional tensions between oikos and polis. Using her framework, I have endeavored to replicate a similar form of analysis but with a deliberate focus on how sisters can destabilize conceptions of moral propriety as public actors within mythic cycles of familial bloodshed and vengeance. With this task in mind, the examination of Antigone and Ismene as one sister set, and Electra and Chrysothemis or Ismene as another, has proven a useful illustration of this destabilization. Ultimately, it is helpful to depart from the categorizations often applied to tragic women: the insane and often masculine women (Clytemnestra, Medea, etc.) or the idealized models (Alcestis, Eurydice). Such a departure can illustrate what is considered as important to each character in each play. This reading establishes that a nuanced vision of tragic women as sisters who interact with each other outside of male-centered relationships is not only wholly possible, but also supported by literary and historical evidence.

Moreover, to attempt to do so is a remarkably productive vehicle for considering how classical tragedy bore the weight of a complex negotiation of established societal superstructures that determine a hierarchy of gendered ethical sets.

Butler’s Antigone’s Claim and similar works are progenitors of an important analytic legacy that examines characters like Antigone and Electra who seem to disobey the imposed ethics set upon them by the superstructure of kinship versus public spheres. By disobeying the system, they begin to break it—break it by existing as paradoxical aberrations that force those 37 around them to contend with the systematic conditions that have produced their ethical or psychological pathologies. In the Antigone, the exchanges between Antigone and Ismene provide a more solid exemplification of this systematic fissure through their direct opposition to one another than perhaps any other direct exchange in the play. Ismene highlights, supports, challenges, and denies the validity of Antigone’s morality all at once, which, as Butler has demonstrated, queers the relationship of the dichotomous gendered spheres of ethics and existence established by Hegel. But even as Ismene provides a support role parallel to none other in the play, she also produces a significant ethics of her own that is noble, rational, and worthy of consideration as a legitimate challenge to the ultimately doomed ethics espoused by Antigone. In this way her relationship to her sister is both different from any other relationship in the tragedy and portrays a significant conflict between moral sets that is necessary to the play and unique to their relationship.

Much of this dynamic is found also in the Electra plays of both Sophocles and Euripides.

Sophocles’ Electra particularly produces a variety of strong parallels between the relationship of

Electra and Chrysothemis and Antigone and Ismene. Sophocles writes both relationships with a number of shared motifs; the dialogue of Chrysothemis and Electra seems to echo and even fortify through more overt language the communication and battle of the ethical sets that each sister champions. In both plays, Sophocles creates a sister dynamic that drives much of the ethical dilemmas of the play, and also disrupts mainstream ideologies that are not compromised by uncertainty and moral ambiguity. In the Electra sister relationships are even further complicated by the addition of Iphigenia’s silent ghost, whose absence is politically loaded and pushes each sister’s ethical set to a new level as they grapple with what Iphigenia’s death and absence implies for their mother, father, and themselves. Sister dynamics are important both for 38 the sake of plot and for broader political and rhetorical ramifications that come from the destabilization of the morality supported by mainstream ideologies in Sophocles’ plays.

In comparison, Euripides’ Electra presents a different but still politically charged portrayal of tragic sisterhood. In this play, Electra appears in a new, rural setting that has ramifications for how she behaves as a sister. The complexity of the characters of Electra and

Clytemnestra is conveyed less by direct dialectic challenges and exchanges, but more by departing from traditional portrayals of this mythic cycle and playing with the ambiguities surrounding the character of Iphigenia. What this produces, in the end, is another example of how tragic sisters affect and complicate each other and the already complicated ethics they espouse. In contrast to Sophocles, Euripides achieves this by playing with alternate interpretations of plotlines and characterization to examine what this does for each sister’s ethics.

The comparison of sisters in Euripides’ Electra to the tragic sisters of Sophocles outlines how each uses sisterhood to complicate ethical sets within mainstream ideologies, and also can successfully stand alone as a subject for analysis in terms of sister ethics.



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Academic Vita Anna Papile [email protected]

B.A. 2016 The Pennsylvania State University Schreyer Honors College Paterno Fellows Program Dual major Art History and Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies

Professional Experience July-August 2013

Field Assistant, Werner Archaeological Consulting, Albany, NY Intern with the New York State Office of Historical Preservation May-August 2013

Gants and Awards Fall 2012-Fall 2016

Deans List College of Liberal Arts Excellence in Achievement Fall-Spring 2014

Bermingham Scholarship for Students of Greek and Latin Spring 2014

The Knoppers Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies Study Abroad Spring 2014

Endowment The Gene and Roz Chaiken Endowment for the Study of the Spring 2014 Holocaust in Jewish Studies The Doris and Walter Goldstein Program Fund in Jewish Studies Spring 2014 Liberal Arts Enrichment Funding Spring 2014 Schreyer Honors College Study Abroad Endowment Spring 2014 June-July 2014

Study Abroad Tel Akko Total Archaeology Program with Pennsylvania State University, Akko, Israel Athens: History, Culture, and Archaeology of Greece with Pennsylvania State January-April 2015 University

Languages Spanish (reading comprehension)

Affiliations/Memberships Fall 2012-Fall 2015

Officer, Students Organizing the Multiple Arts

Other Additional to study abroad: Spain (April 2012) and China (April 2011)