Euripides: Electra, Avenging Angel of Patriarchy

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Many thanks for this: just the thing to give me some pause.

    Long ago I wrote a paper on Euripides. It seemed to me, at the time, Euripides was so much more readable than the slang of Aristophanes or the high-minded Sophocles. I just liked Euripides, the simplicity of his characters, the directness of the plays themselves. History bears out this preference: everyone liked Euripides, especially the Romans and well into modern times. Maybe it’s just because his characters were so much more understandable.

    I got to know The Trojan Women best among his plays. In it, we see women dealing with the aftermath of war. Astyanax the infant son of Hector is pulled from the tomb of his father and hurled from the walls of Troy lest he grow up to revenge his father. His traumatized mother watches him fall but isn’t allowed to bury the baby boy, leaving him instead on his father’s shield for his grandmother to bury.

    What do we do in the wake of war, especially women? In Apocalypse Now, Coppola doesn’t really show us war: we are given its aftermath, the interlude between the burning and the regrowing of the grass. Men are supposed to be heroic, men can cope, men will overcome. But if the legends of the Trojan War are to amount to anything, we are to see humankind as pawns on a vast chessboard, the feuding gods push us here and there, often to our own destruction. The women of Euripides are left to cope with the fallout, the aftermath.

    Euripides gives us women, especially women, for it was women who facedReport

  2. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    ‘scuse me, the paste failed somewhere Euripides gives us women, especially women, for it was women who faced the inevitable. They faced it with fortitude and resilience where men had not: doomed, sulking Achilles in his tent, doomed Hector roaring on the plain, doomed Odysseus, fated to return alone and unrecognized, to the world of women and children, of home and hearth. If Euripides is to amount to a hill of beans, it’s on the strength of those women who remained, survived, overcame, where men did not.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Aeschylus has a trial. At the end of the day, we talk to the Gods, we see these people hammer stuff out, everybody’s case is made and, at the end, we can be pleased with the outcome. Justice is served. Even Orestes is cool with being found guilty, if it comes to that at the end of the day.

    Euripides? Castor shows up as an afterthought, it seems. His decision is arbitrary insofar as it’d be just as easy to see him come to a different conclusion using similar argumentation.

    “Everything will work out, eventually” vs. “Various things happen”.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

      The thing about Euripides that I like is that even when I think his endings are supposed to be happy endings, I find it impossible to be happy about them. Medea, for example, has a happy ending that is just devastating. Electra gives the impression of a resolution, but it’s really hard to feel that everything has actually been resolved.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Had not the god caught us in his grip and plunged us headlong ‘neath the earth, we should have been unheard of, nor ever sung in Muses’ songs, furnishing to bards of after-days a subject for their minstrelsy.Report

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