Electra : And Other Plays, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Of all the ancient Greek tragedians, Euripides was the most sensitive to the lives of women and other outcasts in Athenian society, and "Electra and Other Plays" collects five plays demonstrating his talent for bringing to life their plight.

This "Penguin Classics" edition is translated by John Davie with an introduction and notes by Richard Rutherford.

Written during a period overshadowed by the fierce struggle for supremacy between Sparta and Euripides' native Athens, these five plays are haunted by the shadow of war - and in particular its impact on women.

In "Electra" the children of Agamemnon take bloody revenge on their mother for murdering their father after his return from Troy, and "Suppliant Women" depicts the grieving mothers of those killed in battle.

The other plays deal with the aftermath of the Trojan War for the defeated survivors, as Andromache shows Hector's widow as a trophy of war in the house of her Greek captor, and Hecabe portrays a defeated queen avenging the murder of her last-remaining son, while "Trojan Women" tells of the plight of the city's women in the hands of their victors. John Davie's compelling translations are accompanied by an introduction by Richard Rutherford describing the tragic genre and Euripides innovations, along with a chronology, prefaces to each play, notes, a bibliography and a glossary of names.

Euripides (c.485-07 BC) was an Athenian born into a family of considerable rank.

Disdaining the public duties expected of him, Euripides spent a life of quiet introspection, spending much of his life in a cave on Salamis.

Late in life he voluntarily exiled himself to the court of Archelaus, King of Macedon, where he wrote "The Bacchae", regarded by many as his greatest work.

Euripides is thought to have written 92 plays, only 18 of which survive.

If you enjoyed "Electra and Other Plays", you might like Euripides' "Medea and Other Plays", also available in "Penguin Classics". "The most intensely tragic of all the poets". (Aristotle).


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages, notes
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Plays, playscripts
  • ISBN: 9780140446685



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Euripides seems to have had a thing for writing about strong, violent women. While it could not displace Medea for me, Electra also featured strong women characters that produced feelings of ambivalence in me. Electra, the title character, is the daughter of Clytemenestra and Agamemnon. The brutal history of her parents is told in other plays. While Electra is put in a bad situation by Clytemnestra's actions, I couldn't help but feel that she was pretty whiny about things- she seems to enjoy her misery in a weird way. In contrast, Clytemnestra was considerably more sympathetic than I was expecting her to be. She seemed grief stricken about what she had done but resolved to make the best of a bad situation. Which makes it rather jarring when Electra demands that her brother kill their mother even after he has second thoughts about matricide.In addition to gripping female characters, Electra offers yet another meditation on the theme of appearance versus reality. The poor farmer who Electra has been forced to marry is probably the most honorable, good character in the drama and he disappears shortly into it. While he is of a low stature within society, he is about the only character who doesn't do anything morally questionable within the play. So don't judge a book by its cover, basically. Additionally, I was struck by how much the play seemed to question the judgment of the gods, specifically Apollo in this case. The only reason Orestes, the brother, goes through with killing his mother is because Apollo told him to (and Electra urged him to). And the play ends with a couple of the other minor gods telling Electra and Orestes that this was an error on the part of Apollo. What does it mean for humans when the gods make mistakes or don't agree?