This course is a discussion seminar. Thus, the reading assignments for the course are relatively modest. Students are expected to spend a significant proportion of their class preparation time reviewing the assigned reading, thinking about it, checking out the material on the Web Sites for the assigned day, and pondering issues raised by the reading and the background material. The following illustrations and questions are designed to help you get started. Illustrations: Most of the illustrations present a slightly different version of the myth or story than the one that you will have encountered in the reading, and they are intended to help you think "beyond the text": What happened that we aren't told about? What are some of the questions left open by the reading? What kinds of things would you like to know that the text doesn't tell you? Study Questions: The questions, like the illustrations, are to help you get started. They raise a few of the issues that we will want to discuss in class, but are not intended to limit your thinking. Unlike the illustrations, the study questions are tied closely to the assigned texts. They are designed to help you think "inside the text" about issues that need analysis, explanation, or expansion; as you reflect on them, try to come up with ideas of your own about issues you would like to bring up in class for discussion.

April 17
Sophocles, Electra

Link here to seven representations of Electra at the tomb of Agamemnon. Which of them, if any, best captures Electra at the opening of the Libation Bearers, in your view? Which, if any, best captures Electra at the opening of Sophocles' Electra, in your view?

  • Compare the depiction of Electra in the first section of the Libation Bearers (up to line 311) with Electra in the first section of Sophocles' Electra (up to line 471. What are the principal differences and similarities in the structures of the opening scenes? Compare the characters (who are they?), the action (what happens?), and the characterization of Electra.
  • Compare the kommos or "chant" sung in line 312-465 of the Libation Bearers with the ode and episode immediately following in Sophocles' Electra, lines 1232-1383. In both sections, Electra and Orestes prepare themselves for the killings that are to follow. How do Aeschylus and Sophocles differ in their conceptions of the structure of this episode?
  • In Sophocles' play, Chrysothemis appears as a character in two episodes prior to the discovery of Orestes' return (lines 328-471 and lines 871-1057). What is the relationship between Electra and Chrysothemis? How does the inclusion of Chrysothemis help to define Electra in Sophocles' play?

April 19
Euripides, Electra

Link here to three representations of the death of Aegisthus. Compare these with the Boston Vase showing the death of Aegisthus. Which of the four representations, if any, best captures the scene as depicted in the Libation Bearers, Sophocles' Electra, Euripides' Electra? What are the principal differences in the three dramatists' conceptions and depictions of the scene?

  • In Euripides' Electra, who is the greater villain, Clytemnestra or Aegisthus, and on what specific indications do you base your judgement? How would you answer the same question with reference to the Oresteia? With reference to Sophocles' Electra?
  • In the Electra plays by both Euripides and Sophocles there is a confrontation between Clytemnestra and Electra (pp. 119-23 in Sophocles; pp. 139-44). What are the principal similarities and differences between the two scenes?
  • In Sophocles' Electra, there are six choral odes; in Euripides' Electra there are five. What is the relationship between the chorus and Electra in each play, and how do the choral odes function to define it? What do the choruses sing or say in each play that is not in dialogue with Electra? How does this add to the meaning of each play?
    Choral Odes:
    : lines
    121-232 (p. 106); 471-515 (p. 118); 823-870 (p. 128); 1058-1097 (p. 136); 1232-1285 (p. 143); 1384-1441 (p. 147)
    Euripides: lines
    112-212 (p. 109); 432-486 (p. 119); 699-746 (p. 129); 859-879 (p. 134); 1147-1232 (p. 144)

Last Revised April 16, 2000