“The Roar”

Themes

Ancient Greek quotations and English translations are taken from:

 D. Kovacs (1998), Euripides ΙΙ: Suppliant Women, Electra, Heracles [Loeb Classical Library], Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, and London.  

_________ (2002), Euripides V: Helen, Phoenician Women, Orestes [Loeb Classical Library], Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA and London.

________  (2002) Εuripides VI: Bacchae, Iphigenia at Aulis, Rhesus [Loeb Classical Library], Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA and London.

H. Lloyd-Jones (1994), Sophocles I: Ajax, Electra, Oedipus Tyrannus [Loeb Classical Library], Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA and London.

A. H. Sommerstein (2008), Aeschylus II: Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers, Eumenides [Loeb Classical Library], Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, and London.

Greek quotations  from  Matesis’ Roar are from:

P. Matesis (1997), Η Βουή: Θεατρικό έργο, Kastaniotis, Athens.

English translation (with slight modifications) is from:

 ________(2002), Contemporary Greek Theatre (Guardian Angel for Rent, Nurseryman, Roar, Towards Eleusis), vol. 2, transl. A. H. Anagnostopoulos, Arcadia Books, London.

 

Page 135

CLYTEMNESTRA enters. She is holding an axe. It is heavy and gleaming, made of bronze with fine carvings, a collector’s item.

The great majority of scholars contend that in the Oresteia the weapon used for Agamemnon’s murder is not an axe, but a sword (Agamemnon 1011, 1372). However, some argue for an axe based mainly on Clytemnestra’s cry at Choephori 889 to bring her “an axe that can kill a man” (ἀνδροκμῆτα πέλεκυν).  See also Soph. Electra 484-5, where the Chorus mentions of the “brazen axe with double edge” (χαλκόπληκτος ἀμφήκης γένυς) that killed Agamemnon.

 

Page 135

CLYTEMNESTRA: The door.

ELECTRA: Don’t worry. It’s strong.

CLYTEMNESTRA: And so are they. Those things. Outside. They’re strong! Such persistence! Aren’t they tired of it? Haven’t they grown old? Haven’t they died of old age YET? See how obsessed they are not to forget? See how furiously they’re beating on the door? 

ELECTRA: With bronze axes.

CLYTEMNESTRA: Bronze FEET (Με χάλκινα ΠΟΔΙΑ)

ELECTRA: As you wish.

The «things» that have beating on the door of Thyestes’ family house (for the last 43 years, as we learn later in the play) are described as having «bronze feet», an indication of their relentless and untiring nature. At the same time, though, this description urges us to identify these «things» with the Furies, likewise described in Soph. Electra 491: “She shall come, with many feet and many hands, she who lurks in dire ambush, the brazen-footed (χαλκόπους) Erinys!”  

Whereas in ancient Greek tragedy the Furies are primarily associated with Orestes (see, e.g. Aesch. Eumenides, Eur. Iphigenia among the Taurians, Orestes), in Matesis they torture, with their ongoing keening (see the relevant note in “Language”), the remaining tenants of Thyestes’ palace, that is Clytemnestra, Electra, and Aegisthus.

Later on, the guide who brings a group of tourists to visit the place identifies these “things” as “wild boars” that hurl themselves with force against the bronze door of the house to show off to their mates (Page 146). Even though this divergent identification serves a number of other purposes (e.g. to parody and deconstruct the tragic myth), here Matesis also seems to play upon Aeschylus’ depiction of the Furies through vivid animal imagery. For instance, in Eumenides 644 the Furies are described as “loathsome beasts, hated by the gods”, while in lines 246-7 as “hounds”.      

 

Page 136

(ELECTRA enters while talking. She pushes an invalid᾽s chair with large wheels. In fact, it’s a baby’s pram that’s been transformed into a wheelchair. In it sits AEGISTHUS. A good seventy-five years old, an invalid, a vegetable. Every so often, he lets out bird-like sounds. He tries but can’t manage to articulate an entire word.)

Pages 138-9

(AEGISTHUS emits asthmatic bird sounds. CLYTEMNESTRA watches but doesn’t intervene. Eventually, ELECTRA stops. AEGISTHUS stops. ELECTRA uncovers him.)

ELECTRA: He can speak! He spoke! He said “Don’t!”

CLYTEMNESTRA: Eh, family obligation.

ELECTRA: (looking at his face) AND he can weep.

CLYTEMNESTRA: Eh, his kin. ’Course, he was always one for tears. He even wept in the bathroom all through the killing.

Aegisthus’ representation as a helpless and weak-willed old man sitting in an altered baby pram reflects, in an ingeniously mocking fashion, Aegisthus’ tragic profile, especially in Aeschylus. See, e.g., Agamemnon 1671, where the Chorus scolds Aegisthus for his cowardice and weakness (“Brag away confidently, like a cock standing next to his hen!”); also, Agamemnon 1224, where Cassandra calls Aegisthus a “cowardly  wolf”. Clytemnestra’s sarcastic comment on Aegisthus’ child-like stance during Agamemnon’s murder is also a pointed allusion to his effeminate weakness.

 

Page 136

CLYTEMNESTRA: I don’t want him. Anymore. (Afterwards.) But he’s company – you are not company. At least with him I can have a conversation.

ELECTRA: (guffawing) “A conversation”?

CLYTEMNESTRA: You ’re not much of a talker. You hardly speak. Or you speak to yourself… You don’t even cry, or…

A sharp contrast with the tragic Electra, who is presented as melting away in tears. Her prolonged and continuous mourning finds its greatest manifestation in Sophocles, where the heroine firmly proclaims that she will never stop lamenting for her father: Soph. Electra 103-9, 140-52, 231-2. In 161 Electra refers to herself as being “drenched in tears”, while in 1085 she is said to have chosen a “a glorious life bathed in tears”; see also Eur. Electra 143-9, 181-2 (“In tears my nights are spent, and tears / for me in my wretched state are the burden of my days”).

 

Page 137

CLYTEMNESTRA: Eh, so he can feel the sun. The sun – hasn’t it come out today? 

ELECTRA: Why should it? (She goes towards the main door.) Whether it comes out or not, what business have we… (pause) Anyway, it won’t have come out.

CLYTEMNESTRA: (affirmatively) It hasn’t.

ELECTRA: It didn’t come out yesterday either. It doesn’t come out every day. Back then, did it come out EVERY day?

CLYTEMNESTRA: I don’t remember, I never noticed.

The cosmic disorder implied here seems to serve as an allusion to Euripides’ Electra 720-46, where we learn that Zeus changed the sun’s route in outrage at Thyestes’ crime.  A similar reference to the repercussions of Thyestes’ abominable act is to be found in Eur. Orestes 1002-12.

 

Page 137

CLYTEMNESTRA: (ironically) I’ve no idea about those things. Sort it out with your uncle… (nodding at Aegisthus)

ELECTRA: (growing angry) My “uncle”! (She kicks the wheel of his wheelchair. AEGISTHUS screams, as best he can)

CLYTEMNESTRA: And what do you want me to call him, then: His Highness? That’s a laugh.

ELECTRA: “Him here”, that’s what to call him. Call him cousin. Kin. Suitor. (She guffaws.) Suitor! Bridegroom!

Electra’s contempt for Aegisthus and the qualifiers she ascribes to him, especially the noun νυμφίος, which is emphatically placed at the end of the sentence, echo her words in Sophocles’ Electra 299-302: “She [sc. Clytemnestra] barks out words like these, and her noble husband (νυμφίος) stands by her to encourage her, this utter coward, this total plague, this man who fights his battles with women’s aid”.  

  

Page 138

CLYTEMNESTRA: Leftovers. A hundred years of leftovers… look…

(From a deep pot, a tureen, she takes out leftovers. One after the other. She holds them away from her in disgust. She also takes some out of another pot. She turns around, and we see them.) They’ve grown mouldy. They’ve dried up covered in mould!

(She holds up various items, tatters from baby or infant clothes. It should be clear that they are pieces of clothing, knitwear and so on, perhaps white with brown stains. A sleeve, a child’s sock, a woollen bonnet, a baby’s shoe resembling those old-fashioned bootees: she holds it up by the laces. She holds up a vest with both hands, displaying it to the audience.) Disgusting… all green with mould … the moths have left cocoons on them…empty ones.

ELECTRA: So? Why should WE wash them? Did WE eat anything? 

CLYTEMNESTRA: If you can bear the filth…

ELECTRA: (abruptly, she takes one of the cast-offs together with a plate from the service and, going over to AEGISTHUS, she rubs it in his face beneath the shawl) HE’S the one that should wash them. HIM! He’s their kin, isn’t he? They’re his family, aren’t they?

The reference to the leftovers, in conjunction with the baby/infant clothes, constitutes an allusion to the notorious Thyestean feast. When Atreus, father of Agamemnon, found out that his wife had committed adultery with his brother Thyestes, he invited Thyestes over for dinner and served him his two children. This story is dominant in all tragedies dealing with the doomed House of Atreus; see, e.g., Agamemnon 1085-97, 1217-22, 1242-4, 1500-4, 1577-1603.

Aegisthus was the offspring of Thyestes and his daughter Pelopia and, therefore, kin to the children that Atreus served to Thyestes. 

 

Page 139

ELECTRA: You didn’t leave anyone around. Not in our circle. You could at least have spared that dirge-singer … or was it fortune-teller? The one from Asia Minor that claimed she was some God’s betrothed… What was her name?

CLYTEMNESTRA:  How should I remember…

ELECTRA: ’Course, she only spoke foreign languages. She only sang dirges in foreign languages… told fortunes in foreign languages… She wouldn’t stoop to ours. I’d have had some company… she was around my age. A fellow-sufferer, we’d be two menopauses together now. At least she lost her virginity, even if it was to a god. My period came, was left alone, and went away again…without my making any use of it.

The reference to the woman from Asia Minor is a transparent allusion to Aeschylus’ Cassandra. Apollo’s prophetess is here downgraded to a ‘dirge-singer’ and ‘fortune-teller’. Electra’s ironic remark that the woman spoke only foreign languages echoes Aesch. Agamemnon 1035ff, where Clytemnestra and the Chorus comment on Cassandra’s alleged inability to communicate with them because of her barbarian origin (see, e.g., CLYTEMNESTRA: “If you don’t understand my words and they’re not getting through to you, then instead of speaking, express yourself with gestures in the way foreigners do” (1061-1); CHORUS: “The foreign woman seems to be in need of a clear interpreter. She has the manner of a wild beast just trapped” (1062-3).

Electra’s virginity is a dominant theme in Greek tragedy (Soph. Electra 164-5, 187-8, 961-4). Even in Euripides, where she is married off to a peasant, she chooses to abstain from sexual intercourse with her supposed husband (Eur. Electra 218-9, 235). But whereas in tragedy Electra’s celibacy seems to be¾at least partly¾self-imposed, Matesis’ Electra ends up a spinster because nobody asked her to marry him, as we learn in  Page 140:

ELECTRA: Me! You’re the one who should wear something. A crown… (pause) Tell me… was I beautiful?

CLYTEMNESTRA: (affirmatively) Beautiful. Naturally.

ELECTRA: Then why did no one ask … for my hand?

In contrast to Sophocles’ Electra whose references to her childlessness are always filled with pain and anguish, Matesis’ Electra adopts a rather sarcastic stance towards this issue; her comment that her period went away unexploited (i.e. she remained childless) and the fact that she comes to identify herself as a “menopause” are at least banal. Moreover, her ironic comment on Cassandra’s alleged intercourse with a god is, of course, invalid; Cassandra was cursed by Apollo not to be believed by anyone exactly because she denied his amorous advances.

 

Pages 140-1

CLYTEMNESTRA: (having gone over to the cross) Are you expecting him?

ELECTA: YOU’RE the one who’s expecting him. Since he sent you that present. It’s for you he’ll come. What does he want with me? (After) Of me…

CLYTEMNESTRA: It’s his offering. He sent it to me as a gift.

ELECTRA: A pledge.

CLYTEMNESTRA: It’s what. . .twenty-five years?. . . since he sent it to me. Together with the letter. (She takes a letter out from the base of the cross and hands it to ELECTRA.)

In ancient Greek tragedy Clytemnestra contemplates Orestes’ return with terror and anxiety, knowing that he will come back as an avenger of his father’s murder. See, for instance, Soph. Electra 778-87: CLYT: “After he [Orestes] left this land he never saw me, but he reproached me with his father’s murder and swore to do terrible things, so that neither by night nor day would sweet sleep cover me, but from one moment to another I lived like one about to die. But now – for on this day I have been freed from the fear inspired by this woman here and him – yes, she was a worse mischief, living with me and all the time sucking my very life-blood – now we shall spend our days, I think, securely, for any threats of hers”.  Matesis’ Clytemnestra is not tortured by any such fear, even though in his letter Orestes admonishes her outright either to “crucify” herself, or to wait for him to “crucify” her. In fact, Clytemnestra even considers the cross that Orestes sends to her a gift, in spite of its sinister connotations. One could argue that she is actually looking forward to her son’s return and her own death.

 

Page 142

CLYTEMNESTRA: Some right you want to lay claim to. Instead of a throne, I’d rather lay claim to …a drop of rain. To seeing a drop of rain.

ELECTRA: Luxuries.

CLYTEMNESTA: A drop of rain. On the tiles. A stone house… out in the fields, far from any village or crowd. A tiled roof. With the rain beating down, aimlessly. And me inside the house.

Clytemnestra’s romantic outburst brings her closer to Ritsos’ and Kambanellis’ Clytemnestras¾delicate and refined women of high spirits¾rather than to the Clytemnestra we know from Greek tragedy.

 

Page 143

(The door of the sanctuary lavatory opens slightly. A ghost, half of it, glides outside: a long purple robe with the mask of Agamemnon, familiar to us from the Archaeological Museum. Once it has emerged, it remains motionless to attract attention.)

The colour of the robe and its association with Agamemnon bring to mind the notorious ‘carpet scene’ in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon (783-974), where Clytemnestra orders her servants to spread luxurious purple fabrics on the ground for her victorious husband to tread on.

 

Page 143

CLYTEMNESTRA

[…] Perhaps you’ve also come with that little mite that we sacrificed in Aulis – I forget her name, what had we christened her?  The one beaten by that daddy of yours because she wouldn’t let him sacrifice her? Oh, what monotony…

Page 177

CLYTEMNESTRA (to ELECTRA) In Aulis? Yes. What was the name of the victim they slaughtered? What was it called? Was it a boy or a girl? You know, that one of mine that you slaughtered? I can’t even remember what I used to call it. I took care, though, to bring it into life crippled and disabled, as I heard a prophecy that they’d slaughter it. So I brought it into life crippled on purpose… so I wouldn’t grieve too much when it… 

Clytemnestra’s indifference towards Iphigenia’s sacrifice and the coldness with which she recounts the events that took place at Aulis are a far cry from her grief for Iphigenia’s loss in tragedy (see, e.g., Eur. Iphigenia at Aulis), where the very sacrifice of her daughter constitutes the main driving force behind her murderous act. In Matesis, Iphigenia’s sacrifice is presented as a foreordained event, as something which Clytemnestra knew even before Iphigenia’s birth. Whereas in the passages cited above Clytemnestra shows no emotion regarding Iphigenia’s sacrifice, her motherly instinct is tickled when asked about it by the three actors that arrive at the house to impersonate Andromache or Hecuba. While crying out for Hector and Astyanax, she spontaneously yells out Iphigenia’s name three times (Page 174: CLYTEMNESTRA: (in the meantime cries) Astyanax! Hector! Iphigenia! (At this point, as if awakening.) Iphigenia! Iphigenia! Orestes! (And she freezes. Becomes calm. There’s a “hiatus”, an embarrassing silence between the three ACTORS.)

Clytemnestra’s ambiguous stance towards her children and her oscillation between love/affection and indifference/hate is not peculiar to Matesis’ play but also evident in Greek tragedy. For instance, whereas in the Choephori she is devastated when she finds out about Orestes’ alleged death (691-9), the Nurse’s remarks later on imply that the news was actually received with relief by Clytemnestra: “In front of the servants she put on a sorrowful face¾concealing the laughter that is underneath on account of the event that has come to pass, which is a good thing for her, but for this house things are thoroughly bad, as a result of the news that the visitors have reported very plainly.”  See also Clytemnestra’s comment on the nature of motherhood in Soph. Electra 770, when she is informed about the supposed death of Orestes: “Giving birth is a strange thing; even when they treat one badly, one does not hate one’s children”.     

The image of Agamemnon beating up Iphigenia because she would not stay idle during her sacrifice is at least grotesque.  It also stands in contrast with the version given in Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, where Iphigenia eventually accepts her sacrifice with dignity and moves towards the sacrificial altar willingly, showing no resistance (1416ff).

 

Page 150

GUIDE: They wait for the moment when they’re granted a permit to dream. They wait three hundred and sixty-four days. You might ask what else is there to do for someone who’s been turned to marble? They wait. That’s all. The prospect of dreaming is the bait that’s been thrown to them. Dreaming is the opium of the people – and of the statues.

Dreams play a crucial role in Aeschylus’ Oresteia and in Sophocles’ Electra (405-430). In all cases, however, they foreshadow suffering and death. In Matesis, dreams are divested of their ominous nature and are put forth as symbols of freedom. Through their allowance to dream-once every year-the protagonists of the play can escape from the dire constraints of reality.

 

Page 155

ELECTRA: Are you starting to get sleepy?

CLYTEMNESTRA: (pause) You’ve been trying to ensnare me in that net for forty-two years now. (After) You know full well it’s not allowed. Are we… allowed? (ELECTRA doesn’t answer, she takes the ball of wool from her and winds it enigmatically.) You know that as soon as I fall asleep… IF I fall asleep… if I’m given a permit to sleep, you ‘ll butcher me, Electra.

Clytemnestra’s reference to Electra’s repetitive attempts to snare her in a net clearly allude to Aeschylus’ Oresteia, where the net is a recurrent image and is closely associated with Agamemnon’s murder. While taking his bath, Agamemnon is trapped in a garment with no holes for the head or the arms¾a garment visualised figuratively as a net (see Aesch. Agamemnon 1115-6, 1382; Choephori 492-3; Eumenides 634-5).

 

Page 186

ELECTRA: They’ve come back. They’re celebrating, now they’re singing, they’ve become—

ORESTES: Eumenides? Don’t entertain such futile hopes, Electra. They are Furies. And that’s what they’ll remain. Now and again they dress up as Eumenides. Transvestite-Furies. Electra, it’s time for me to say goodbye to you… (He says something in her ear).

 Orestes’ reference clearly echoes the denouement of Aeschylus’ Eumenides, where Athena succeeds in placating the Furies and convincing them to accept Orestes’ acquittal. In exchange, Athena renames them Eumenides (‘The Kindly Ones’) and leads a procession accompanying them to their new abode where they will safeguard the city’s prosperity and receive honours by the citizens of Athens. Nevertheless, whereas in Aescylus the Furies are transformed into Eumenides, Matesis’ Orestes utterly renounces the probability of such a transformation. As he emphasizes, the Furies’ occasional transformation to Eumenides is merely a masquerade.

 

Page 187

ELECTRA: What for? I’ve always been your loving sister. At times, I’d put ashes into a pot and I’d pretend they were your remains. And I had it for company. I’ve always been your loving sister.

Electra’s reference to Orestes’ ashes is a clear allusion to Sophocles’ Electra 54-8, 757-60, 1113-25, 1142, where Clytemnestra is presented with a funeral urn containing Orestes’ alleged ashes, as part of Orestes’ scheme to deceive his opponents and avenge his father’s death. A reference to an urn supposedly containing Orestes’ ashes occurs also in Choephori 686-7, where however the object itself is not brought onstage: it is purportedly in Phocis, and it is up to Orestes’ family to decide whether they will repatriate his ashes or have them buried in a foreign land.

The consolation felt by Matesis’ Electra by pretending to hold a pot with her brother’s ashes comes to sharp contrast with her mournful reaction to the fake news of Orestes’ death and to the sight of the urn supposedly containing his ashes in Sophocles (Electra 1097-235).

 

Page 183

ORESTES: And now? What am I doing here, WHY have I come here?

ELECTRA: Shall I get his bath ready?

Electra’s reference to the bath is imbued with sinister connotations and constitutes an allusion to Agamemnon’s murder (Aesch. Agamemnon 1109 and 1129, cf. Cho. 491, where Orestes, standing on his father’s tomb, reminds Agamemnon of his fatal bath). What is more, Orestes’ association with Agamemnon’s fatal bath incites us to perceive Orestes as “Agamemnon”. A similar idea also crops up in tragedy, where Orestes is visualised as the resurrected Agamemnon, who returns seeking to take revenge for his ignominious murder (Aesch. Choephori 886-7; Soph. Electra 1417-21, 1477-8).

 

Page 184

ORESTES: I … don’t know. I came here for other reasons. I’ve organised my life around other things, but now? All my life, my one dream was for us to become a tragedy. But now, how can I make a tragedy out of us? Dostoyevsky is about as far as we can go. Mother and son, Christians, infected by guilt and remorse. And you, arrogantly guilty – how am I going to perform a tragedy? With silences? I᾽ve a good mind to go away again. But I don’t know where to go. I don’t have anywhere to go, you two were my destination… my company…. my table and bed… so many years now.

Matesis’ play ends in a somewhat paradoxical way that sets it apart from the traditional treatment of the story in tragedy. Unlike his tragic precursor, Matesis’ Orestes appears willing to abandon the burden of Agamemnon’s revenge imposed upon him in tragedy and go away again. Nevertheless, at the end he decides to stay. He murders his mother who willingly commends her flesh into his hands, and then asks his sister to kill him. As the only living “tenant” at Atreus’ family house Electra now becomes what she always wanted: Clytemnestra.   

 

Mythic Characters 

Electra

Matesis’ Electra is a far cry from the fragile and alienated Electra of Greek tragedy, who endlessly laments for the ignominious murder of her father and longs for the return of Orestes. She is a dynamic, arrogant, authoritative, and sarcastic middle-aged spinster, who treats the two remaining tenants at the family house of Thyestes, the aged Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, in a tyrannical, almost sadistic, way.

Clytemnestra

In contrast to the imposing, majestic, and commanding Clytemnestra of ancient Greek tragedy, Matesis’ heroine is old and weak, a plaything to the whims and caprices of Electra. Throughout the play she displays no motherly feelings, even though her maternal instinct is occasionally tickled. She is waiting for Orestes to return, although she is aware that his arrival will signal her own end.

Aegisthus

Whereas in ancient Greek tragedy Aegisthus plays a secondary role, in Matesis he is one of the protagonists. Even though in a vegetative state and stuck in a wheelchair (as a result of two strokes), and although he remains silent throughout the first part of the play (with the exception of the bird-like sounds that he occasionally lets out), he dominates the play in the second half, where he even impersonates Agamemnon.

Orestes

Orestes is depicted as a detached tourist, who initially observes his family from a distance. In contrast to his tragic precursor, Matesis’ Orestes appears ready to abandon the burden of Agamemnon’s revenge (cf. Ritsos’ ‘Orestes’) imposed upon him in Greek tragedy.  Nevertheless, at the end he fulfils his ‘tragic’ destiny and murders his mother at her behest.  

 

Language 

Page 135

CLYTEMNESTRA: And so are they. Those things. Outside. They’re strong! Such persistence! Aren’t they tired of it? Haven’t they grown old? Haven’t they died of old age YET? See how obsessed they are not to forget? See how furiously they ‘re beating on the door? 

ELECTRA: With bronze axes. (Με χάλκινα τσεκούρια)

CLYTEMNESTRA: Bronze FEET (Με χάλκινα ΠΟΔΙΑ) 

cf. Page 24 (από χάλκινα πόδια) and page 38 (Πόδια είπαμε! Χάλκινα πόδια)

Τhe reference to the Furies’ ‘bronze feet’ is a clear verbal allusion to Sophocles Electra 491, where the Furies are also called ‘bronze-footed’ (χαλκόπουν Ἑρινύν).

Τhe Furies’ depiction as wild beasts echoes Aeschylus Eumenides 644, where they are called  ‘utterly loathsome beasts, hated by the gods!’ (ὦ παντομισῆ κνώδαλα, στύγη θεῶν). 

 

 Page 137

CLYTEMNESTRA: (ironically) I’ve no idea about those things. Sort it out with your uncle… (nodding at Aegisthus)

ELECTRA: (growing angry) My “uncle”! (She kicks the wheel of his wheelchair. AEGISTHUS screams, as best he can)

CLYTEMNESTRA: And what do you want me to call him, then: His Highness? That’s a laugh.

ELECTRA: “Him here”, that’s what to call him. Call him cousin. Kin. Suitor. (She guffaws.) Suitor! Bridegroom!

Electra’s contempt for Aegisthus and the qualifiers she ascribes to him, especially the noun νυμφίος, which is emphatically placed at the end of the sentence, echo her words in Sophocles’ Electra 299-302: “She [sc. Clytemnestra] barks out words like these, and her noble husband (νυμφίος) stands by her to encourage her, this utter coward, this total plague, this man who fights his battles with women’s aid”. 

 

Page 143

The door of the sanctuary lavatory opens slightly. A ghost, half of it, glides outside: a long purple robe (μακρύ πορφυρό ένδυμα) with the mask of Agamemnon, familiar to us from the Archaeological Museum.

 The adjective πορφυρός used in this context is a clear verbal allusion to  Aesch. Agamemnon 910 (πορφυρόστρωτος πόρος) and 957, 959 (πορφύρας).

  

Page 184

CLYTEMNESTRA: We’re lighting them (sc. candles) for us. The white one’s for you. From now on your sister will take over. Come on. It’s time (She leads the way, but he doesn’t follow. CLYTEMNESTRA turns round, looks at him, but he looks elsewhere.) As you wish.

CLYTEMNESTRA:  (A sound is heard from the ventilator: moaning, a stifled scream. CLYTEMNESTRA goes over to the ventilator and announces loudly to ELECTRA…) They’re shrieking up here. Growling. Do you think they’re trying to frighten us? What language are they screaming in? When will they get round to learning our language? Then I’II know whether they’re wishing us well or chanting curses…

ELECTRA: (at the door) Keening (Οἰμωγές). Keening is what they called it – they’re keening (οἰμώζουν). That’s what it’s called. Ancient language. Maybe it’s ours, nobody knows… we don’t have any dictionaries, we don’ t know.

The noun οἰμωγή and the verb οἰμώζω, employed by Matesis to describe the sounds produced by the Furies, perhaps echo the terms ὠγμός and μυγμός (117, 120, 123, 126) associated with the Furies in Aesch. Eumenides.  

 

Bibliography 

See General Bibliography

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