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Upon getting it into my head to write a suite of music called ‘The Elektra Suite’ or ‘The Electra Suite,’ I decided to read up on Elektra so I could better organize the different movements of this suite. After all, rather than just write six movements, I thought it would be more interesting to kind of thematically link the movements by giving them specific titles and have each movement more or less match the mood of its title.
First, I discovered that there were three main Greek plays concerning this character. It was obviously one story but told in three slightly different ways.
Electra is the story of a woman who is the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Agamemnon goes off to war and Clytemnestra kills him when he returns. Electra gets mad and kills Clytemnestra with help from her brother Orestes.
Oh no. Agamemnon had sacrificed Elektra’s other sister to have good sailing when he went off to war. Elektra is apparently not upset by this.
Electra spends time as a peasant and shacks up with a shepherd but never marries him. She marries one of her brother’s friends after they kill their mother and return to palace living.
Electra is driven nuts by the Furies for killing her mother.
This story really bothered me. This is a hard story for a contemporary western reader to get their mind around, since one is used to very clear-cut heroes (or heroines) who have very clear motives for taking revenge and things all work out for the better in the end.
Duh! Yeah, I know it’s a tragedy! But still!
Is it about establishing a rule that will improve things for the lower classes? No. Do Elektra and Orestes get to live happily ever after as rulers or even nobles? No.
What kept bothering me was that in the very early Greek Mythology the name Elektra means ‘The Bright One,’ yet in these stories she ends up in the Pleiades constellation but she can’t be seen because she is a dim star who married a mortal. Huh?
And then I thought, well wait, these ancient Greek plays are going to be slanted according to the propaganda the playwright was wishing to disseminate, just like modern works.
And, yes, there was a need for an apologetic ending, just like “A Clockwork Orange,’The Hunger Games’ and, yes, ‘Harry Potter.’ So, of course, Elektra had to be run down by the Furies in the end since, in that version, the playwright was grinding the axe for the ‘new Athenian trial by jury system’ and people needed to be able to feel guilty about what they had done.
Now here’s where I’m at, personally on this story. Keep in mind that the royalty in ancient Greece (as well as many other places) were regarded as divinity.
So this story is about reclaiming one’s birthright as divine, which is everyone’s birthright as demonstrated in the story by Elektra becoming an ‘ordinary’ person and still being able to reclaim her birthright.
Granted, it’s not pretty but then neither is suppression.
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