Dolos and Dike in Sophokles' Elektra (Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca by Leona MacLeod

By Leona MacLeod

The most challenge dealing with critics of Sophokles' Elektra has consistently been realizing the presentation of the vengeance and the character of justice it represents. This quantity addresses the moral problems with this play via an research of the language and argumentation which the characters use to provide an explanation for and justify their behaviour. the focal point is at the exam of the topics of aidos and dolos, and how during which every one contributes to our total realizing of the vengeance as an act which, for all its justice, continues to be shameful. by means of exploring the union among those contradictory components, this research exposes the moral complexity of Sophokles' remedy of the vengeance subject matter. Dolos & Dike incorporates a precious critique of contemporary interpretative methods to the play, a whole bibliography, and a whole index of passages brought up.

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Extra info for Dolos and Dike in Sophokles' Elektra (Mnemosyne, Bibliotheca Classica Batava Supplementum)

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While the advice to return without army may be thought less significant than the counsel to use dolos, it is important for understanding the nature of Orestes' deed and the type of dike it represents. When Orestes returns to Argos, he is a phugas, an exile, thought to be one of the worst fates to befall a person, as it meant the loss of all civic rights and property as well as the estrangement from family, friends, and the tombs of one's ancestors. The word phugas is the conventional fifth century term for exile and generally means assert the same sentiment after the vengeance, but it will also proclaim its justice).

Mother and son (at least initially) thus conceive of each other's death as a kerdos and both seem unaware that the death of kin is not something in which to exult. Orestes' words here may strike us as morally questionable, but we should remember that they are prospective and thus only potentially discreditable. That he feels some unease about his planned action, describing it as a kind of pain, implies that he senses something wrong with it and that he is not the immoral sophist some have seen.

Equally problematical is Orestes' own endorsement of verbal deception (56) if it brings profit (61). 22 In their view Orestes' behaviour at the beginning of the play is not so different from that of those he has returned to kill. Some of these characterizations of Orestes are clearly off the mark, but critics are right to focus on the use of dolos. In the other treatments of this myth Apollo orders the killing and the oracle operates as the external necessity which compels Orestes to choose between killing his mother or disobeying divine command.

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