The scene of the drama is the inner court of the palace in
Mycenae. Since Clytemnestra and her paramour, Aegisthus, have
compassed the murder of her husband, Agamemnon, her daughter
Elektra lives only with the thought of vengeance. She exists like a
wild beast, banished from the society of human beings, a butt of
ridicule to the servants, a horror to all, only desirous of the
blood of her mother and Aegisthus in atonement for that of her
father. The murderers have no rest, either. Fear haunts
Elektra's sister, Chrysothemis, is entirely unlike her. She
craves marriage and children, but this desire becomes an obsession.
Clytemnestra has lost her peace of mind and has completely
surrendered herself to her accomplice, the unworthy Aegisthus.
Having been tormented by her frightful dreams she even comes to
seek help from the hated Elektra in the inner court. It is the
daughter's first triumph in all her years of suffering. But it is
short-lived, for Clytemnestra mocks her with the news that Orestes
has died in a distant land. It is a terrible blow for Elektra, who
had hoped that Orestes would return and wreak revenge on the queen
and Aegisthus. Now the daughters must be the instruments of
vengeance. And as the shocked Chrysothemis recoils from the task,
Elektra determines to complete it alone. In the courtyard she digs
up the very axe with which her father was slain and which she had
buried in order to give it to her brother on his return.
But the message regarding the death of Orestes was false. It was
disseminated by her brother in order to allay the fears of the
murderers of his father and put them off their guard. The stranger,
who now enters the court, and at first cannot believe that the
half-demented woman is his sister, is finally recognized by her as
Orestes. He enters the palace, first slays Clytemnestra then kills
Aegisthus. Elektra, her thirst for vengeance satisfied, starts
dancing with increasing frenzy until she drops down dead.