The basic plot is as follows: Agamemnon is killed by Clytemnestra and
her lover Aegisthus after he returns from the Trojan war to reclaim his
sister-in-law Helen from the Trojans. Electra and her brother Orestes
plot to kill their mother and her lover to revenge his death. Both
authors wrote about the same plot, but the built the story very
differently. Sophocles focused on Orestes, and Euripides focused more
on the life of Electra.
In Sophocles’s version, the play opens with Orestes learning his fate
from the Pythian Oracle; he must revenge his father’s death unarmed and
alone. He sends his pedagogue Pylades, as a spy, to learn about the
situation in Mycenae. Electra mourns for her father’s death. She is
unable to avenge her father’s murders without the help of Orestes, her
brother. She is also mad about how her mother and her lover waste her
father’s riches and desecrate his name. Her half-sister Chrysothemis is
no help to Electra and refuses to help in the murder of her mother and
mother’s lover. Pylades arrives bearing the sad news of Orestes death.
He tells Clytemnestra that Orestes was killed in a chariot race at the
Delphian games; his body was cremated and his ashes were sent to
Mycenae. Concealing his identity, Orestes arrives and with the help of
Electra and Pylades, plots the murder of his mother and his mother’s
lover. Orestes enter the palace, kills his mother and returns to
Electra. When Aegisthus arrives, Orestes kills him as well fulfilling
Euripides’s version is much more dramatic. The play begins with
Electra’s marriage to a peasant. Aegisthus had tried to kill Electra
but Clytemnestra convinced him to allow her to live. He decided to
marry her to a peasant so her children will be humbly born and pose no
threat to his throne. Orestes and Pylades arrive. Orestes says that he
has come to Apollo’s shrine to pledge himself to avenge his father’s
murder. Orestes, concealing his identity, talks with Electra about the
recent happenings in Mycenae. She admits that she is sad that her
brother had been taken away at such a young age and the only person that
would recognize him would be her father’s old servant. She also
discusses her scorn of Aegisthus desecrating the monument over
Agamemnon’s grave and his ridicule of Orestes.
Death and Creation in The Hollow Men
Throughout the semester, we have read many poems by many well-known authors. All of these poems were worthy of the literary merit they received, but I would like to write this paper on a poem that is equally as wonderful. I will be writing this paper on T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.” This is an incredibly poetic work that is just simply brilliant. I will be discussing how Eliot constantly uses death and creation images to strengthen the theme of the poem.
Throughout this entire poem, there is an ever-present theme of death. There is not a single stanza where there is not something that is “dead.” The beauty of his verse makes even darkness and death sound appealing. “Shape without form, shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion.” This verse alone gives a beautifully haunting image of darkness and death. This is a descriptive adjective for the kingdom of death in which the hollow men reside. “Death’s kingdom”, “the dead land”, “dying stars”, and “fading stars” are all images of death that Eliot uses to stress the ever-present theme of death in this poem. The way that he links it all together almost makes the reader want to become one of the “hollow men.”
One of the things about this poem that makes it so interesting, is the fact that despite the ever-present theme of death, Eliot throws in a few images of creation to counteract it. In stanza four, the lines “Sightless, unless The eyes reappear As the perpetual star, Multifoliate rose Of death’s twilight kingdom. The hope only Of empty men” creates the image of re-creation as a possibility of these “hollow men”. This is their only hope, and in a way, is like the creation of the world for them. The reappearing eyes almost serve as their saviour. “Between the conception And the creation, Between the emotion And the response Falls the Shadow” is also an image of creation. It is a subtle implication of life and death falls in to existence after creation. Eliot’s poetic style here is simply outstanding.
There is also a religious undertone tied in with all of Eliot’s images of death and creation. It seems that every mention of death gives a religious image as well. The poem always speaks of “death’s kingdom”, and is not death’s kingdom part of the kingdom of God? I definitely get a religious image in my mind, as do, I suspect, most readers, when I see the line “For Thine is the Kingdom” repeated on more than one occasion.