Prophetic Deception: The Narrative of the Chariot Race in Sophocles’ Electra
Towards the midpoint of Sophocles’ Electra, the Paedagogus uses a speech of eighty-four lines to convince Clytemnestra and Electra that Orestes has met his death while competing in the chariot race at the Pythian games (680-763). Scholars have increasingly recognised that the length and vividness of this false narrative requires explanation; some interpretations focus on the effect of the speech on the two women, while others explore the thematic significance of the events described by the Paedagogus. The central claim of this article is that the narrative symbolically foreshadows what is to happen after Orestes kills Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, though the play itself ends with the latter still alive: the disaster in the fictional chariot race is a sign to the audience that a reversal of fortune lies in store for the real Orestes (and their first thought is likely to be of the pursuit by the Erinyes). The audience have been prepared for this possibility by Orestes’ insistence in the prologue that, though it is considered inauspicious to be spoken of as dead while still alive, in this case he has nothing to fear (59-66). When the Paedagogus later conveys the false news, further clues that point to the ominous import of the narrative include its two-part structure, with initial success in the games followed by disaster, and the intra- and intertextual resonances of the chariot race itself. Prophecy is a major theme of Electra, and in this scene the audience are challenged to identify and interpret an omen which none of the characters are in a position to perceive as such.
Keywords: Sophocles; Electra; Paedagogus; chariot race; omen; prophecy; Erinyes
ASSIGNMENT OF PUBLISHING RIGHTS
1. In consideration of the publication of your Article, you grant to us for the full legal term of the copyright and any extension or renewals, the exclusive licence: a) to publish, reproduce, distribute, display and store the Article worldwide in all forms, formats and media now known or as developed in the future, including print, electronic and digital forms, b) to translate the Article into other languages, create adaptations, summaries or extracts of the Article or other derivative works based on the Article and all provisions elaborated in a) above shall apply in these respects, and c) to sub-license all such rights to others. In the event the Article is not accepted and published by us or is withdrawn by you before acceptance by us, the exclusive licence to publish set out in this agreement shall cease to be effective and all rights assigned by you to us in relation to the Article shall revert to you.
2. We shall prepare and publish your Article in Skenè. Journal of Theatre and Drama Studies. We reserve the right to make such editorial changes as may be necessary to make the Article suitable for publication, or as we reasonably consider necessary to avoid infringing third party rights or law; and we reserve the right not to proceed with publication for whatever reason.
3. You hereby assert your moral rights to be identified as the author of the Article according to the Italian Copyright Law 1941 no. 633.
4. You hereby warrant that you have secured the necessary written permission from the appropriate copyright owner or authorities for the reproduction in the Article of any text, illustration, or other material. You warrant that, apart from any such third party copyright material included in the Article, the Article is your original work, and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any other person or entity and cannot be construed as plagiarising any other published work. You further warrant that the Article is not currently under submission to, nor is under consideration by or has been accepted by any other journal or publication, nor has been previously assigned or licensed by you to any third party. Without prejudice to the provisions of Clause 3 above you undertake that the fully reference-linked version of scholarly record will not be published elsewhere without our prior written consent.
5. In addition you warrant that the Article contains no statement that is abusive, defamatory, libelous, obscene, fraudulent, nor in any way infringes the rights of others, nor is in any other way unlawful or in violation of applicable laws.
6. You warrant that wherever possible and appropriate, any patient, client or participant in any research or clinical experiment or study who is mentioned in the Article has given consent to the inclusion of material pertaining to themselves, and that they acknowledge that they cannot be identified via the Article and that you will not identify them in any way.
7. You warrant that you shall include in the text of the Article appropriate warnings concerning any particular hazards that may be involved in carrying out experiments or procedures described in the Article or involved in instructions, materials, or formulae in the Article, and shall mention explicitly relevant safety precautions, and give, if an accepted code of practice is relevant, a reference to the relevant standard or code.
8. You undertake that you will keep us and our affiliates indemnified in full against all loss, damages, injury, costs and expenses (including legal and other professional fees and expenses) awarded against or incurred or paid by us as a result of your breach of the warranties given in this agreement.
9. You warrant that you have reviewed our Publishing Ethics and Conflicts of Interest Disclosure policies, and will include in the text of the Article an appropriate statement should you have a financial interest or benefit arising from the direct applications of your research.
10. If the Article was prepared jointly with other authors, you warrant that you have been authorized by all co-authors to sign this Agreement on their behalf, and to agree on their behalf the order of names in the publication of the Article. You shall notify us in writing of the names of any such co-owners.
11. This agreement (and any dispute, proceeding, claim or controversy in relation to it) is subject to Italian law and the jurisdiction of the Court of Venice (Italy). It may only be amended by a document signed by both parties.