In the prologue to this often overlooked play, Galdós confesses that for some time he felt «cautivado por la tradición de Alceste, reina de Tesalia, ejemplo y cifra de abnegación sublime, alma candorosa y poética que ilumina las edades remotas en que la Historia se confunde con la Mitología» (Alceste 1248), and he goes on to demonstrate an intimate acquaintance with the trajectory of the myth. Critical commentary is limited to Caballero (207), Morley (xli-xlii), Díaz-Regañón (279-82), Casalduero («Alceste»), and Gountiñas. Casandra (1910, adapted from the novel of the same title) also has definite mythological associations, since the protagonist is recognized within the play as possessing a «nombre de profetisa» (1166). Like those of Electra, however, these associations have passed largely unnoticed.
In order to avoid confusion, this analysis will refer to Electra's mother (whom the marqués calls Electra I) as Eleuteria, reserving «Electra» for the protagonist of the play.
A similar strategy, too complex to describe here, occurs with the character Platón in Fortunata y Jacinta.
For a more extended discussion of the nascent feminism of this play, see Catena, who views Galdós as a mouthpiece for «las nuevas e incipientes ideas sobre la mujer» (107).
Clytemnestra's name in Greek, although obscure, may suggest «praiseworthy wooing» (Graves 386). One of the justifications that she frequently invokes for murdering her husband is that in doing so she sought revenge on him for the sacrifice of Iphigeneia. See the following lines: Aeschylus (Agamemnon 1431-32), Sophocles (Electra 528-33), Euripides (Electra 1011-29 and Iphigeneia at Aulis 1180-90), and Seneca (Agamemnon 192-202). In Aeschylus, Euripides (Electra), and Seneca, Clytemnestra alludes to her jealousy over Cassandra as well. The translations from the Greek which follow are those of the Loeb editions except for my occasional modifications, indicated in brackets. Where appropriate, I provide the original text in transliteration rather than Greek script, indicating eta and omega in bold to distinguish them from epsilon and omicron.
There is a convincing argument that the passage that traditionally follows this one, lines 958-74 (Clytemnestra's famous «éstin thálassa»... speech), should come after line 929. See the appendix to Aeschylus, The Oresteian Trilogy. For the significance of the purple carpet, see Philip Vellacott's commentary in the same edition (26-27).
Catena believes that «el público del estreno y los manifestantes callejeros que gritaron ¡abajo los jesuitas! no erraban al suponer que Pantoja encubría, bajo apariencia seglar, un individuo de la Compañía o educado en sus aulas o a su estilo, según Galdós consideraba la moral, modos y maneras de los individuos de la Compañía» (93).
«pa, péphukas patéra sòn stérgein aeí. / éstin dè kaì tód': hoi mén eisin arsénon, / hoi d' a philo si metéras mllon patrós». Cf. Iphigeneia at Aulis, lines 638-39, where Clytemnestra speaks similarly of Iphigeneia.
One of the best known manifestations of this reading is the lavishly enthusiastic review of Andrés Ovejero, while a notable exception is to be found in Lace (65-66). Later readers often follow the Manichean view of Ovejero. Starkie, for example, declares that Electra «evidently symbolizes the triumph of science and liberal ideas in Máximo and Electra and the defeat of the old superstitions of Spain in Pantoja. The dramas of Galdós often recall the ancient Morality plays with their allegorical representation of virtues and vices» (115). As recently as 1981, Rubio suggests the same stereotypical division, which he then promptly condemns as «un procedimiento típicamente melodramático» (64).
Several members of the Generation of 98 were also involved in this type of political posturing, claiming a reluctant Galdós as their standard-bearer in the fight for modernizing Spain (see Litvak).