Quirky Books: Electra by Sophocles

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Electra by Sophocles

The classic plays of Sophocles have endured over thousands of years. This is an adapted version by Frank McGuinness. Written in 1998 for a play featuring Zoe Wanamaker the entire title is "Electra: Sophocles' Ancient Tale of Vengeance."

The tale focuses on heirs to a Grecian throne. The immediate situation is obvious. The mother, Clytemnestra murdered Electra's father and married the man who wielded the axe. Clytemnestra believes killing her former husband is justified because he sacrificed her daughter Iphigenia, instead of, Menelaus' children.

Reading the play sheds no light on Freud's Electra Complex. The mother sought vengeance after her husband sacrificed her daughter. Murdering her husband was avenged by her remaining children. A brief note implies the sacrifice of Iphigenia was enlightened, because the royal family did not separate themselves from the populous in this manner.

The definition of the Electra Complex is, "Female counterpart of the Oedipus complex in the male; a term used to describe unresolved conflicts during childhood development toward the father which subsequently influence a woman's relationships with men." This translation has no relation to the play. However, Freud is a long-winded blowhard and reading his books is tricky. Skeptical of the common understanding, it will be awhile before trying to identify other possible interpretations.

Focusing on the play itself, it is well written and relatively short. Frank McGuinness has done well in translating it into an understandable English format. McGuinness is an award winning playwright, screenwriter and English postgraduate in Medieval Studies.

An interesting play, additional notes focus on Zoe Wanamaker with a quick interview. Her parents passed away. Drawing on personal experience, she infuses several experiences into the role.

Though disputing the modern interpretation of the Electra Complex, I feel is relates to children spurning whichever parent disciplines them. The plot is interesting. Psychologists and actors would gain a lot by reading the book; however, most people would enjoy flipping through the pages. The language is complicated. The main points are clear, though it is easy to overlook minor plot twists.

Quirky Books
The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles