Clytemnestra, Electra, and the failure of mothering on the Attic stage
Zeigler, Deana Paige
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Using ancient Greek historic and literary sources in combination with modern feminist theories of psychoanalysis, I create a normative model for mother-daughter relationships from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter as well as a story pattern of the succession narrative from Hesiod’s Theogony and Homer's Odyssey. Working within these psychological and political frameworks, I investigate the troubled relationship between Clytemnestra and Electra. In Sophocles’ Electra and Euripides’ Electra their behavior fails to conform to the pattern of a mother-daughter pair, and their relationship does not fulfill expectations. Clytemnestra and Electra, however, are still aware of their society’s ideas concerning the ideal interactions between a mother and her daughter. Envious of her mother’s wealth and position and lacking reciprocal love and affection, Electra ultimately uses her understanding of the workings of the mother-daughter bond to entrap her mother and facilitate the matricide.