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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Princess, The Pauper and The Perpetrator- A Trinational Electra in the Twentieth Century


The Electra myth has been a popular subject throughout the centuries for dramatists. The three great ancient Greek tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides) each created his own version of the myth, and these plays have been and continue to be translated or adapted into various languages. In contradiction to the famous phrase “lost in translation,” adaptations may incorporate political or cultural aspects of the country in which they are conceived, giving them even greater substance and meaning. The purpose of this paper, in turn, is two-fold. I begin by presenting and exploring the differences among the three Greek versions of the ancient tragedians and their implications. However, the majority of this paper focuses around three twentieth-century adaptations of each of the playwrights’ versions (namely, Jean Giraudoux’s French Électre, Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s German Elektra, and Eugene O’Neill’s American Mourning Becomes Electra). In addition to analyzing the changes made by these adaptations from their Greek “originals,” I also address why each adaptation may have chosen a particular Greek text as its source, as well as the political or social influences behind each adaptation.


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