Performing Grief

Mourning Does Indeed Become Electra


  • Anastasia Bakogianni Massey University



Electra is Greek tragedy’s mourner par excellence. In Sophocles’ dramatic version she is portrayed as stuck in a state of never-ending grief that fuels her desire for vengeance. On the modern stage she captures audiences’ imagination with her powerful, multi-sensory spectacle of mourning. Electra is a transgressive character precisely because she mourns too intensely and for too long. She is trapped in a liminal space where both her mind and body are adversely affected by her excessive mourning. But so enthralling is the portrayal of her grief that it has become the most prominent strand of the tragic heroine’s reception. This paper investigates two examples of Sophocles’ Electra in performance at the end of the last millennium, as a means of unpicking two very different approaches to the portrayal of ‘tragic’ grief on the modern Greek stage. At the end of the 1990s, the country’s premier theatrical company, The National Theatre of Greece, staged Sophocles’ Electra twice; in 1996 Lydia Koniordou highlighted female ritual, while Dimitris Maurikios’ 1998 production featured an Electra that was labelled ‘hysterical’ by theatre critics. This paper examines how modern Greece’s claim to a ‘special relationship’ with classical Greece has affected the performance of Electra’s grief.



Author Biography

Anastasia Bakogianni, Massey University

Lecturer in Classical Studies, School of Humanities