The Human Body as a Source of Political and Personal Inspiration and Conflict in American Adaptations of Ancient Greek Drama.

Postgraduate Thesis uoadl:1676716 547 Read counter

Κατεύθυνση Αγγλόφωνη Λογοτεχνία και Πολιτισμός
Library of the School of Philosophy
Deposit date:
Schortsaniti Porfyria
Supervisors info:
Μπλατάνης Κωνσταντίνος, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής, Τμήμα Αγγλικής Γλώσσας και Φιλολογίας, ΕΚΠΑ
Γερμανού Μάρω, Καθηγήτρια, Τμήμα Αγγλικής Γλώσσας και Φιλολογίας, ΕΚΠΑ
Original Title:
The Human Body as a Source of Political and Personal Inspiration and Conflict in American Adaptations of Ancient Greek Drama.
Translated title:
The Human Body as a Source of Political and Personal Inspiration and Conflict in American Adaptations of Ancient Greek Drama.

The aim of the present thesis is to compare and contrast the ways in which contemporary American theatre illustrates and alludes to the element of the human body. For the purpose of this analysis, four American plays that have been directly inspired by ancient Greek tragedies are going to be examined regarding their references to the existence and suffering of the human body. The main interest focuses around the plays of Richard Schechner - Dionysus in 69 (1968), David Rabe - The Orphan (1973), Charles Mee - Agamemnon 2.0 (1994) and Cherrie Moraga - The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea (2000). The thesis aims to prove how the aforementioned authors have used over the past years the image of the human body in order to raise awareness around several political and social issues.
The first chapter focuses on Richard Schechner’ Dionysus in 69; the play which laid the foundation of the modern perception of corporeal imagery by art. More specifically, it explores how the human body is glorified and celebrated through the birth giving act, as far as the representation of the female body is concerned, and through the implications of sexual activity in the representation of both male and female bodies throughout the play. This analysis explores how Schechner transgresses the image of the human body as an object for sexual pleasure and how, inspired by the plot of Bacchae, he used corporeal imagery and a variety of rituals in order to address the issue of violence and sexual pleasure as inherent characteristics of the human nature.
Chapters Two and Three analyze the plays of David Rabe – The Orphan and Charles Mee - Agamemnon 2.0 respectively. Both Charles Mee and David Rabe rewrite Aeschylus’ Oresteia. Inspired by the movement against the Vietnam War, the play of David Rabe is a harsh criticism against violence and the cost of war, in general. Rabe creates strong, empowered characters and uses their political beliefs in order to make his own political statement against war. Written almost exactly two decades later, Agamemnon 2.0 by Charles Mee reflects the author’s strong antiwar beliefs and feelings against the Gulf War. Mee creates a poem in dramatic structure and reflects upon the importance of learning by past mistakes, such as previous wars. In order to meet his purpose, Mee gives voice to great “historians” of the past; Herodotus, Thucydides, Homer and Hesiod. The present thesis aims to identify the reasons for the authors’ approaches to violence as both plays depict the horror of war through a series of violent images and reflections of the human body. Using these images and inspired by ancient Greek tragedy, the authors question the values of their contemporary American society.

On the other hand, in the most recent play, Cherrie Moraga in her adaptation of Euripides’ Medea, The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea, depicts in detail the female body as an object of desire both for males and females. In addition, physicality in the play is enhanced by the perception of the female body as a consecrated object of admiration due to birth giving. Finally, the “enslaved” human body as presented by Moraga will be used as a stepping stone to explore the importance of corporeal references especially when it comes to actively requesting for minorities’ rights.
To sum up, the present thesis highlights the importance of the human body in some works of the contemporary American theater, which are inspired by the tragedies of Aeschylus and Euripides. This is accomplished by examining the representation of male and female body, the prose that describes it or the stage directions that refer to body posture in the aforementioned American adaptations of ancient Greek drama.
Main subject category:
English literature
the human body, American adaptations of the ancient Greek Drama, birth ritual, death ritual, the ecstasy dance, the human body naked on stage, the traumatized human body, infanticide, the female body, Medea, Dionysus, Agamemnon, Orestes, The Orphan
Number of index pages:
Contains images:
Number of references:
Number of pages:
Τhesis Porfyria Schortsaniti .pdf (787 KB) Open in new window