Female Bonding with Marriage in Greek Tragedy

4 April 2015
This paper takes a look at female-female bonds in the Greek tragedy and how those bonds contribute to the demise of marriage.

This paper examines wives’ relationships with other women, be they mothers, daughters, or confidantes, as a destructive force in the minds of ancient Greek men.
There are two main types of women that can change the course of an ancient Greek play by their effects on the tragic heroine: mother and confidante. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, we see the first of these types. Demeter, a mother distraught over her daughter’s abduction and rape, is only pacified by the breakup of Persephone’s marriage for four months out of the year. In this case, the cost of preserving the mother-daughter bond is the sacrifice of the daughter’s marriage for a third of every year. The maternal bond and the marriage bond seem to be incompatible; here, the two are unable to coexist spatially or temporally. It is Demeter who, by her passive-aggressive registration of disapproval, manages to become every son-in-law’s nightmare by turning his newlywed wife against him.
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