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Greek Mythology, a Projection in Desire Under the Elms Essay

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In his play, Desire Under the Elms, Eugene O’ Neill twists so many elements and archetypes together that for many generations, people have different understandings of this masterpiece. Some people feel that the play fills with the conflict between love and hate. Some critics claim that the play conceals the theory of the psychologist, Sigmund Freud, for example, the psychological structures: id, ego and superego; the Oedipus complex, the influence of the subconscious and so on. As O’ Neill said that Greek drama has given most influence on his plays, I think there are some prototypes of Greek myths in Desire Under the Elms, that is, Medea, Hippolytus and Phaedra
      In Euripides’ Greek tragedy: Medea, Medea confronts the fact that her husband, Jason, wants to marry the princess of Corinth, Glauce for fulfilling his ambitions for power and she is forced to leave the country. Medea decides to avenge. She kills Glauce for the extreme love of Jason. And as a consequence of extreme hatred to Jason, Medea kills her two sons for revenge. It is easy to identify Medea with Abbie in Desire Under the Elms. Because of the ridiculous misunderstanding, Eben, lost in great anger and confusion, shouts: “I wish he never was born! I wish he’d die this minit1 I wish I’d never sot eyes on him! It’s him-yew havin’ him-a purpose t’ steal-That’s changed everythin’!”(367). Therefore, like Medea, Abbie also strangles her own son for proving her true love for Eben. And this ending makes her a really tragic heroine.                
      In Greek mythology, a tragic family is portrayed to show the relationship between stepson and stepmother. Hippolytus is a son of Theseus and Hippolyta. And his stepmother, Phaedra falls in love with him, and tries to seduce him. After Hippolytus refuses her advances, Phaedra accuse him of having attempted to rape her to Theseus. Theseus readily believes Phaedra’s accusation and curses his son. Hippolytus is finally killed when he flees from his father....

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