Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer and Euripides' Bacchae

April 2005
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Spring2005, Vol. 11 Issue 4, p538
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
Tennessee Williams' 1958 play (and subsequent film) Suddenly Last Summer resonates strongly with many of the themes and plot details of Euripides' Bacchae. Much of the action in both plays turns on the consequences of a perverse sexuality born of repression (manifested among other ways as a disturbing sexual connection between mother and son). Other shared themes include the son's search for a god he sees as a Destroyer, the irresistible pull of eros, the consequences of the psychological fragmentation of an individual, the struggle between those who seek to reveal truth and those who are determined to conceal it, and the participation of a mother in the destruction of her own child. Each male protagonist is pursued, ripped apart, and consumed by the members of a community he sexually infiltrated. The truth about each sparagmos (rending) and omophagia (raw-eating) is uncovered in similar scenes between "psychotherapist" and amnesia victim. But while the truth brings destruction to each murdered man's mother, only in Suddenly Last Summer is anyone saved by the awful revelation.


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