The Rose Company – Lady Jane Lumley’s ‘Iphigenia’
The Tragedie of Euripedes called Iphigeneia dramatizes how Iphigenia is brought to Aulis to be sacrificed so that the Greek ships can sail to Troy. Itwas first ‘translated out of Greake into Englisshe’ c.1555 by Lady Jane Lumley, and has only been performed twice in modern times. It is the first known dramatic text by a woman in English. Lumley’s script shows how Iphigenia is physically, politically and emotionally imprisoned: caught between the demands of her father Agamemnon (the Greek commander) and her mother Clytemnestra who strives to save her daughter’s life through marriage to the hero Achilles. This production will emphasize the limits of female agency and the possibilities to transcend them offered by Lumley’s script, and by all-female productions.
Lady Jane Lumley’s sixteenth-century translation of Euripedes’ tragedy, the first to appear in English, engages directly with issues of imprisonment, freedom of choice and gendered identity.
Iphigenia’s courage and resolution contrasts with Agamemnon’s cowardice, indecision and deceit. Fearing the Greek army (the ‘host’), his wife’s reaction, and his own inability to carry out the sacrifice of his daughter, Agamemnon pretends that he has summoned Iphigenia to be married to Achilles. Lumley suggests that in both cases, the reduction of a woman to a ‘commoditie’ to be trafficked between men is wrong.
Iphigenia’s story had immediate relevance for the translator, Lady Jane Lumley, since her father, Lord Arundel, had sacrificed her cousin, Lady Jane Grey to be executed at the hands of Catholic Mary Tudor. Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England on 9thOctober 1553 but ruled for only nine days before she was imprisoned in the Tower of London and executed on 12 February 1554. Euripedes’ tragedy is an ideal vehicle to express the sense of guilt, loss, blame and anger which must have hung over the Lumley household.
Lumley’s translation is daring in finding moments of dark comedy in the ludicrous situations faced by the protagonists. It also speaks out against a tradition of male, military valour, since Lumley’s Greek hero is Iphigenia.
The rose Company is an all-female classical theatre company based in Lancaster, performing neglected gems by women writers as well as plays by Shakespeare and other canonical texts.
We are now developing our production of Jane Lumley’s Iphigenia for performance in Lancaster and on tour in November 2013 and we are looking for women actors to take part.
If you are interested in this or future projects do come along and/or get in touch. You will find us on Facebook, Twitter (@TheRoseCompany), and firstname.lastname@example.org