The Myth of Helen of Troy: Reinterpreting the Archetypes of the Myth in Solo and Collaborative Forms of Playwriting
Date: 11 November 2011
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Performance Practice, Drama
In this practice-based thesis I examine how I interpreted the myth of Helen of Troy in solo and collaborative forms of playwriting. For the interpretation of Helen’s myth in solo playwriting, I wrote a script that contextualised in a contemporary world the most significant characters of Helen’s myth which are: Helen, Menelaus, Hermione, ...
In this practice-based thesis I examine how I interpreted the myth of Helen of Troy in solo and collaborative forms of playwriting. For the interpretation of Helen’s myth in solo playwriting, I wrote a script that contextualised in a contemporary world the most significant characters of Helen’s myth which are: Helen, Menelaus, Hermione, Paris, Hecuba, Priam. This first practical research project investigated how characters that were contemporary reconstructions of Menelaus, Hermione, Paris , Hecuba, Priam, Telemachus were affected by Helen as an absent figure, a figure that was not present on stage but was remembered and discussed by characters. For the interpretation of Helen’s myth in collaborative playwriting, I asked three female performers to analyse the character of Helen and then conceptualise and write their own Helen character. The performers’ analyses and rewritings of Helen inspired me to write a script whose story evolved around three Helen characters that were dead and interacted with one another in a space of death. This script formed part of my second practical research project that explored the ways of making Helen’s character present (both scripts that culminated out of my two practical research projects are included in the section of the Accompanying Material). I analyse the process of writing the scripts of the first and second practical research project through the use of Jungian archetype theory. In the first chapter of the thesis, I explore what an archetype is according to Jungian theory and then explain how this theory enables me to comment on the process of reinterpreting the myth of Helen of Troy through the writing of the two scripts. In the second chapter, which is the commentary on the first practical research project, I show how archetype theory provides a theoretical tool with which I can clarify and analyse how I reinterpreted and/or reworked the archetypal emotional energies of Menelaus, Hermione, Hecuba, Priam, Paris, Telemachus in the writing of new characters. In the third chapter, which is the commentary on the second practical research project, I investigate how the archetype theory helped me identify the key emotional experiences of the performers’ Helen characters, experiences which I organised and developed further in the writing of my own Helen characters. I conclude my thesis by arguing that my scripts cannot provide a final interpretation of Helen’s myth because they still lack a certain overarching theme or concept.
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