Sacrifice/Martyrdom in Lady Lumley’s Iphigenia and Contemporary Palestine

in Critical Survey
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Lady Lumley’s Iphigenia, a dramatization of sacrifice for a political cause, echoes the Lumley family’s participation in the politics of the 1550s. The role of Lady Lumley’s father in the events surrounding Lady Jane Grey’s death illuminates his daughter’s translation of Euripides, revealing affinities with Palestinian constructions of gender and female ‘martyrdom’ whereby women transcend convention while self-silencing their voices of protest. In both the fictional world of Lumley’s Iphigenia and contemporary Palestine, marriage and sacrifice are metaphorically associated. Clytemnestra’s opposition to Agamemnon’s plan to sacrifice Iphigenia and the Chorus’s complicity with the former enacts a presentist dialogue with contemporary Palestinian mothers divided in their support of or opposition to their daughters’ participation in armed resistance. Controversially, in common Palestinian parlance those dying defending the Palestinian cause (including, even more controversially, suicide bombers) are termed ‘martyrs’ for a just cause. Iphigenia’s heroism and Agamemnon’s indecisions therefore bear contemporary resonances.