20 May 2020
Mueller, Melissa. “Electra’s Urns: Receptacles and Tragic Reception.” Objects as Actors: Props and the Poetics of Performance in Greek Tragedy, 111–33. University of Chicago Press, 2016.
This book chapter discusses the use of urns as a stage props in antique productions of classical plays, particularly Sophocles’ Electra. It focuses on references to urns within the texts of the plays themselves, supported by dramaturgical and historical insight from other writers and critics. One main idea is that Electra’s urn is not only a funerary ash container within the naturalistic world of the characters, but also a meta-theatrical device that challenges theatrical space and time. Importantly, the article heavily stresses the idea that the stage prop-urn is an inter-theatrical and cultural referent, linking the play and performances to other works of art with similar themes. There is a short discussion of the famous “Hedda Gabler gun” within the chapter. The actual look and fabrication of antique funerary urns, libation vessels and/or stage props is not a part of this article. Rather, its interest is in their symbolic and performative significance.
How does this relate to scenography?
While this article would not teach a budding stage designer how to fabricate a prop for the stage, it highlights the larger importance of stage objects within theatrical narratives and theater itself. Also, it introduces the idea of theatrical properties as an art form with intellectual value and resonance.