Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Mourning Becomes Electra

Go To

Mourning Becomes Electra is a play written by Eugene O'Neill.

The story is a retelling of The Oresteia by Aeschylus, consisting of three parts called "Homecoming," "The Hunted" and "The Haunted." Set in 1865 New England following The American Civil War, it centers around the Mannon family, who have to face their turbulent destiny in middle of a puritan society. The story narrates the return from the war of the patriarch, Ezra, to the family's enormous mansion, only to find a totally different world from the one he left behind marching into the conflict. The other members of the household are Ezra's wife, Christine, and their children— their daughter, Lavinia, and their son, First Lieutenant of Infantry Orin.

The play premiered on Broadway at the Guild Theatre, where it ran for 150 performances from October 1931 to March 1932. Lee Baker starred as Ezra, with Alla Nazimova as Christine, Earle Larimore as Orin, and Alice Brady as Lavinia. In 1947, Dudley Nichols wrote and directed a film adaptation, featuring Rosalind Russell as Christine, Raymond Massey as Ezra, Michael Redgrave as Orin, Katina Paxinou as Lavinia, and Kirk Douglas in an early role as Lavinia's suitor Peter Niles. For their performances in the film, Redgrave and Russell earned Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively.


This play and its adaptations feature examples of:

  • All Psychology Is Freudian: The play itself being a modernized (circa The American Civil War) adaptation of Aeschylus's The Oresteia, it is swarming with Freudianism. Just for starters, Lavinia (the modern equivalent of Electra) won't shut up about how much she loves her father, and won't hear anything against him.
  • Greek Chorus: Being an adaptation of an actual Ancient Greek play, the various townsfolk fill the role of a Greek chorus, commenting on the events of the play and the main characters' behavior.
  • Parental Incest: There are no actual cases on incest in Mourning Becomes Electra (note the name) but the female lead character and the male (who are siblings) have serious cases of Elektra and Oedipus complexes, respectively, leading to the murders of both of their parents.
  • Advertisement:
  • Setting Update: Went from Ancient Greece in The Oresteia to 1860s New England (specifically 1865, immediately post-Civil War) in the play.