"women have burnt like beacons in all the works of all the poets from the beginning of time - Clytemnestra, Antigone, Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Phèdre, Cressida, Rosalind, Desdemona, the Duchess of Malfi"
'Clytemnestra after the murder' by John Maler Collier (1882)
Public Domain'Clytemnestra after the murder' (1882) - Credit: John Maler Collier (1850-1934)

CLYTEMNESTRA is a figure in Greek mythology, and one of the main characters in Aeschylus' Oresteia, a drama in three parts. In the first part she murders her husband, Agamemnon, and in the second, she herself is murdered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bust of the Greek playwright, Sophocles
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBust of the Greek playwright, Sophocles - Credit: user:shakko, Wikimedia Commons

ANTIGONE is the name given to two figures in Greek mythology: the daughter of Oedipus, and the daughter of Eurytion.

Antigone is also the title of a play by Sophocles written before or during 442 BC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Phèdre' (Phaedra) by Cabanel (1880)
Public Domain'Phèdre' (Phaedra) by Cabanel (1880) - Credit: Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889)

PHAEDRA (PHÈDRE) was the wife of Theseus. She fell in love with his son by a previous marriage and then falsely accused him of rape, leading to his death. 

She was the subject of works by the Greek playwright Euripedes, the Roman playwright Seneca, and the French playwright Jean Racine (1639-1699).

 

 

 

CRESSIDA is the lover of Troilus in one of Shakespeare's tragedies, Troilus and Cressida, which is set during the period of the Trojan War. It has been described by Joyce Carol Oates as one the most 'vexing and ambiguous of Shakespeare's plays'.

Geoffrey Chaucer also wrote a poem entitled Troilus and Criseyde which was partly the source for Shakespeare's play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Othello and Desdemona' by Alexandre-Marie Colin (1829)
Public Domain'Othello and Desdemona' by Alexandre-Marie Colin (1829) - Credit: Alexandre-Marie Colin (1798-1875)

DESDEMONA is Othello's wife in Shakespeare's tragedy Othello. She is murdered by her husband after he is misled by his malicious servant, Iago, into thinking that she has been unfaithful to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title page of 'The Duchess of Malfi' (1612-13)
Public DomainTitle page of 'The Duchess of Malfi' (1612-13) - Credit: John Webster

THE DUCHESS OF MALFI is the main character in a tragedy by the English playwright John Webster (1580-1634). It is based partly on true events recorded in William Painter's The Palace of Pleasure (1567.

The Duchess of Malfi