Women and Violence

  • E. P. Benedek
  • G. A. Farley
Part of the Women in Context: Development and Stresses book series (WICO)


The long involvement of women in crime, and particularly in crimes of violence, has fascinated dramatists and other observers of the human condition. In the explorations of the particular tragedy that is seen when a woman becomes involved in violence, playwrights have built on recurring themes that are also reflected in modern theoretical notions about the etiology of female criminality. Aeschylus lays bare, in the play Agamemnon, the character of Clytemnestra and the events that bring her to a murder. She is described by the author as a woman of character, “a woman with a man’s will.” Over the 10 years of her husband’s absence, the queen has nurtured an evergrowing hatred of him, springing from his slaying of their daughter because an oracle told him to. Her murderous need for revenge is further exacerbated when her husband returns home from Troy, bringing with him his mistress. The dramatist describes the cunning and care with which Clytemnestra, in the grip of hatred, plans and carries out the murder of her husband while he is helpless in the bath. Much of the power of the play comes from the description of the queen’s careful planning of this murder, masked by her deceitful facade as a loving wife rejoicing at her husband’s return. Thus, the murder is explained by the author as the result of hatred, lust for power, and deceitfulness.


Mental Illness Violent Crime Violent Behavior Arrest Rate Uniform Crime Report 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. P. Benedek
    • 1
    • 2
  • G. A. Farley
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Michigan Medical CenterAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Center for Forensic PsychiatryAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Private practiceAnn ArborUSA

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