Greek Mythology Uncovers Significance of Burial

Set Design

This article, written by Daniel Mendelson for The New Yorker, explores the magnitude of burial across cultures, by examining the controversy surrounding the burial of Boston Bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and its relation to Greek tragedy. The Trojan Women is a play that deals with the raw emotions surrounding death and loss, and the hardships that come with being survivors of war. The entire set design for the JMU production of The Trojan Women is based on the imagery of burial and death. The piles of gravestone represent the deceased husbands of the 16 women we follow throughout the production. Similar to many other famous Greek tragedies, the Trojan Women highlights the fears and sorrow that come with saying good-bye to those we’ve lost in war.

But what happens when we are forced to say good-bye to someone most people view as a monster? In the midst of the heated debate surrounding the burial of Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Daniel Mendelson argues that the Greeks can teach us a lesson about humanity, and the importance of a proper burial, even for the most unforgiveable people. After the death of Tamerlan, the public was outraged by the possibility of him being buried in Boston after committing such a horrific tragedy on the city. Some people even argued Tamerlan should not have a burial at all, despite his religion, which values burial as an essential part of access to the after-life. Mendelson points out that in Greek mythology there is a tremendous amount of anxiety surrounding what to do with the dead, and especially what will happen to the deceased if they are not buried properly. According to Greek literature, if the souls were not buried properly they would be stranded, unable to reach the afterworld. His point being that many cultures view death and burial as an important part of after-life, and to ignore this right of passage into the underworld only makes us less of a human ourselves. He believes if we had denied Tamerlan a proper burial we would have forbid someone from a right every human (or Greek character) is entitled to. When you attend the JMU production of the Trojan Women, it is important to keep in mind the deep significance burial has on these 16 women, and the men they have lost in war. For many, a proper burial is just as important as life itself.

-By, Lindsay Roussin & Hannah Spurrier