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This content is taken from the Lancaster University's online course, Penshurst Place and the Sidney Family of Writers. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsThe origins of an alternative tradition of female play writing, long before Aphra Behn and the Restoration Theatre, are also part of the extended Sidney family story. Since the very first extant script by a British woman was Iphigenia at Aulis, the first English translation of Euripides tragedy, which was translated by Lady Jane Lumley in 1557. Jane Lumley was related to Mary Dudley Sidney, the countess of Pembroke's mother and Lady Mary Wroth's grandmother. And although it is extremely unlikely that they read Lumley's translation of Euripides play, the story of female self-sacrifice, which had been embodied by Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen, may have influenced their own dramas.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 secondsJane Lumley's translation sets an agenda of female outspokenness, which the countess of Pembroke and Lady Mary Wroth certainly followed. In this extract, Queen Clytemnestra, who's just discovered that her husband, Agamemnon, has brought his daughter Iphigenia to Aulis to sacrifice her to the Goddess Diana so that the becalmed Greek army can sail to Troy to recover Helen, the abducted wife of Agamemnon's brother, Menelaus, In Lumley's version of this tragic prelude to the Trojan War, women's voices, including a chorus of women, speak out powerfully about the costs of war.

Discover Lady Jane Lumley's play "Iphigenia At Aulis"

Lady Jane Lumley was the first person to make an English translation of Euripides’ classical tragedy “Iphigenia at Aulis”.

It is remarkable that a woman, rather than a man who attended grammar school or university, can claim this pioneering achievement.

Watch this short video in which Alison Findlay introduces Lady Jane Lumley, and consult the downloadable family tree of Sidney drama to see how she is related to:

  • Lady Jane Grey, the ‘Nine Days’ Queen’
  • Lady Mary Dudley and her daughter Mary, Countess of Pembroke and granddaughter, Lady Mary Wroth.

Then get a taste of the outspoken women in Lumley’s text by watching an extract from Rose Company Theatre’s all female production.

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This video is from the free online course:

Penshurst Place and the Sidney Family of Writers

Lancaster University