Posted on September 18, 2013 by Haymaker


In our adaptation, Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon with an axe. Actually, it’s a maul.

Imagine that act. Go ahead. Close your eyes and visualize it.

Now tell me what it looks like when she actually splits his head or plunges the axe in his chest. What is the sound? Where are her hands? How would she technically accomplish this? How does it feel for her to sink the head of the axe into his chest? Or his shoulder? Or neck? Is it one swing? Does she have to push down on the end of the handle to get the axe head out of his chest to swing again?

I moved to Idaho when I was 11 years old. My family stayed long enough for me to graduate from Rigby High School and then come back for holiday breaks during college. Idaho has grueling winters. Our first Christmas, it was -15 F without the wind chill. Wood stoves and firewood are an absolute necessity. All this is to say, in my life I’ve split close to 20 cords of firewood.

Have you ever split firewood? It’s surprisingly technical. To get the most effective swing, your hands and feet need to be placed correctly. You need to know where to release your dominant hand to slide down the handle so the maul does the work. You should also know that when you split a log, it’s a wonderfully carnal feeling. There’s a visceral pleasure to exerting your will over something, to splitting that piece of wood. It’s an application of violence that gives you a reward. If you win, you’ll stay warm.

Because I’ve split so much wood, it’s easy for me to imagine aspects of Clytemnestra’s murder of Agamemnon. I can recall with relative ease what the weight of the maul feels like in my hands, the crack of the log dividing into two, and the magic of the maul head sinking through what moments before was solid. This imagining is a matter of transposing my experience to hers. Her act becomes a kind of realist fiction for me.

Our goal with your experience of Elektra is similar: to make myth reality; to make tools weapons; to make the unfamiliar personal.