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Julian Meynell's Books

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Sophocles' Women of Trachis

The Trachinian Tragedy: Women of Trachis - Sophocles, F L Light

This is probably considered the worst play be Sophocles to come down to us and while I have still one more play to read by Sophocles this is my favorite so far. It is structured in a bizarre way revolving around Deianeira for the first three-quarters of the play and then around her husband Hercules for the last part. Deianeira is waiting for her husband to return home with an increasing mix of hope and dread foreboding. She becomes more and more concerned. Then she learns that a new beautiful slave is a concubine that Hercules went to war for. Concerned to make him love her she casts a love spell, based on the advice of a dead centaur but it is literally a powerful curse. Deianeira then kills herself, Hercules then finally shows up dying in agony and in a rage and orders his son to burn him alive in a funeral pyre and forces his son to agree to marry the concubine to his sons horror.

It is basically two tragedies rolled together into one. It is also has a feeling of rising dread and horror that is rarely found in theatre. It has a sense of being sucked down into a whirlpool that leads to hell, which is inferior only to King Lear. Both Deianeira and Hercules are completely controlled by their passions and the world seems irrational and cruel. It lives up to the stereotype of Greek drama in its entirety.

Its a great play and of Greek theatre I only prefer the Bacchae and Lysistrata.