(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

HERAKLES MAD, one of the most puzzling of Euripides’ plays, begins with a stereotyped situation and weak characters, builds to a powerful climax in the mad scene of Herakles, and is followed by one of the most moving tragic reconciliations in all drama. Some critics see in Euripides’ treatment of Herakles the suggestion that he has been deluded all his life and has never really performed his twelve great labors; others have suggested that the madness comes not from Hera, but from Fate. In either case he reaches heroic and tragic stature when, after murdering his wife and children in a fit of madness, he refuses to commit suicide and decides to face whatever life has in store for him.