Daianeira (day-an-EH-rah), also known as The Day’s Air or Daysair, the daughter of Oineus and wife of the great hero Herakles. Powerfully alluring and aware of her beauty (“looks are my trouble”), she is unhappy as the action begins because her husband has been away from his family for some time. She admires him and finds him very attractive, but her love is tested when she learns that Herakles has sent a young female captive to their home. In an attempt to remove any possibility of competition, she sends Herakles a love charm given to her by a centaur. When the potion turns out to be a deadly poison, she is driven mad with grief, and when her son criticizes her, she feels completely deserted and decides to destroy herself.
Herakles (HEHR-uh-kleez), the son of Zeus, one of the greatest of the Greek heroes, who has been condemned by the gods to carry out a series of labors that keep him away from his wife and son. Headstrong, impulsive, and very passionate, he is unbeatable by any man in combat but is susceptible to the lures of Eros. When the potion his wife sends him turns out to be a lethal mixture, he is driven mad with pain and anger. He appears for the first time late in the play, dressed in a “mask of divine agony,” seeking a dignified death but too furious to be able to control himself. Ultimately, he is able to regain his...
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