Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Fifteen long months pass since Deianira has received word from Herakles, her husband, who, when he left on his last journey, gave her a tablet setting forth the disposition of his estate and stating that it was decreed that after a year and three moons pass he will either die or live happily thereafter in untroubled peace. The fated day arrives, and Deianira is filled with foreboding.
Before she can send her son Hyllus to get accurate news of her husband, a messenger, outstripping the herald Lichas, arrives to announce that Herakles is living and will soon appear. Lichas himself follows shortly with a group of captive maidens and, answering Deianira’s question, assures her that her husband, alive and sound of limb, is at that time sacrificing the fruits of his victories to great Zeus in fulfillment of a vow made when he took from towered Oechalia the captive women. Deianira is touched by the plight of the captives. Lichas tells her they are from the city ruled by Eurytus, selected by Herakles as chosen possessions for himself and for the gods. He adds, however, that it is not the taking of the city that delays the hero this long time. He is detained in Lydia. Sold into bondage, he passed a year as servant to Omphale, the barbaric queen. Before this bondage, Eurytus, an old friend, so taunted and incensed him that Herakles, encountering Iphitus, one of Eurytus’s four sons, without warning hurled him from a cliff. This act roused the ire of Olympian...
(The entire section is 1253 words.)
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Women of Trachis begins with Deianira’s lament about her difficult life. She tells of Heracles rescuing her from the river god Achelous and marrying her, only to subject her to further suffering because Heracles is frequently away from home. Deianira’s nurse advises her to send her son Hyllus to look for Heracles, and Hyllus tells her that he has heard that his father is at war with the city of Oechalia, which is on the island of Euboea. Deianira tells her son of a prophecy proclaiming that Heracles would either die on the island of Euboea or enjoy happiness for the rest of his days, and Hyllus vows to find his father.
The Chorus intercedes to lament that Heracles is gone and advice Deianira to have hope for the future. Deianira tells the Chorus that Heracles left her a will, as though he had foreseen his death, and that this has left her deeply fearful. Immediately afterwards, the messenger arrives bringing word that Heracles is in fact alive and on his way home. Deianira disbelieves him at first, then she and the Chorus express their joy, and Lichas arrives to confirm the news. Lichas proclaims that Heracles is making sacrifices to Zeus as he vowed he would while conquering Oechalia. He says that Eurytus made Heracles angry, so Heracles killed Eurytus’s son, and then in retribution, Heracles was caught and sold as a slave to Omphale. This made Heracles angry with Eurytus’s city of Oechalia, so Heracles formed an army to destroy it and...
(The entire section is 922 words.)