Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama)
The Women of Trachis is, like the Book of Job in the Bible, a drama about the odicy, or the mystery of divine justice: How can there be evil or terror or horror in a world under divine direction if the gods are sources of justice and the good? Yet, undeniably, there are such evils in the human experience of this world. Herakles is the greatest human hero of Greek mythology, a man born of a human mother, Alcmene, and of a divine father, Zeus, the most powerful of the Olympian gods. Herakles is a physical giant, shrewd, powerful, and endowed with an enormous appetite for life. His labors and exploits have been not merely for self-aggrandizement but for taming the world of beasts (for example, his trials with the Nemean Lion, the Lernean Hydra, and even the three-headed dog guarding the Underworld, Cerberus), so making the world safe for civilized human life. Yet this latest sack of Eurytus’ kingdom is clearly on his own account, springing from his lust for the young princess Iole. Thus, he is both hero and subject to all-too-human hubris. Though Sophocles’ answer to the question “Why do the innocent suffer?” is the same as the Bible’s account of Job—divine ways are mysterious and beyond human understanding—a significant difference is that Job’s innocence is clear, making his faith in divine providence spectacular. Both Daianeira and Herakles have clear flaws of irrational desire, and neither is redeemed from the consequences of these desires....
(The entire section is 518 words.)
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