Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Alcmena (alk-MEE-nuh), the wife of Amphitryon, known for both her beauty and her fidelity. Although she is flattered by the fact that Jupiter wishes to mate with her, she is determined to remain faithful to her husband. She is not interested in adventure or passion, and she uses all of her wiles and wit to remain constant rather than to deceive her husband. When she begins to suspect that Jupiter already has come to her bed disguised as Amphitryon, she demands the truth but quickly accepts his false assurances rather than disrupt the peace of her life with her husband. In her verbal skirmishes with Jupiter, she is always victorious, refusing to allow him to reveal himself as a god who is only posing as her husband. Eventually, she forces him to choose her friendship rather than her love. She is adamant in her preference for the frailties of humanity over the powers and the abilities of the gods, refusing Jupiter’s offer of immortality or an opportunity to look into the future.


Jupiter, the supreme god in Roman mythology. His Greek counterpart is Zeus. He is lecherous, and when the mood seizes him, he seduces various mortal women who attract him. As chief god, he believes that this is his right. When he desires Alcmena, he uses his supreme power to create a war so that Amphitryon will be called away to battle. Jupiter then tricks Alcmena into taking him to her bed by disguising himself as her husband. Once in human form, he is amazed at how much more masterful he feels than when he was a god. Jupiter, hoping to return to Alcmena for a second night, has heavenly voices announce that he is going to become Alcmena’s lover in the night to come, but she eventually convinces him to...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Lemaître, Georges. Jean Giraudoux: The Writer and His Work. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1971. Usefully incisive analysis of many of the plays; particularly sound on Amphitryon 38.

LeSage, Laurent. Jean Giraudoux: His Life and Works. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1959. Another of the basic studies. Good on the relationship of technique and style to content.

Raymond, Agnes. Jean Giraudoux: The Theatre of Victory and Defeat. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1966. Political analysis of the plays, including their relationship to war.

Reilly, John H. Jean Giraudoux. Boston: Twayne, 1978. One of the better studies in the Twayne series, this book examines each work, whether dramatic or literary, in chronological order, and offers an engaging discussion of the role that predestination plays in Amphitryon 38, and also of the harmful effects of the ideal upon humans, and the possibly beneficent effects of deceit. Notes the influence of the German playwright Heinrich von Kleist’s play, Amphitryon (1807), in turn based on Molière’s Amphitryon (1668).