37. The Women of Trachis, by Sophocles (430 BC)

Plot : Deianeira, long-suffering wife of Heracles, has her prayers answered as news reaches her that he is finally freed of his labours and returning home. But upon receiving a group of women slaves brought to her house as part of Heracles’ spoils in battle, she discovers he has fallen in love with one of them, the princess Iole. Deianeira then sets in motion a plan to regain Heracles’ love, and falls into the trap of a dead enemy.

My copy is the Penguin edition covering Sophocles’ plays Ajax, Electra, Women of Trachis and Philoctetes, translated by E. F. Watling (ISBN 0140440283)

My thoughts :
A few disjointed thoughts
• At least one very long speech was written for each of the characters. Not sure that the actors would have loved Sophocles for that.
• Deianeira’s opening line recalls Croesus’ words to Cyrus in Herodotus’ Histories : “call no man (or in this case, woman) happy until he has reached the end of his days”
• The foretelling of the fate of Heracles ; doomed to die or live peacefully in retirement sounds like the clichéd “cop about to retire” story. Next time I see that storyline, I will imagine the police officer in a lion skin and carrying a club
• Finally, why did Sophocles name this play after the chorus (Women of Trachis) rather than the tragic Deianeira, or even Heracles?

Favourite lines/passages :
Leaving aside the agonies of Deianeira and Heracles, I preferred some of the lesser characters’ outbursts.

“O master of my soul,
I float on air, the sweet
Music of flutes would win me now,
And twining ivy-tendrils whirl me round
In Bacchanalian dance”
Chorus, p. 126

“Tomorrow – what is tomorrow?
‘Tis nothing, until today is safely past”
Nurse, p. 150

Personal rating : 5
Next : Staying with the family : Euripides’ Heracleidae (Children of Heracles). This  will be title number 38.

If you have just started following, you may be wondering what happened to number 36?

Title 36 (Prometheus Bound) was blogged out of order, before 34 (Euripides’ Medea) and 35 (Thucydides’ History of …)

Today’s entry 37 gets me back on track.

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