The name “Hercules” means “Glory to the goddess Hera”. This name sounded ironic. The goddess Hera was the heavenly queen, the wife of the supreme Zeus the Thunderer. And Hercules was the last of the earthly sons of Zeus: Zeus descended to many mortal women, but after Alkmena, mother of Hercules, – already to no one. Hercules had to save the gods of the Olympians in the war for power over the world against the rebellious Giants on them: there was a prophecy that the gods would defeat the Giants only if at least one mortal man came to their aid. Such a person became Hercules. Hera would, like all the gods, should be grateful to him. But she was the legitimate wife of Zeus, the patroness of all legal marriages, and her husband’s illegitimate son, and even the most beloved, was hated by her. Therefore, all the legends about the earthly life of Hercules are legends about how,
There were three main stories of this kind. First, about the twelve exploits of Hercules: Hera arranged so that the mighty Hercules had to serve twelve servitude to the miserable Tsar Evrisfey. Secondly, about the madness of Hercules: Hera sent a frenzy on him, and he interrupted his children from the bow, taking them for enemies. Thirdly, about the martyr’s death of Hercules: Hera did so that Hercules’s wife, without knowing it herself, gave him a cloak soaked in poison, which so tormented the hero that he himself burned
In different parts of Greece, as always, these myths were told differently. In Middle Greece, in Thebes, where Hercules was supposedly born, the story of madness was best remembered. In the south, in Argos, where Hercules served King Euryspheus, the story of the twelve feats was best remembered. In the north, near Mount Etas, where Hercules was a funeral pyre, they told of his self-immolation. And in Athens they said otherwise: if Hercules did not burn himself, but found the last refuge from Hera’s wrath here, in Athens, with his young friend, the Athenian hero Theseus. This little-spread myth and took Euripides for the denouement of his tragedy. And his wife Hercules is not called Dejanira (as in Sophocles), but Megara (as they called her in Thebes).
Heavenly father of Hercules was Zeus, and the terrestrial father of Hercules was the hero Amphitryon, the husband of his mother Alcmene. (Amphitryon, Alcmene, and Zeus will later be written by the comedian Roman Plautus.) Amphitryon lived in Thebes; there was born and Hercules, where he married the Theban princess Megara, from there he went to Argos to serve King Eurysphere. Twelve years – twelve services in a foreign land; the latter is the most terrible: Hercules was to descend and bring out a monstrous three-headed dog guarding the realm of the dead. And from the realm of the dead – people knew – never and no one returned. And Hercules was deemed dead. This took advantage of the neighboring evil king Lick (whose name means “wolf”). He captured Thebes, killed the Theban king, Megara’s father, and Megara, and her children, and the old Amphitryon sentenced to death.
Here the tragedy of Euripides begins. On the stage – Amphitryon, Megara and three small silent sons of her and Hercules. They are sitting in front of the palace at the altar of the gods – while they hold on to it, they are not touched, but their strength is already over, and there is nowhere to wait for help. To them come, relying on the staffs, the Theban old men, forming a choir – but is this help? Amphitrion in a long monologue tells the audience what happened here, and ends with the words: “Only in trouble do we know who the friend is and who is not.” Megara is in despair, and yet Amphitrion encourages her: “Happiness and misfortune are replaced by a succession: what if Hercules takes and returns?” But this can not be trusted.
Appears an evil Face. “Hercules will not return from this world.” Hercules is not a hero at all, but a coward, he always fought not face-to-face, with a sword and a spear, and from afar with arrows from a bow. And who would believe that he is the son of Zeus, and not yours, old man! My top is now, and you – death. ” Amphitryon accepts the challenge: “Zeus son is he-ask the fallen Giants!” The archer in battle is more dangerous than the patron. Thebes forgot how much they owe to Hercules – the worse for them! “And the rapist for violence will pay.” And then Megara stands up. “Enough: death is terrible, but you will not go against fate, Hercules do not come to life, but do not reason with the villain.” Let me put my sons in a funeral outfit-and lead us to execution! “
The choir sings a song for the glory of Hercules’s exploits: how he beat the stone lion and wild centaurs, the multi-headed Hydra and the three-footed giant, caught the sacred doe and tamed the predatory horses, defeated the Amazons and the sea king, raised the heaven on his shoulders and brought the golden paradise apples to the ground, in the land of the dead, and from there there is no way out… Megara and Amphitrion lead the Hercules sons: “Here they are, he alone bequeathed Thebes, another Argos, the third Ehaliy, one lion’s skin, another club, third bow and arrows, and now it’s over. Zeus, if you want to save them – saved! Hercules, if you can stand to us, – Show yourself! “
And Hercules is. He has just come out of the realm of the dead, his eyes are not accustomed to the sun, he sees children, his wife, his father in funeral robes and does not believe himself: what’s the matter? Megara and Amfitrion, agitated, hastily explain to him: now Lick will come to lead them to execution. “Then everything will be in the palace, and when he enters, he will deal with me.” I was not afraid of the hellhound dog-would I be afraid of the pitiful Face? ” The choir praises the young strength of Hercules. Lik enters, walks into the palace, the choir freezes; from behind the scene the groan of the perishing Face sounds, and the choir sings a triumphant, solemn song. He does not know that the worst is ahead.
Two goddesses appear on the stage. This is Iris, the messenger of Hera, and Lissa, the daughter of Night, the deity of insanity. While Hercules performed twelve feats, he was under the protection of Zeus, but the exploits are over, and now Hera will take her. Madness will attack Hercules, like a prey hunter, like a rider on a horse, like drunken hops. The goddesses disappear, only the choir is on stage, he is terrified, because of the scene – screams, music rattles, earth trembles, a frightened messenger runs out. He says: after striking Lika, Hercules started to offer a cleansing sacrifice, but suddenly he froze, his eyes filled with blood, foam came out on his lips: “This is not him, not Euryspee, but I need Eurisfei, my tormentor! Here are his children!” And he rushes to his own sons. One hides behind the column – Hercules hits him with an arrow. Another rushes to his chest – Hercules crushes his club. With the third, Megara escapes to a distant rest – Hercules breaks the wall and smashes both. He turns to Amphitryon and is ready to kill his father – but then the mighty goddess Athena, the patroness of Hercules, strikes him with a huge stone, he falls and plunges into a dream, and then only the households tie him up and fasten him to the wreck of the column.
The inner chambers of the palace: Hercules sleeps at the column, above him – the unhappy Amphitryon, around – the bodies of Megara and children. The amphitryon and the choir mourn for him as dead. Hercules slowly awakens, he does not remember anything and does not understand – maybe he’s in hell again? But now he recognizes his father, he hears about what happened, he is untied, he sees his crime, understands his guilt and is ready to execute himself, throwing himself at the sword. Thesey appears Theseus.
Theseus is young, but already glorious: he freed the whole region from the bandits, he killed a Minotaurian bull in Crete and saved his Athens from the tribute to this monster, he descended into the realm of the dead, to get for the friend the underground mistress Persephone, and only Hercules rescued him from there and brought to the white light. He heard that the evil Face is rampant in Thebes, and hurried to the rescue, but appeared too late. “I must die,” Hercules tells him, “I brought the wrath of Hera to Thebes, and I eclipsed all the glory of my exploits with the horror of this crime: death is better than life under the curse, let Hera rejoice!” No one is sinless: even the Olympians in the sky are sinners against their father Titan, All are subject to evil fate, but not everyone can resist it, will you falter? Leave Thais, live with me in Athens, but live! ” And Hercules concedes. “Only in trouble do we know who the friend is and who is not,” he repeats, “Hercules never cried, and now drops a tear.” Forgive me, the dead! “And you, Thebans, weep for the dead, and for me, alive: all Hera us in one knot knotted. “
And, leaning on a friend, Hercules leaves the stage.