female mask Questions and Discussion Topics:
Sophocles’ Women of Trachis

Explain the myth behind this play, from the beginning of Deianeira's relationship with Heracles to the death of both figures.

Identify the incentive moment, climax, and resolution of this play. Who is the tragic hero? Does this play present a hamartia, peripeteia, and anagnorisis? If so, identify them and explain their significance.

This play has been fruitfully interpreted as a problem play, using the rather unpleasant myth of Deianeira and Heracles to explore the strong dichotomy between the domestic sphere and the public sphere in classical Athens, concretized in the separation of the sexes at that time. Explain how this problem is presented in the play through the characterization, actions, and relationship of Deianeira and Heracles (this will involve a close reading and interpretation of the whole play). In respect to the dichotomy between the domestic and public spheres, compare Deianeira with Clytemnestra and Antigone. Does the ending of the play, especially the future marriage of Hyllus and Iole, fully resolve the problem? Why or why not?

How does Sophocles' vision of man's relationship to fate and the gods in this play compare with the tragic vision presented in the other plays we have studied?

November, 1999
Barbara F. McManus
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