n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - The character of Deianeira in Sophocles'

Volume 40, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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This is the second of a pair of articles on Sophocles' play, the . In the first article on the marriage of Heracles and Deianeira I argue that this is no straight forward love match. Deianeira is very ambivalent about her marriage and her own sexuality and this fact adds a further dimension to the apparent story line of the play. I show, then, that there are many more complications visible than are consistent with the traditional interpretation of the play. By the commonest interpretation, Deianeira responds to Heracles' sending his mistress home to live with them by sending him a robe, smeared with a "love charm" designed to win his love back to herself. She is a loving wife, innocently deceived by the guile of the Centaur, Nessus. There has been much debate on this point. Hester's (1980: 1ff.) article, , summarises the division between the majority of scholars who see Deianeira as an innocent victim of the Centaur's deception and those who argue for her guilty collusion with the Centaur's murderous intent. Both these interpretations, as Hester argues, prove difficult to maintain at some point in Sophocles' plot and text. My two articles are aimed at showing that these interpretations considerably underestimate the complexities of Sophocles' writing and his character portrayal.

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