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Mutability; uncertainty; a universe of precipitous change: these themes are at the heart of Sophocles' tragic vision. But nowhere are they elaborated with more urgency than in Women of Trachis. There are no subtle shifts of Fortune's favors in this tragedy, only stunning and total reversals, a relentless spinning of her fickle wheel. Thesis moves to crushing antithesis wit Mutability; uncertainty; a universe of precipitous change: these themes are at the heart of Sophocles' tragic vision. But nowhere are they elaborated with more urgency than in Women of Trachis. There are no subtle shifts of Fortune's favors in this tragedy, only stunning and total reversals, a relentless spinning of her fickle wheel. Thesis moves to crushing antithesis with an unparalleled violence at the moment of transformation. Thought to have been written about 440 BC, midway through the poet's career, Women of Trachis has long suffered from neglect by scholars despite its sophistication and raw energy. This translation at last rescues the immense lyrical power and tragic grandeur of the play from obscurity, restoring the music of a poetry originally meant to be sung and danced collectively.


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Mutability; uncertainty; a universe of precipitous change: these themes are at the heart of Sophocles' tragic vision. But nowhere are they elaborated with more urgency than in Women of Trachis. There are no subtle shifts of Fortune's favors in this tragedy, only stunning and total reversals, a relentless spinning of her fickle wheel. Thesis moves to crushing antithesis wit Mutability; uncertainty; a universe of precipitous change: these themes are at the heart of Sophocles' tragic vision. But nowhere are they elaborated with more urgency than in Women of Trachis. There are no subtle shifts of Fortune's favors in this tragedy, only stunning and total reversals, a relentless spinning of her fickle wheel. Thesis moves to crushing antithesis with an unparalleled violence at the moment of transformation. Thought to have been written about 440 BC, midway through the poet's career, Women of Trachis has long suffered from neglect by scholars despite its sophistication and raw energy. This translation at last rescues the immense lyrical power and tragic grandeur of the play from obscurity, restoring the music of a poetry originally meant to be sung and danced collectively.

30 review for Women of Trachis

  1. 4 out of 5

    Buck

    Here’s something I just realized, about ten years too late: Greek is really, really hard. All you ambitious youngsters out there contemplating a fast-paced career in classics, take it from me: Ancient Greek will break your heart. I’ve been sweating over this infernal language for more than a decade, off and on, and even now I don’t read it so much as piece it together, clause by tortuous clause. You can, with a bilingual edition of Dante and a good dictionary, teach yourself Italian in six month Here’s something I just realized, about ten years too late: Greek is really, really hard. All you ambitious youngsters out there contemplating a fast-paced career in classics, take it from me: Ancient Greek will break your heart. I’ve been sweating over this infernal language for more than a decade, off and on, and even now I don’t read it so much as piece it together, clause by tortuous clause. You can, with a bilingual edition of Dante and a good dictionary, teach yourself Italian in six months. Klingon, I understand, is even easier. So be smart, kids: study a nice, friendly modern language, or better yet, take kinesiology and drink your face off for four years. The perverse thing is, I’m not even all that interested in Greek literature. I just can’t get into Sophocles or Aristophanes the way I can Shakespeare or Beckett. The habits of thought and feeling that inform the Iliad or The Peloponnesian War are so alien to me that to read these books is to engage in an act of gross misprision. It’s simply unavoidable. As Louis MacNeice (a classics man himself) put it: And how one can imagine oneself among them I do not know; It was all so unimaginably different And all so long ago. So if I still read Greek, it’s no longer for the various snobbish and high-minded reasons I started out with. My only excuse now is that it’s become an intellectual compulsion. Everybody with an IQ over 80 needs an outlet for the odd millijoules of mental energy left over from the struggle to make a living. Some people do crosswords; I do Greek. Oh, but you were probably expecting some passing reference, at least, to the book under review. Truth be told, I’m only at the mid-point and I’m planning to switch over to English for the last half, so I can’t actually quote unquote review the play yet (and anyway, what kind of asshole condescends to review Sophocles? On a social networking site, no less? Right, I forgot – the same kind of asshole who airily dismisses Troilus and Cressida.) But, come on, it’s a Greek tragedy. What else do you need to know? Some shit will go down; good people will suffer; death will be histrionic. It’s Titanic on a community-theatre budget, written by a poetic genius. There, now I’ve just airily dismissed The Women of Trachis, too. I am an asshole.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    Sophocles you do entertain me. In exile in Trachis, Deianira is pining for the return of her husband Heracles. Herald arrives to inform of his imminent return and war booty enters, enslaved vanquished, maidens. Minor Boss Battle between Herald and Messenger goes down as the truth is sought. Thou tell’st thy tale To no weak woman, but to one who knows Mankind are never constant to one joy. Truth is found and Greek tragedy ensues - thanks rapey Centaur. Then even there, With thine own hand uplifting th Sophocles you do entertain me. In exile in Trachis, Deianira is pining for the return of her husband Heracles. Herald arrives to inform of his imminent return and war booty enters, enslaved vanquished, maidens. Minor Boss Battle between Herald and Messenger goes down as the truth is sought. Thou tell’st thy tale To no weak woman, but to one who knows Mankind are never constant to one joy. Truth is found and Greek tragedy ensues - thanks rapey Centaur. Then even there, With thine own hand uplifting this my body, Taking what friends thou wilt, and having lopped Much wood from the deep-rooted oak and rough Wild olive, lay me on the gathered pile, And burn all with the touch of pine-wood flame. Let not a tear of mourning dim thine eye; But silent, with dry gaze, if thou art mine, Perform it. Else my curse awaits thee still To weigh thee down when I am lost in night. Tip of the Day for all the dudes: If you find yourself transported to ancient Greece and some babe offers . . . just remember

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    War and the absent husband 24 October 2012 This is the only Herculean play of Sophocles that we have, and when I use the term Herculean, it is not in the big and massive context that we generally use the term, but rather the story focuses around the Greek hero Heracles. This play could also have the subtitle of 'The Death of Heracles' and in many ways it is a tragedy true to form. However, it also adds to the mystery of how the story of Heracles played out. The problem with Heracles is that we ha War and the absent husband 24 October 2012 This is the only Herculean play of Sophocles that we have, and when I use the term Herculean, it is not in the big and massive context that we generally use the term, but rather the story focuses around the Greek hero Heracles. This play could also have the subtitle of 'The Death of Heracles' and in many ways it is a tragedy true to form. However, it also adds to the mystery of how the story of Heracles played out. The problem with Heracles is that we have so many conflicting versions (not counting the sword and sandal epics) that it is quite difficult to work out the accepted story, even if there was one. My understanding is that Heracles was forced to undergo twelve tasks so as to cleanse himself, and he performed the tasks for a king named Eurytcus. However, the problem is that it is unclear where Eurytcus was king, for in Heracles Gone Mad, he is king of Argos, however in this play he is king of Euboea (two completely different parts of Greece). Furthermore, in this play he goes after Eurytcus immediately after completing the tasks, whereas in the other play he goes home first, and it is unclear as to whether he manages to exact vengeance on him. This is clearly a war play, but then again many of the Greek plays were war plays. If you look back at my commentary of Heracles Gone Mad, you will note that the twelve tasks are analogous of the tasks of the warrior. Whereas in the former play we deal with the problem of adapting to civilian life after living the life of a warrior, in this play we are dealing with the problem of the broken relationship that evolves out of the warrior simply not being home. Remember, in Ancient Greek society pretty much every male was expected to be a warrior, and most of the male's formative years would be spent abroad fighting (there was no such thing as a professional soldier in those days). The play begins while Heracles is away, though we learn that he has completed his tasks and is now exacting revenge on Eurytcus. However, the problem is that his wife has very little information as to what is going on and has to rely on messengers. The tragedy of the play arises when a false messenger arrives and gives her a false rumour about how Heracles has stayed away because he has found a new love. Now, this is not necessarily an uncommon thing, especially in Greek literature. Remember, during his ten year voyage home Odysseus had shacked up with at least two women, which was not seen as a problem since his heart was always focused on returning to Penelope (or at least getting home to Ithaca). However, in this play the element of unfaithfulness suddenly arises. We see this in the modern day all too much. I remember watching a film, the name of which escapes me at the moment, about soldiers in the Gulf War (and no doubt it also happened in the Iraq war as well) learning that while they were away their wives not only had been having affairs, but had then been breaking up with their husbands, simply because their husbands have not been around. Unlike the civilian life, where this happens because of the husband's desire to climb the corporate ladder to provide for his family, these men had little choice in the matter. They had joined the army, and when the army ships them off overseas, they have little choice but to acquiesce. I am not really inclined to write this up as an anti-war play though, simply because war was a part of the culture at the time. In fact, war has always been apart of our culture. As it has been suggested in other literature, humanities normal state is to be at war with each other. These days we have the peace movement and rallies against wars, however even within our civil society, we are still at war. Gangs fight against other gangs for control over territory, criminals fight criminals to gain control of lucrative markets, and people in the workplace war against each other for the lucrative promotion. In fact, we are encouraged to take up a football team, and then to war against supporters of other football teams to keep us from turning against the ruling elite. However much of a distraction this is, we seem to feel the need to be at odds with our fellow humans, even if we disagree on minor issues, because for some reason it gives us a sense of satisfaction, especially when we come out on top, despite us not actually gaining any real benefit from it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hal Johnson

    At the climax of this play, a character literally begs his son, "Son, I want you to kill me and marry my wife." And his son is begging off: "Dad, I think that's weird. Ask something else of me." But the father keeps putting the lean on, until the son relents. According to Rene Girard, this is one Sophocles play that Freud never refers to. It's interesting to speculate how different the history of twentieth-century psychology would have been if he had. At the climax of this play, a character literally begs his son, "Son, I want you to kill me and marry my wife." And his son is begging off: "Dad, I think that's weird. Ask something else of me." But the father keeps putting the lean on, until the son relents. According to Rene Girard, this is one Sophocles play that Freud never refers to. It's interesting to speculate how different the history of twentieth-century psychology would have been if he had.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Oblomov

    Deianeira, the wife of Heracles, fears her heroic husband may leave her for a younger woman, so hatches the most tragic of plans to keep him by her side. Heracles is a wonderfully charming character; there's his loud and cheerful antics in Alcestis, his cunning and guile throughout the twelves labours, the song in that atrocious Disney film; he's just a big, friendly, demi-God hero. He may have slaughtered his wife and children in the most vicious way imaginable, but that was directly the fault Deianeira, the wife of Heracles, fears her heroic husband may leave her for a younger woman, so hatches the most tragic of plans to keep him by her side. Heracles is a wonderfully charming character; there's his loud and cheerful antics in Alcestis, his cunning and guile throughout the twelves labours, the song in that atrocious Disney film; he's just a big, friendly, demi-God hero. He may have slaughtered his wife and children in the most vicious way imaginable, but that was directly the fault of his evil step-mother and her hallucinations, so you can't blame him for an act he had no control over. And, yes, he was almost as incorrigible an adulterer as Zeus, but, eh... The ancient Greek's just ignore that, I suppose? Overall though, Heracles is usually a bombastic, clever and good natured bloke. But my God is he an utter bastard in this, his final legend. I felt sympathy for literally every other character. Deianeira is devoted, kind and loves her husband, but she's neglected and thouroughly miserable. Her solution to her husband falling for someone else isn't just to kill her rival, either. Then there's Heracles new 'love', Iole, who has just had her entire family murdered and been enslaved. By Heracles. I feel bad for the messenger sent on ahead with Iole too, who daren't tell the truth of the situation to his master's wife, while Heracles didn't even bother to hide what he'd done and why, he just sent someone else to deal with the initial fallout. And there's that poor sod Hyllus, Heracles' son, who has to (view spoiler)[live with the fact that his last words to his mother was a roaring, hateful rant over a crime she never intended to commit, which led to her suicide. He has to throw his living father on his funeral pyre and swear he'll marry his Dad's 'girlfriend' *bleurgh* (hide spoiler)] . As much as this is certainly a tragedy, I don't consider Heracles death to be part of it. Despite him suffering the most violent and agonising of endings, I found it carthartic. Sophocles sets us up to utterly despise his thoughtless, horny actions, and for the majority of the play he doesn't even appear. All the emphasis is on everyone elses' pain and misery, all of which our 'tragic hero' caused. Considering the very next step in Heracles' journey is to become an Olympian and shack up with a Goddess, I'm glad Sophocles managed to give us so much screaming and agony for his final moments; a suitably just punishment for his unforgivably callous last days.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

    Nothing to write home about, this one. Trachiniai has its moments and it's certainly an entertaining read, you can't expect less from a guy like Sophocles. There's enough jealousy and suicide to keep us perverted modern readers happy. But one also expects more. Unlike his others surviving tragedies, Trachiniai feels much less organical, much less like a structured whole, aimless and toothless. The play is unfocused and as a result the tragedy never fully delivers its power, being merely a retell Nothing to write home about, this one. Trachiniai has its moments and it's certainly an entertaining read, you can't expect less from a guy like Sophocles. There's enough jealousy and suicide to keep us perverted modern readers happy. But one also expects more. Unlike his others surviving tragedies, Trachiniai feels much less organical, much less like a structured whole, aimless and toothless. The play is unfocused and as a result the tragedy never fully delivers its power, being merely a retelling of Heracles' death in quite a lackluster fashion. You might as well skip Trachiniai entirely and not miss much. It'll entertain you for an afternoon, while other Greek tragedies will keep you thinking about it for days.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mel Bossa

    Never read this one before. Really enjoyed it. Hercules has been gone for fifteen months (on his famous labors) and his wife Deianeira is anxious to have him back. But then Hercules' herald shows up with a group of women, war loot Hercules collected on his way back. One of the girls is very beautiful and mute. How lovely and ideal, right? Her name is Iole and she is of noble blood, daughter of the King Hercules killed. Deianeira is a mature and sensible woman and her reaction to her husband's be Never read this one before. Really enjoyed it. Hercules has been gone for fifteen months (on his famous labors) and his wife Deianeira is anxious to have him back. But then Hercules' herald shows up with a group of women, war loot Hercules collected on his way back. One of the girls is very beautiful and mute. How lovely and ideal, right? Her name is Iole and she is of noble blood, daughter of the King Hercules killed. Deianeira is a mature and sensible woman and her reaction to her husband's behavior is really where the story gets interesting. I am not sure if Sophocles meant to send a message to wives about being tolerant and understanding of husbands chasing younger women, after all, what is a man to do when his wife turns 40? Surely he can't be expected to endure the calamity of sleeping with such a vile creature. Ahem. Anyway, Deianeira in all her wisdom and despair remembers that after she'd been attacked as a girl by a centaur, Chiron I believe, and Hercules shot an arrow into the creature, the centaure, before passing away had told her that if she took the cloak he wore and followed very specific instructions, the magical cloak could one day save her marriage. The cloak is supposed to revive Hercules' love for her and make him want no other woman. Oups. Actually it's full of poison and once on Hercules, it clings to his skin and burns him and slowly kills him. His son Hyllus accuses his mother of slaying his father. She of course runs away and marries a younger man and lives happil--no, she kills herself with a double edge sword in her marital bed. Hercules is whining and bitching about his cursed fate and saying,after all the hours he put in at the shop this is what he gets when he comes home? He orders his son to throw him on a pyre and then for Hyllus to marry Iole. The son protests a little but is basically a whimp and he proceeds with the funeral. Of course we know that no one will have the guts to light the pyre, until Philoctese does and then he goes off to war with that magical arrow and steps on a snake and etc... That is another play. I enjoyed this one a lot! It also filled in the missing pieces.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Saige

    I love reading old Greek books. There is something so familiar about the stories, probably because they've found their way into tons on modern pop culture. Sophocles is the OG. I like this translation a lot because it keeps well to the old style of the poetry. I felt like it kept the beauty of Sophocles' language without making it completely archaic and unreadable. I feel like this book doesn't get nearly enough love, probably because it's not as famous as some of his other works. I love the rhy I love reading old Greek books. There is something so familiar about the stories, probably because they've found their way into tons on modern pop culture. Sophocles is the OG. I like this translation a lot because it keeps well to the old style of the poetry. I felt like it kept the beauty of Sophocles' language without making it completely archaic and unreadable. I feel like this book doesn't get nearly enough love, probably because it's not as famous as some of his other works. I love the rhythm of the writing and how I can just fall into the words without needing to focus too much on plot details. It's like getting swept away by a tide of old Greek beliefs. I'd absolutely recommend this to any lovers of classic literature.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cymru Roberts

    A tragedy without a tragic hero immediately begs the question: WHY ALL THE PAIN?! We look for clues in the characters, even middling ones, and the chorus. We stumble upon hints, like the title. The Women of Trachis. In this play they serve as the chorus, the group of homegirls surrounding Deianira, her chillwomen come to stew in the house of jealous lovers. Strange, to name the play after them… If Heracles ain’t the hero of this sad tale (and he’s certainly worthy of it, so strong, so fierce in A tragedy without a tragic hero immediately begs the question: WHY ALL THE PAIN?! We look for clues in the characters, even middling ones, and the chorus. We stumble upon hints, like the title. The Women of Trachis. In this play they serve as the chorus, the group of homegirls surrounding Deianira, her chillwomen come to stew in the house of jealous lovers. Strange, to name the play after them… If Heracles ain’t the hero of this sad tale (and he’s certainly worthy of it, so strong, so fierce in battle, so messed up toward women….) then surely it’s Deianira herself, right? Or Hyllus newly orphaned? So why Women of Trachis? My brief and un-academic rundown is this: When Heracles dons the cloak of poison, a garment which causes him unimaginable agony and a god-like level of physical pain, he shrieks and howls and proclaims himself to be a WOMAN. This is no idle schoolyard cuss-word tossed about, not in this sense, not when it is Sophocles manning the quill. This is the strongest demi-god reduced to suffering, reduced to becoming what he has ignored the power of, he who has faced so many monsters and sacked so many cities; he has been reduced to a woman in pain. “Now you know how it feels,” someone whispers. On the other side, by killing the strongest man alive, Deianira usurps the most manlike quality from Heracles, which is his ability to kill. She emasculates him and becomes the man. “But they cancel out, and that doesn’t explain the title,” you may or may not be thinking. They do cancel each other out. So who is left? The women of Trachis. The women forever waiting for their fighting husbands to come home from work or the battlefield, the place where society demands they win trophies with their savagery and crowns their achievements with pussy galore. The nameless women in the background while the cruel play of life unfolds to the tune of endless murder. Pretty bleak background, you could say. I would agree, and to that add Hyllus’final plea: “Maiden, come from the house with us. / You have seen a terrible death / and agonies, many and strange, and there is / nothing here which is not Zeus.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    "No one forsees the future, but our present is awash with grief that shames even the gods, and pain beyond anything we can know strikes this man who now meets his doom. Women, don't cower in the house. Come with us. You've just seen death and devastating calamity, but you've seen nothing that is not Zeus." Thus laments Hyllos, son of Herakles and Deianeira; his mother has unwittingly poisoned his mighty hero-father, thinking that she was giving him a love potion so that he would see no one but her ( "No one forsees the future, but our present is awash with grief that shames even the gods, and pain beyond anything we can know strikes this man who now meets his doom. Women, don't cower in the house. Come with us. You've just seen death and devastating calamity, but you've seen nothing that is not Zeus." Thus laments Hyllos, son of Herakles and Deianeira; his mother has unwittingly poisoned his mighty hero-father, thinking that she was giving him a love potion so that he would see no one but her (this being prompted by Herakles sending back home to her another, younger woman to be his wife). Deianeira ends her life when she realizes what she has done, and Herakles – dying of the poison – asks to be burned (selfishly he asks his son to do the burning, who refuses—patricide being a great sin). In other words, it does not get much more tragic than Women of Trakhis.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dachi

    The Trachiniae, or Women of Trachis, is one of the plays which takes its name from the chorus, like the Trojan Women or the Suppliant Women. But whereas those names give some idea of the subject of the play, the title Women of Trachis suggests nothing. Gilbert Muarray's 1947 edition is titled The Wife of Heracles. The play is a labarum of Sophocles' standard themes: irony, anguish, death and suicide. The wise learn too late, the innocent fall. Servility to providence. The Trachiniae, or Women of Trachis, is one of the plays which takes its name from the chorus, like the Trojan Women or the Suppliant Women. But whereas those names give some idea of the subject of the play, the title Women of Trachis suggests nothing. Gilbert Muarray's 1947 edition is titled The Wife of Heracles. The play is a labarum of Sophocles' standard themes: irony, anguish, death and suicide. The wise learn too late, the innocent fall. Servility to providence.

  12. 4 out of 5

    The Bibliophile Doctor

    Why I love mythological tragedy so much? I surely feel sorry that we couldn't save much of Sophocles works. O Sophocles that's the tragedy on our side!! This one is a Greek, to be precise Athenian tragedy which centres Heracles and his wife and son. Deianira afraid of losing her husband sends him a gift she thinks she had submerged in a love potion but turns out to be a poison. A poison in the form of Nessus's blood whom Heracles had killed to save Deianira. Well turns out he was killed by an old Why I love mythological tragedy so much? I surely feel sorry that we couldn't save much of Sophocles works. O Sophocles that's the tragedy on our side!! This one is a Greek, to be precise Athenian tragedy which centres Heracles and his wife and son. Deianira afraid of losing her husband sends him a gift she thinks she had submerged in a love potion but turns out to be a poison. A poison in the form of Nessus's blood whom Heracles had killed to save Deianira. Well turns out he was killed by an old enemy who is already dead and that's exact was the prophecy. Mind gobbling... But Oh poor Heracles!! Deianira after learning what she has done couldn't take it and commits suicide. ( What's with this mythology women? They don't use their brains and then they destroy almost everything they loved themselves dearly they just commit suicide. Oh god why? ) I wish I had more to read from Sophocles as I enjoy reading mythology very much.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Keely

    I read the Theban Plays in 2014 and I'm not sure why I avoided reading another Sophocles play for so long but this has become a favourite. Mostly for the character of Deianira and the astounding writing that Sophocles is capable of. Would have gotten a 4.5 if not for Heracles being the biggest fuckboy in the last ten pages. Can't wait to read more of Sophocles' work. I read the Theban Plays in 2014 and I'm not sure why I avoided reading another Sophocles play for so long but this has become a favourite. Mostly for the character of Deianira and the astounding writing that Sophocles is capable of. Would have gotten a 4.5 if not for Heracles being the biggest fuckboy in the last ten pages. Can't wait to read more of Sophocles' work.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    The most underrated and under-appreciated installment in the Sophoclean canon, Trachiniae (or "The Women of Trachis) is an entertaining tragedy about the marital struggles of a ancient Grecian princess, Deianeira, the wife of Heracles (aka Hercules). With all the raw aggression and detail typical in Sophocles' depiction of human emotion, the characters in the play are constantly reminded of the weights that befall spirits once young and unchecked. The Chorus in Trachiniae provide a fascinating b The most underrated and under-appreciated installment in the Sophoclean canon, Trachiniae (or "The Women of Trachis) is an entertaining tragedy about the marital struggles of a ancient Grecian princess, Deianeira, the wife of Heracles (aka Hercules). With all the raw aggression and detail typical in Sophocles' depiction of human emotion, the characters in the play are constantly reminded of the weights that befall spirits once young and unchecked. The Chorus in Trachiniae provide a fascinating backdrop to the actions in the play, often posing the reader with the deep questions necessary to understanding the work's meaning in full.

  15. 5 out of 5

    وائل المنعم

    I read E. F. Watling's translation. Not as good as The Oedipus Cycle or Ajax or Electra but still got some good points, The tragedy is well presented, The characters made a strong impression even the silent Iole. The problem in this play is the long dialogues and the unneccesary role of the chours. I read E. F. Watling's translation. Not as good as The Oedipus Cycle or Ajax or Electra but still got some good points, The tragedy is well presented, The characters made a strong impression even the silent Iole. The problem in this play is the long dialogues and the unneccesary role of the chours.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Illiterate

    Pity Deianira with her resigned and tender sorrow.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ahmed

    "And also see the great ruthlessness Of the gods in these actions. They sow children, we honor them As our fathers, and yet they watch so much suffering. What is to come is not for anyone to see, But what stands now is pitiful for us And shameful for them" "And also see the great ruthlessness Of the gods in these actions. They sow children, we honor them As our fathers, and yet they watch so much suffering. What is to come is not for anyone to see, But what stands now is pitiful for us And shameful for them"

  18. 5 out of 5

    juulia

    3.5 stars. For a play called Women of Trachis this sure seemed to revolve around men a lot.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Erica Zahn

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I considered a 2.5, but I think the emotional weight it holds, and a few other positives, bring it up to a 3. I really like Sophocles, but this is one of his weaker surviving plays – I read it in English this time, but I read it in Greek a few years ago and found the same. It’s not terrible by any means, but it pales in comparison to Oedipus Tyrannus, Antigone or Ajax. It is, however, intriguing in its female-centredness (unusual outside of Euripides) and in that the play features two messengers I considered a 2.5, but I think the emotional weight it holds, and a few other positives, bring it up to a 3. I really like Sophocles, but this is one of his weaker surviving plays – I read it in English this time, but I read it in Greek a few years ago and found the same. It’s not terrible by any means, but it pales in comparison to Oedipus Tyrannus, Antigone or Ajax. It is, however, intriguing in its female-centredness (unusual outside of Euripides) and in that the play features two messengers and yet the inevitable ‘messenger speeches’ are given by other characters. The content is very emotionally driven and effective, but the underlying meaning of it all is not clear: as others have noted, the play remains somewhat perplexing – the usual tragic tropes appear, but it neither provides a clear message nor lends itself easily to interpretation. The most compelling parts, of course, are provided by Deianeira’s sorrow that she has lost favour with her husband, and her increasing despair as she ages, loses her looks and fertility, and becomes less of an asset in a hyper-patriarchal society while a newcomer captive is hailed as the favourite trophy of Heracles over her. The speeches that reflect on this are especially moving, but aside from this the play as a whole seems somewhat hollow – there is not much to play on aside from her despair, and it is difficult to tell (at least for me) what the underlying message is. The moral ambiguities, however, may work in its favour, as is typical of Sophocles, and are part of what brings this up to three stars for me – it is difficult to condemn Heracles too harshly for following protocol after battle and taking captives (though taking a new wife seems cruel to us now, it would mean more legitimate offspring), and Deianeira is obviously sympathetic and does not mean to cause her husband’s demise. However, the language is not up to the usual (high!) Sophoclean standard (although, as usual, there remain some poignant one-liners), but proves a little repetitive on its themes, and overall it is not as complex or as ripe for discussion the way his tragedies usually offer it. On the positive side it has compelling and interesting characters to back it up, and, more typically for Sophocles than its other elements, there remain some striking individual moments and I think the chorus’ involvement works particularly well (they have more agency, and seem more relevant and involved than in some other plays). Overall, this is well worth reading, but should not be approached with high expectations after one has read Sophocles’ more famous and celebrated works.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ramona Boldizsar

    /Spoiled I was entirely absorbed in this tragedy -i loved it with my entire soul, only that I felt so sad while reading it. Yesterday, while and after reading Ajax, I felt good, I felt nice, I felt as if I have gotten one step closer to something -or maybe to Sophocles. Even though I lived the play Ajax as I kind of always do with plays -I was there, living intensely etc etc etc and even though I quite believe Ajax is a star better than The Women of Trachis... I couldn't but feel this play, somew /Spoiled I was entirely absorbed in this tragedy -i loved it with my entire soul, only that I felt so sad while reading it. Yesterday, while and after reading Ajax, I felt good, I felt nice, I felt as if I have gotten one step closer to something -or maybe to Sophocles. Even though I lived the play Ajax as I kind of always do with plays -I was there, living intensely etc etc etc and even though I quite believe Ajax is a star better than The Women of Trachis... I couldn't but feel this play, someway I didn't manage -nor tried or thought- to feel Ajax (which I read yesterday). I know that there are doubts regarding the order in which the plays have been written -so I do not know whether Ajax was written before this one or not... Howsoever, there is a certain difference betwen the two. While Ajax is so well written, full of quotations one would want to add to his collection and full of good to know meanings /or legends, The women of trachis is much more intense in what is actually happening. I kind of felt like being somewhere inside the words -not literally being here, but staying on the grass in the open air and watching the action going on and on. It didn't make me cry -i don't have that kind of a mood right now, after having read it -but I feel sad, I feel depressed. I feel as if in front of my eyes Deianira has killed herself because she was not capable of living on without her dearest Heracles. Her dearest Heracles whom she killed, without no intention of doing so... The lies of destiny, the pricks of Gods and the agony, the anger and disappointment utterly present in Heracles extinct voice... All of these broke into myself (and i quite believe the feelings induced by this play are willing to remain for a while inside me). It's a ...wonderful tragedy. Only that wonderful is not a good word in this case. It is certainly well written, I would say. But it is hard to say about an antique play that it is well written -there is no real definition to support my statement, no real argument I can add to sustain my opinion. But i do feel gorgeous, wonderful, extraordinary, fabulous even if sad, depressed and so exceedingly tragic while reading Sophocles. And this is good.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Oh dear. The Greek soap operas continue. Trachinian Women is even more soap-opery than Oedipus Rex, complete with infidelity, marital struggles, suicide, poisonous robes (?), you name it. Even though I enjoyed this one a little more than Oedipus Rex, I think it's time for Sophocles and I to end our short-lived relationship. The same problems have arisen in both these plays. Tedious storylines; long, drawn-out speeches that go nowhere; and, simply, not a lot to get you interested in what's going o Oh dear. The Greek soap operas continue. Trachinian Women is even more soap-opery than Oedipus Rex, complete with infidelity, marital struggles, suicide, poisonous robes (?), you name it. Even though I enjoyed this one a little more than Oedipus Rex, I think it's time for Sophocles and I to end our short-lived relationship. The same problems have arisen in both these plays. Tedious storylines; long, drawn-out speeches that go nowhere; and, simply, not a lot to get you interested in what's going on. You'll probably never have to read this play (it may be the least common of Sophocles' works), but if you do, keep in mind it's not terrible, but won't be the most exciting thing you've ever read. And seriously, where was this far-off land Heracles spends most of the play at? It seems like it takes the characters two pages to go there and back.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Garrett Cash

    Sophocles's Women of Trachis would be more accurately titled as The Death of Heracles. This play is closer in form to the sort of accidental but inevitable tragedy found in Oedipus the King than the "question of justice" plays like Antigone and Electra. It's not quite as good as any of the previously mentioned plays, but it holds its own and is still a great example of Greek tragedy; and more enjoyable than any of Aeschylus's plays. The ending, as usual for Sophocles, is extremely strong and tho Sophocles's Women of Trachis would be more accurately titled as The Death of Heracles. This play is closer in form to the sort of accidental but inevitable tragedy found in Oedipus the King than the "question of justice" plays like Antigone and Electra. It's not quite as good as any of the previously mentioned plays, but it holds its own and is still a great example of Greek tragedy; and more enjoyable than any of Aeschylus's plays. The ending, as usual for Sophocles, is extremely strong and thoroughly thought provoking.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sasha Kaye

    Started out pretty good, but ended up whiny. One of the more enjoyable Greek tragedies I've read, though. Started out pretty good, but ended up whiny. One of the more enjoyable Greek tragedies I've read, though.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dwight

    Once again I have trouble relating to Sophocles’ characters because I’m not all “Suicide rocks!”

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Hercules wife is jealous and mistakenly gives him poison instead of a love potion. Hercules retaliates by his death wish of having his son promise to marry his mistress in his stead.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    The qualities required to be a hero have a darker side. A hero is often a man or woman who is too large for the age in which they live. A real life hero such as Garibaldi wreaked a good deal of chaos in his native Italy. The more complex superhero stories often show the trail of destruction that the protagonists leave in their wake. In Greek mythology too, a hero is often someone who does as much harm as good, and Heracles is a good example of such a figure. In amidst the stories of Heracles perf The qualities required to be a hero have a darker side. A hero is often a man or woman who is too large for the age in which they live. A real life hero such as Garibaldi wreaked a good deal of chaos in his native Italy. The more complex superhero stories often show the trail of destruction that the protagonists leave in their wake. In Greek mythology too, a hero is often someone who does as much harm as good, and Heracles is a good example of such a figure. In amidst the stories of Heracles performing noble deeds are a number of tales in which through accident, anger or misjudgement, the great warrior ends up killing and harming people that he should not. This story comes at the end of Heracles’ life when he has spoiled the city of Oechalia, supposedly as punishment for his being enslaved. He has now in turn enslaved many of the city people, and is seemingly lining them up for sacrifice to the gods. However this story deals with the underlying motive behind Heracles’ action, and it is not one that redounds to his credit. During the first part of the story, we follow Heracles’ long suffering wife Deianeira. She has been forced to sit back while Heracles risks his life, neglected at home, and fearing for his safety. Now on this, his last battle, she looks forward to his return, but there is a sting in the tale. It seems that Heracles spoiled Oechalia because he has fallen in love with the Oechalian king’s daughter, and that he now intends to bring her back. The events recall those of the return of Agamemnon. The king of Argos also brought back a sex slave, and this caused his wife to bring about his death. There are some differences here though. Agamemnon had already sacrificed his own daughter, and Clytemnestra was now the mistress of her husband’s deadly enemy, and deliberately plotting his death. In this story, Heracles has not been responsible for any family member’s death, and Deianeira is a loyal wife. She feels real anguish about being supplanted in the affections of Heracles, and she brings about his death by accident. She has unwisely followed the advice of Heracles’ enemy, and dyed a robe for Heracles with the blood of Nessus, whom Heracles killed with an arrow dipped in the venom of the Hydra. Nessus tells her that this will act as a love potion, but his intentions are malicious, and it instead poisons the famous hero. The second part of the play is mysteriously unbalanced. Deianeira commits suicide, and is absent from the action. Now we follow the pain and suffering of Heracles as the dying man (absent from the first part of the play) begs his son to observe proper rites to ensure his death by burning him alive. For good measure, the son (Hyllus) is forced to marry Heracles’ slave mistress. As so often in Greek tragedies, the events are rounded off with pieties that almost sound like rancour against the injustice of the gods. “Let all men forgive me and mark the malevolence of the unforgiving gods in this event,” remarks Hyllus, continuing: “We call them fathers of sons, and they look down unmoved upon our tragedies”. However the gods are not just passively callous. Hyllus concludes the play as follows: “Women of Trachis, you have leave to go. You have seen strange things, the awful hand of death, new shapes of woe, uncounted sufferings; and all that you have seen is God.” These are extraordinary words, worthy of a Thomas Hardy poem. The Greeks were not like the Christians who attribute all good things and no bad things to god. They set the blame for their woes on the shoulders of the gods just as squarely as the praise for their blessings. The title is a peculiar one since the women of Trachis (who make up the Chorus) play a fairly small part in the play. However neither Deianeira nor Heracles is in the play sufficiently to command the title for themselves. The Women of Trachis is not one of Sophocles’ best plays. It is uneven in structure, leaving it somewhat unfocussed. However there is enough pathos and poetry to make it an absorbing and interesting story.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Evin Ashley

    This tragedy was not a show-stopper like others, but worth a read. Deianeira, the wife of Hercules, has been in a suspended state of grief for two years, not knowing the status of her husband. While off conquering things, Hercules fell in love with another woman. When Deianeira discovers this, she hopes to ameliorate the threat to her marriage by delivering a love potion to Hercules. She inadvertently (or perhaps purposefully?) poisons him with the potion, which is the blood from a slain enemy o This tragedy was not a show-stopper like others, but worth a read. Deianeira, the wife of Hercules, has been in a suspended state of grief for two years, not knowing the status of her husband. While off conquering things, Hercules fell in love with another woman. When Deianeira discovers this, she hopes to ameliorate the threat to her marriage by delivering a love potion to Hercules. She inadvertently (or perhaps purposefully?) poisons him with the potion, which is the blood from a slain enemy of Hercules (duh, she should have seen this coming). When she realizes what she did, she kills herself. Then their poor son, Hyllus, is left to deal with the outcome, bemoaning the power of gods over mankind. This story highlights the need for emotional intelligence in both genders/sexes. Deianeira says, "Anger ill beseems a woman of understanding", as in, anger doesn't look good on a woman. Her husband, Hercules, is famous for his temper. Expression of anger builds personality, and is an emotion felt by both halves of humanity. Her willful repression of her anger manifests in naïveté, to believe the dying words of her slain enemy and attempted rapist, Nessus. To repress such anger is to turn a blind eye to those who hold power over you, to never check them. But what is underneath always rises to the surface, whether or not we want it to. So in this instance it manifested in the inadvertent murder of her unfaithful husband. This is at least what I chose to take away from the tragedy. The final strain of the play is heart-wrenching, when Hyllus bemoans, "Grant me full forgiveness for this; but mark the great cruelty of the gods in the deeds that are being done. They beget children, they are hailed as fathers, and yet they can look upon such sufferings (...) ye who have lately seen a dread death, with sorrows manifold and strange: and in all this there is nought but Zeus." This understandable reaction to faithlessness is observed by the Nurse earlier in the play: "Such are the fortunes of this house. Rash indeed, is he who reckons on the morrow, or haply on days beyond it; for tomorrow is not, until today is safely past." We do not know what the future holds in store, and while fate may be cruel, its affect may yet not be known to us. Patience is indeed a virtue. Whole thing here via MIT press: http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/tra...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Reehan Miah

    Even great writers, which Sophocles is fast proving himself to be, slip up every now and again. Women of Trachis promises much, and begins well - offering a refreshing perspective that spotlights the voice of women and domesticity. Deianeira, wife of Heracles, who's been waiting an eon for him to return to her following the completion of the Twelve Labours, finds that he's not only been playing away from home, but that he plans to actually share his marital bed with his latest love. Her pained r Even great writers, which Sophocles is fast proving himself to be, slip up every now and again. Women of Trachis promises much, and begins well - offering a refreshing perspective that spotlights the voice of women and domesticity. Deianeira, wife of Heracles, who's been waiting an eon for him to return to her following the completion of the Twelve Labours, finds that he's not only been playing away from home, but that he plans to actually share his marital bed with his latest love. Her pained reaction allows Sophocles to craft some fascinatingly proto-feminist passages in which the headstrong Deianeira rightly laments the injustice of her lot, of the lot of all women whose self-worth and security is so bound up with the fates of their husbands. While there are gratifying darts thrown (We have children, of course / towards whom he behaves like a farmer / who has taken over a derelict field: / assiduous only at the sowing and at the reaping.) and glimpses of vivid imagery, the plotting here is negligent and sloppy: key turning points in the tragedy too rushed, too much lazy exposition from insignificant characters. Deianeira is a captivating figure, but Sophocles dispenses with her all too readily in order to foreground Heracles' decline, an action that reiterates just how the suffering of men has always proved more important than the pain of women. Not to mention, Heracles here is a dire excuse for a character, falling far short of the heroism and masculinity he typically embodies, and which here the writer assumes rather than endows. It's hard to care for his distress, and thus, it's hard to much care for Women of Trachis - a play that, sadly, ends up being less about the women of its title and more about the demise of a bellowing oaf.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    If there is anything in this play to resonate with a modern reader, it must be the vision of our fates as quite beyond our control. Even the mighty Heracles is ultimately caught by surprise and destroyed by Fate. Of course, that rather broad theme runs through nearly all tragedy, and the popular Greek sentiment, expressed here in the Trachiniae, that no man may be counted lucky until his death, could just as well be the epithet to many other plays. It is difficult to find a sympathetic point of If there is anything in this play to resonate with a modern reader, it must be the vision of our fates as quite beyond our control. Even the mighty Heracles is ultimately caught by surprise and destroyed by Fate. Of course, that rather broad theme runs through nearly all tragedy, and the popular Greek sentiment, expressed here in the Trachiniae, that no man may be counted lucky until his death, could just as well be the epithet to many other plays. It is difficult to find a sympathetic point of entry into the play. We spend most of the action close to Heracles' wife, Deianira, who is first consumed with yearning for her husband, than remorse at seeing the Trachis women enslaved by her husband's conquest, then jealous of Iole who Heracles loves, then despondent at her inadvertent murder of her man. What a dizzying role! And yet it is only her brief sympathy for the slaves that seem interestingly bold, a worthy paradox. Otherwise, her sentiments are too conventional, and the sudden shifts between them a bit befuddling. There's not much compelling in Sophocles' rendering of the son, Hyllus, either (who comes off as a second rate Orestes-- far too ready to blame his mother, but then too hesitant to follow his father). As for Heracles himself, there is something here of Ajax, something of Agamemnon, but he is less compelling than either. Sophocles' choice to set Heracles' final scene with his son, Hyllus, is not particularly interesting. It becomes a fairly dull reflection on filial piety.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jairo Fraga

    This tragedy is about Heracles long travel, letting his wife alone for 15 months. When Heracles son is sent by his mother to look after his father, it arrives at their home prisoners and two messengers. Deinaeira discovers that Heracles is in love with one of the prisoners, then she sends a robe made by Centaur's orders, which brings a curse to Heracles. Once again a suicide happens, when Deinaeira gets to know that her intentions to keep Heracles love worked the other way around. Then Heracles This tragedy is about Heracles long travel, letting his wife alone for 15 months. When Heracles son is sent by his mother to look after his father, it arrives at their home prisoners and two messengers. Deinaeira discovers that Heracles is in love with one of the prisoners, then she sends a robe made by Centaur's orders, which brings a curse to Heracles. Once again a suicide happens, when Deinaeira gets to know that her intentions to keep Heracles love worked the other way around. Then Heracles comes home sick and asks his son to end his suffering. Not very nice tragedy, nothing very new or interesting is brought up here by Sophocles, the same suicide for love theme.

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