chapter  1
10 Pages

The 'Trachiniae'

I. The 'Trachiniae' None of the seven plays has been more variously assessed than the Trachiniae ; the verdicts range from 'good' to 'downright bad'. Broken-backed, double-yoked, zweispaltig, are epithets that have been applied to it. Jebb explained lucidly where Sophocles went wrong, and what he should have done in order to achieve 'artistic unity' : he should have made less of Deianeira, since her humanity steals too much of our attention from the heroic sublimity of Heracles, The great difficulty has been the structure of the play: there are two central characters, and they never meet. When at last Heracles enters, Deianeira is already dead, and little reference is made to her. Indeed, it seems that Sophocles was so determined to write a bad play that he did not even bring on Deianeira's body, in order to give the semblance of unity to his plot.