Hercules and the tragicomic in the epic theater of Dürrenmatt
Deborah Chatr Aryamontri
There is no doubt that Herakles/Hercules is in Greco-Roman mythology the most versatile hero of all, who encompasses a wide variety of human behaviors and personalities that make him a fully rounded, but also controversial character. His special status as a hero is apparent from not only the extensive narrative that the Greeks and the Romans created around his deeds and life, but also from his consistent presence as an iconographic motif (e.g. on marble sarcophagi and Athenian vases), not to mention his continued popularity in later times, from the Middle ages on, especially as an allegory of the afterlife. In both ancient and modern times, authors have often considered just one side of Hercules’ personality, either his dramatic or his caricatural aspect, and only a few have tried to reconcile this dichotomy.
In the wake of WWII, one Swiss playwright, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, wittily created a very ironic, but also pensive hero in his Herkules und der Stall des Augias.
This chapter analyzes how Dürrenmatt resolves the complexity of Hercules’ nature and how he finds a resolution of this conundrum, where modern issues are so well blended into ancient dilemmas that a re-energized, and refreshed Hercules arises from his play.
Provisional content for Hercules Performed