Hercules and the tragicomic in the epic theatre of Dürrenmatt
Deborah Chatr Aryamontri
There is no doubt that Herakles/Hercules is in Greco-Roman mythology the most versatile hero of all. His career encompasses a wide variety of human behaviours and personalities that make him a fully rounded, but also controversial character. His preeminent and special status among all the Greek heroes is manifest in the extensive narrative that the Greeks and the Romans wove around his deeds and life. This status is also evident 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 late antiquity to the modern cinema, especially as symbolizing life choices and transcending mortality. Ancient and modern authors tend to focus on just one side of Hercules’ personality, either his dramatic or his comic role, and 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 analyses how Dürrenmatt resolves the complexity of Hercules’ nature and how he finds a resolution of this of this conflict of personality states, where modern issues are so well blended with ancient dilemmas that a re-energized, and refreshed Hercules arises from his play.
Provisional content for Hercules Performed