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Gartland Abstract

Herakles in Orbit: the role of space in modern versions of Euripides’ Herakles

Samuel D. Gartland

Euripides’ use of space has, in many different ways, long been a focus of scholarship on his surviving plays. In recent years, the spatial elements of his Herakles have received some excellent treatments that have been keen to emphasise the variety of spatial forms expressed in and around the city and the eponymous hero. The plural spaces of the play are expressed through the travels of Herakles and his dramatic and gruesome return to his family and to his city, with the communal and domestic spaces of Thebes playing a central role. Two of the most recent anglophone adaptations of the play, Archibald MacLeish’s Herakles (1965) and Simon Armitage’s Mr Heracles (2002), both enjoy playing with the spaces which Herakles inhabits and represents, but they have in common a deliberate programme of replacing or disguising the city, and a distinctive Theban space in some way.

This paper will examine the interplay of space across these three versions and ask what the focus on space in Euripides’ Herakles in recent scholarship can add to the way in which we understand the modern adaptations. And when we have asked these questions, how can the use of space in these two modern adaptations allow us to more keenly appreciate the ways in which Euripides uses a variety of space within this, one of the most troubling and difficult presentations of Herakles in any genre.