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OKell Abstract

Herakles, Sex, Death, and Spin: Sophocles’ Trachiniae and its adaptations

Eleanor OKell

Heracles, widely recognised by scholars today as a hero situated on the boundary between gods/men and men/beasts, has also served during his long history to explore other boundaries, such as that between virtue and vice. This chapter focuses upon Heracles’ relationships with Omphale and Iole and their impact on his identity as a hero, which contributes to debates about the role of private acts in forming public perceptions of worth.

The chapter examines Broughton’s changes to the cast and plot of Sophocles’ Trachiniae (Handel’s Hercules, 1744) in the context of the eighteenth century’s development of the concept of a permissible separation between public and private personas. The continued effects of this attempted separation in the twenty-first century will be examined through the changes made by Crimp (Cruel and Tender, 2004) and Rodosthenous et al. (The Wife of Herakles, 2010). Dispensing with literal deification, both feature journalists and spin doctors (government ministers and PR agents) who create and destroy a military and sporting hero respectively, leaving the audience to adjudicate his worth.