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Heracles | Study Guide


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Heracles | Characters

Character Description
Heracles Heracles is a great hero of Thebes. He is the son of the god Zeus and a human woman, Alcmena. Read More
Amphitryon Amphitryon is the husband of Heracles's mother, Alcmena. He treats Heracles as his own son. Read More
Megara Heracles's wife, Megara, is the daughter of the dead king Creon. After rescuing her from Lycus, Heracles kills her while under the influence of Madness. Read More
Lycus Lycus overthrew and murdered Creon, the king of Thebes. As the new king, Lycus intends to kill all potential opposition, including Heracles's sons. Read More
Theseus The king of the city-state of Athens, Theseus, considers Heracles to be a friend. He convinces the grieving Heracles not to kill himself but to come to Athens and be treated with honor. Read More
Chorus The "chorus of old men of Thebes" is a group of old men from the city of Thebes who interact with the main characters, relate background information, and comment on events in the play.
Creon Creon was Megara's father and the king of Thebes. Lycus kills him and takes his throne before the play begins.
Electryon Before the play begins, Amphitryon was exiled to Argolis for killing Electryon, who does not appear but is mentioned in Heracles.
Eurystheus Although he does not appear in the play, Eurystheus, the high king of Greece, affects the play's action by spreading the rumor that Heracles is dead. With the hero dead, Lycus and his cronies feel that they have nothing to fear when taking over Thebes.
Hera Though the goddess Hera, Zeus's wife, does not appear in the play, her desire for revenge is a driving force at the play's climax. Hera sends Iris and Madness to make Heracles experience temporary insanity and kill his wife and children.
Heracles's sons It is because he fears that Heracles's three young sons will one day return to avenge their father that Lycus intends to have them executed. Heracles saves them only to kill them himself while under the influence of Madness.
Iris Iris is a messenger of the gods. She has come to carry out Hera's revenge on Heracles.
Leader of the chorus The leader of the chorus speaks individually and more often than the rest of the chorus members, who speak in unison. The leader of the chorus also interacts more frequently with the other characters.
Madness Madness is a demon that accompanies Iris. Sometimes called Lussa or Lyssa, an ancient Greek term for rabies, her job is to drive Heracles mad.
Messenger The messenger conveys the news that Heracles has murdered his wife and children. Because violence was not permitted to be shown onstage, Greek tragedies often employed a messenger to relate the details of such events.
Pallas The goddess Pallas, also known as Athena, is Zeus's favorite daughter. A messenger tells how just as Heracles was about to kill Amphitryon, Pallas appeared and placed the hero in a deep sleep.
Retinue Lycus is always surrounded by his retinue of servants, guards, and other attendants. It is members of his retinue whom he commands to kill Heracles's family.
Warriors When Theseus arrives in Thebes, he comes with a troop of Athenian warriors to help Heracles fight Lycus.
Zeus Zeus is the father of the gods and Heracles's birth father. Although the characters frequently call on Zeus for help, he does nothing.
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