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Heracles | Study Guide

Euripides

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Heracles | Stasimon 2 | Summary

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Summary

The chorus sings the praises of youth and laments the growing burden of old age. They wish old age would "sink beneath the waves." If the gods had been wise, the chorus says, they would have rewarded worthy people with a second youth. The choral song continues, praising the Muses—the goddesses of the arts and sciences. They also praise Heracles again, saying, "His toil secured this life of calm for man, having destroyed all fearsome beasts."

Analysis

With the family happily reunited, the chorus returns to its complaints about old age. Among other things, the lyrics personify old age, wishing it would die just as a person dies: "Let it sink beneath the waves." Their song offers a bit of comic relief from the constant sense of impending tragedy in the main action of the play. It also serves to prepare the audience for the death of Lycus.

In its song, the chorus refers again to Heracles's Labors, saying that he has "secured this life of calm for man, having destroyed all fearsome beasts." The statement contradicts Heracles's own bemoaning and belittling of his heroism and strengthens the verbal irony of his statements. However, given what the audience knows—that Heracles will soon slaughter his wife and children—it also creates a dramatic irony. Life is about to be anything but calm, and Heracles himself will prove to be the fearsome beast. At the end of the choral ode, at least for the audience, the tone reverts to tragedy.

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