"Who is right and who is wrong in Sophocles' Women of Trachis"?

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Ella Gilbert 263441 "Who is right and who is wrong in Sophocles' Women of Trachis"? The accustomed trait of all tragic heroes and heroines is to have a tragic flaw or hamartia, and it is Heracles' possession of hubris (excessive pride) that brings about the wrong doings of Deianeira and his eventual downfall. While there is often a discussion of the role of fate in the downfall of a tragic hero, there must be an element of choice in order for there to be a true tragedy. The tragic hero falls because they choose one course of action over another- evident in "Women of Tracis" from Deianeira's action to use supposed magic. Therefore it could be argued that none of the characters in "Women of Trachis" are essentially wrong, it is just natural human error and the innate qualities of a tragic hero and heroine. Even so one could reason that the characters should have thought of the outcomes before their actions and that the disastrous end of Heracles was inevitable as it was the predicament of the oracles Deianeira means no harm by her actions. She merely wishes to do good for the sake of herself and her family. Like Ajax's Tecmessa, Deianeira is a socially marginalized prize woman.


Considering the manner in which Clytemnestra reacted to her husband's immanent return con concubine, Deianira seems to be taking it pretty well: "Do you think I do not know that the heart of man can change in its affections...It would be madness to blame my husband for this infection." This speech of people changing mirrors that of Ajax's in which he meant the exact opposite. Deianeira is performing exactly the same act of falsehood as Lichas undertook and she herself condemns; "The name of liar is a brand of infamy." Her hypocritical mannerism results in Lichas believing all is well and that she is fine with the situation meaning that he has no doubts or is suspicious of the gift she passes on through him to Heracles. Her deceptive speech was merely a trick to get the truth from Lichas. She has become no better than him in lying, yet she has lied out of security. Much of this tragedy contains deception and trickery leading to misfortune. It is true that she was wrong to lie as was Lichas. Honesty in this case really is the best policy, and most of the characters lie, delude or are unfaithful to others throughout the whole play resulting in the tragedy. Deianeira finds Heracles' eros towards Iole devastating and difficult to take due to her own inner physiology and vulnerability.


It is her fault also that Lichas dies through Heracles' rage. Hyllus is wrong to blame her so promptly without knowing the whole story. It is her own son who brings about her death as she cannot live with his accusations. He, like his mother acted with rashness. It is Heracles also, who jumps to conclusions. When Hyllus intends to purely speak the truth of his mother, Heracles is quick to call him a traitor. Eventually, he is alerted to his own misjudgement and understands the mistake. In retrospection he can see that the oracle was right. It is only at the end of their lives that the characters reflect upon their behaviour and can see the light. Only then it is too late. There is no character that is chiefly wrong or right in "The women of Trachis". It is the result of misunderstandings, innocence, ignorance, and deception on many peoples part that led to the regrettable outcome. Perhaps the one most to blame is Nessus, who was the only one that intended harm. He knew very well what he was doing, whereas the others that were wrong in their acts could not see their outcomes. There is no tragedy in terrible things happening to the guilty, but in the innocent, and although most of the characters were wrong in their actions, they innocently thought they were doing good.

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