The Women of Trachis Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Authors: Ezra Pound (translator) and Sophocles

First published: Trachinai, c. 435–429 b.c.e. (English translation, 1729; Pound's translation, 1954)

Genre: Play

Locale: Trachis

Plot: Tragedy

Time: Mythic Hellenic prehistory

Daianeira (day-an-EH-rah), also known as The Day's Air or Daysair, the daughter of Oineus and wife of the great hero Herakles. Powerfully alluring and aware of her beauty (“looks are my trouble”), she is unhappy as the action begins because her husband has been away from his family for some time. She admires him and finds him very attractive, but her love is tested when she learns that Herakles has sent a young female captive to their home. In an attempt to remove any possibility of competition, she sends Herakles a love charm given to her by a centaur. When the potion turns out to be a deadly poison, she is driven mad with grief, and when her son criticizes her, she feels completely deserted and decides to destroy herself.

Herakles (HEHR-uh-kleez), the son of Zeus, one of the greatest of the Greek heroes, who has been condemned by the gods to carry out a series of labors that keep him away from his wife and son. Headstrong, impulsive, and very passionate, he is unbeatable by any man in combat but is susceptible to the lures of Eros. When the potion his wife sends him turns out to be a lethal mixture, he is driven mad with pain and anger. He appears for the first time late in the play, dressed in a “mask of divine agony,” seeking a dignified death but too furious to be able to control himself. Ultimately, he is able to regain his heroic stature in his final instruction to his son.

Hyllos (HI-lohs), the son of Herakles and Daianeira. He is loving and dutiful, obedient, and respectful. He shares his mother's desire to see Herakles return home. When his father is poisoned, he blames his mother for the betrayal; when he learns the truth, he is shattered by grief. Struggling against the overpowering emotion caused by the loss of his parents, he resolves to carry out his father's last request, to marry Iole, and to prove his devotion to his parent's legacy.

Iole (I-oh-lay), the daughter of Eurytus, a king. Her name literally means “tomorrow,” or the future. She caught Hera-kles' eye, and he destroyed her father's capital city to get her. In his dying speech, Herakles commands his son to marry her. She does not speak during the play, but her gestures register her sadness at her situation when Daianeira observes and questions her.

Likhas (LI-kuhs), the family herald for Herakles and Daianeira. An honest, reliable, determined, and persistent man, he is totally faithful but not particularly sharp-witted. He is killed by Herakles, who blames him for the work of the potion.

A messenger, a figure who is aware of the palace gossip and able to provide information beyond the official sources. He often disagrees with and chides the somewhat pompous Likhas. He is snide and cynical, even with the queen.

A nurse, or housekeeper, an old and tottery woman who is physically smaller than Daianeira. She provides information about actions (such as the suicide of Daianeira) that occur offstage.

Categories: Characters