Composers and their stage works 


(Herakles; Hercules furens, ca. 421 B.C.).

A Tragedy by Euripides


Heracles, absent on the last of his Twelve Labours, has entrusted his aged father Amphitryon, his wife Megara, and his sons to Creon, King of Thebes, who is Megara's father. Creon, however, has since been murdered by the tyrant Lycus of Euboea. As the play opens, Lycus, deaf to the appeals of Amphitryon and the chorus of Theban elders, is demanding the death of Heracles's family. As the family is preparing to be burned to death at their sanctuary, the Altar of Zeus, Heracles suddenly returns. He learns what has happened and promptly kills Lycus. A triumphal ode is sung.

But Heracles's troubles are only beginning. The goddess Hera, who has long hated him because he is actually the illegitimate son of the union of her husband Zeus and Alcmene, orders Madness to cast her spell and make him insane. After irrationally murdering his wife and sons, he is mercifully thrown into sleep by the goddess Athena. When he awakens and his father informs him of his horrifying crimes, he contemplates suicide in his anguish. His friend Theseus, King of Athens, appears and persuades him instead to go into exile in Athens, where he will be purified, restored to his position, and proclaimed a demigod. Heracles resigns himself to a new life in which he will atone for his crime by performing great services to mankind by harsh labours and sadly appoints Amphitryon to attend to the burial of his wife and sons.