Killing Hercules : Deianira and the Politics of Domestic Violence, from Sophocles to the War on Terror book cover
1st Edition

Killing Hercules
Deianira and the Politics of Domestic Violence, from Sophocles to the War on Terror

ISBN 9780367595562
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
352 Pages

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Book Description

This book offers an entirely new reception history of the myth of Hercules and his wife/killer Deianira. The book poses, and attempts to answer, two important and related questions. First, why have artists across two millennia felt compelled to revisit this particular myth to express anxieties about violence at both a global and domestic level? Secondly, from the moment that Sophocles disrupted a myth about the definitive exemplar of masculinity and martial prowess and turned it into a story about domestic abuse, through to a 2014 production of Handel’s Hercules that was set in the context of the ‘war on terror’, the reception history of this myth has been one of discontinuity and conflict; how and why does each culture reinvent this narrative to address its own concerns and discontents, and how does each generation speak to, qualify or annihilate the certainties of its predecessors in order to understand, contain or exonerate the aggression with which their governors – of state and of the household – so often enforce their authority, and the violence to which their nations, and their homes, are perennially vulnerable?

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



Chapter 1: The Trachiniae of Sophocles

Chapter 2: Hurting Inside(s): Hercules and Deianira in Ancient Rome

Chapter 3: Wrestling with Hercules in the Middle Ages

Chapter 4: Dalliance and Puddinges: Translating Herculean Marriage in/to Post-Reformation England

Chapter 5: Baroque and Berserk: from the King’s Execution to the King’s Theatre

Chapter 6: ‘After Sophocles’: Deianira and the ‘War on Terror’

Appendix. Translation: The Women of Trachis



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Richard Rowland is Senior Lecturer in Drama in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York. He has edited plays by George Chapman and Ben Jonson for the Penguin Dramatists series, Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II for the Oxford University Press Complete Works, and Edward IV for the Revels series (Manchester University Press). He is also the author of The Theatre of Thomas Heywood, 1599-1639: Locations, Translations and Conflict (2010).


"Throughout the book, Rowland shows remarkable erudition. Not only does he navigate an ocean of primary sources from classical antiquity to the twenty-first century, but he provides abundant documentation on each source and period, engaging with critical traditions, combining methodologies and offering many new readings."

- Charlotte Coffin, Universite Paris-Est Creteil - Cahiers Elisabethains