In different parts of Greece myths about Heracles were told differently. In Central Greece, at Thebes, where Hercules was born, the story of the madness was best remembered. In the south, in Argos, where Hercules served Eurystheus, the story of the twelve feats was the most popular. In the north, near Mount Eta, which has been Herculean pyre, his self-immolation was talked about. And in Athens, it was said another way: Hercules has not burnt himself, and found a last refuge from the wrath of Hera, here in Athens, with his young friend, the Athenian hero Theseus. This not widespread myth Euripides took decoupling his tragedy. A Hercules wife had not called Deianira (as in Sophocles) but Megara (as they called her in Thebes).
Heavenly father of Hercules was Zeus, and earthly father was a hero Amphitryon, Alcmene's father. Amphitryon lived in Thebes; Hercules was born there too, where he married the Theban princess Megara, from there he went to Argos to serve king Eurystheus. Twelve years - twelve services in a foreign country. The last - the most terrible: Heracles had to get under the ground and bring out the monstrous three-headed dog, guardian of the dead kingdom. And from the realm of the dead - people know - nobody ever came back. And Hercules was considered to be dead. The nearby Lick evil king (whose name means "wolf") took advantage of it. He captured Thebes, killed the Theban king, father of Megara, and Megara and her children, and old Amphitryon sentenced to death.
Here begins the tragedy of Euripides. On the stage - Amphitryon, Megara and three young silent sons. They sit in front of a palace at the altar of the gods - as long as they keep it, they are not touched, but their strength has come to an end, and anywhere to wait for help. the Theban elders come forward, forming a chorus. Amphitryon in a long monologue tells the audience what happened here. Megara is in despair, and yet Amphitryon encourages her: "Happiness and unhappiness are replaced by a succession: and what if Hercules would come back?" But this is hardly believed.
Evil Lick appears. "Do not cling to life! Hercules will not return from the dead. Hercules is not a hero, but a coward; he fought always not face to face with sword and spear, but from a distance, with arrows from a bow. And who would believe that he is the son of Zeus!" Amphitryon accepts the challenge: "whether he is the son of Zeus - ask Fallen Giants! Thebes forget how much they owe Hercules - so much the worse for them! A rapist will pay for the violence." And then Megara rises. "Enough: Death is terrible, but no one can go against fate. Hercules will not come to life, and the villain is not to reason. Let me dress the sons in funeral attire - and lead us to death! "
The choir sings a song praising Hercules’s feats. Megara with Amphitryon take away Hercules’ sons: "Here they are. Zeus, if you want to save them - save! Hercules, if you can stand to us, - come forth! "
And Hercules appears. He just got out of his kingdom of the dead, the eyes are not accustomed to the sun, he sees the children, wife, father in burial clothes, and does not believe himself: what is it? Megara and Amphitryon, agitated, hurried to explain him, that Lick is to lead them to death. "Then - all to the palace! and when he comes, he will have to deal with me. I am not afraid of hell dog – am I to be afraid of miserable Lick? "Chorus praises the young strength of Hercules. Lick, is marching to the palace, the chorus is silent; behind the scene moaning of dying Lick is heard, and the choir sings winning, solemn song.
Above the stage there are two goddesses: Iris, the messenger of Hera, and Lissa, the daughter of Night, goddess of madness. While Hercules administers twelve feats, he was under the protection of Zeus, but exploits finished, and now Hera will take her revenge. Madness attacks Hercules. Goddesses disappear, there is only the chorus on the stage. It is terrified because of the screams behind the scene. Thundering music, the earth trembles, and scared messenger appears.
He says: having killed Lick, Hercules began to bring the cleansing sacrifice, but suddenly froze, his eyes bloodshot, lips made foam: "It's not him, not Eurystheus, and I need Eurystheus, my tormentor! Here are his children! "And he rushes to his own sons. One hides behind a column - Hercules struck him with an arrow. Another rushes to his chest - Hercules crushes him with a club. With the third Megara flees to a distant room - Hercules breaks the wall and kills both. He turns to Amphitryon and ready to kill his father - but then there appears a powerful goddess Athena, patroness of Hercules, a huge stone hits him, he falls and falls asleep, and he is tied to the column.
The internal chambers of the palace: Hercules is sleeping near the column, above him - the unfortunate Amphitryon, around – bodies of Megara and children. Amphitryon and chorus mourn over him as over a dead. Hercules slowly awakens, he does not remember anything and does not understand - maybe he is again in hell? But he recognizes his father, hears about what had happened, untie his hands, sees his crime, realizes his guilt and is ready to execute himself, throwing himself on his sword. And then there is Theseus.
Theseus is young, but already famous: he freed the whole region from the robbers, he killed in Crete man-bull Minotaur and rescued his Athens from the tribute to this monster, he descended into the realm of the dead, to get underground mistress Persephone, and only Hercules rescued him out and brought into the light. He heard that the evil Lick rages in Thebes, and hurried to the rescue, but arrived too late. "I must die, - Hercules said. - I have incurred on Thebes the wrath of Hera; I eclipsed the glory of my feats by the horror of this crime; Death is better than living under a curse; let Hera triumph". "No, - Theseus answers. - Nobody is without a sin: even the Olympians in the sky sinned against theur father-Titan. Leave Thebes, come to live in Athens, but live! "And Hercules concedes. "Just in trouble, we come to know who is friend and who is not - he repeats.”
Leaning on his friend he leaves the scene.