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Die Deianeira der Trachinierinnen und die Euripideische Medeia

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image of Mnemosyne

The plots of Sophocles' Women of Trachis and Euripides' Medea show some striking similarities, which so far have only been investigated concerning the priority of one of the plays. After tracing back the mythological tradition of both stories, this article focuses on the characterization of the two central female figures in both plays, Deianira and Medea, who in spite of facing similar situations and choosing similar means (poisoned gifts) show different intentions. Both figures describe the problematic social position of women at a point where their own status as a married wife is in danger. They are conscious of the surrounding society, but whereas Medea, like many male dramatic figures, is eager to avoid the laughter of her enemies, Deianira regards the rules of a "shame culture" in a different way, assuming that good and bad attitudes only exist when others see them. Her intention is to re-establish her old position, but she fails and then has to kill herself to regain her honor. Medea on the contrary wants revenge, kills all her victims intentionally, and brings her plans to a successful end. Some thoughts about the author's intentions lying behind these characterizations end the discussion.


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