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The Reception and Performance of Euripides' HeraklesReasoning Madness$
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Kathleen Riley

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199534487

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199534487.001.0001

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The Herakles complex: a Senecan diagnosis of the ‘Family Annihilator’

The Herakles complex: a Senecan diagnosis of the ‘Family Annihilator’

(p.279) 9 The Herakles complex: a Senecan diagnosis of the ‘Family Annihilator’
The Reception and Performance of Euripides' Herakles

Kathleen Riley

Oxford University Press

This chapter, which focuses on Archibald MacLeish's Herakles and Simon Armitage's Mister Heracles, investigates the emergence, in late 20th- and early 21st-century stage adaptations of Euripides' text, of a neo-Senecan Herakles and the concurrent identification of a ‘Herakles complex’ in the heroic male psyche. MacLeish and Armitage specifically concentrate on the filicide and its cultural implications, and apply a Senecan and psychoanalytic reading to the madness and to the Euripidean sequence of labours / filicide. MacLeish draws a frightening analogy between Herakles Kallinikos (Glorious Victor) and a Strangelovean scientist bent on dystopian perfection. Armitage portrays a maverick military man, an intuitive berserker lost in the maze of peacetime complexity. In each case the restless, overachieving hero fits the psychological profile of what American criminologists categorize as the ‘family annihilator’.

Keywords:   Archibald MacLeish, Simon Armitage, Mister Heracles, neo-Senecan, Herakles complex, filicide, Strangelovean, military, beserker, family annihilator

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