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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 psychological hero: Herakles' lost self and the creation of Nervenkunst

The psychological hero: Herakles' lost self and the creation of Nervenkunst

(p.207) 7 The psychological hero: Herakles' lost self and the creation of Nervenkunst
The Reception and Performance of Euripides' Herakles

Kathleen Riley

Oxford University Press

This chapter is the first of two dealing with the Modernist reception of Herakles. It examines the combined theories of Wilamowitz, the critic Herman Bahr, and the playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. In his 1889 edition of the Herakles, Wilamowitz proposed his ‘seeds of madness’ theory, portraying Euripides' hero as a blood-crazed megalomaniac. In 1902 his translation of the play was produced in Vienna and was the first modern revival of Euripides on the European stage. This production, and in particular Bahr's reaction to it, had a direct impact on the creation of Nervenkunst (neurotic art). Bahr, focusing on verse 931 (he was no longer himself), believed the mad Herakles to be a hero straight from the pages of Breuer and Freud, symbolizing the terrifying potential in all human beings to lose themselves, to become something ‘other’ than themselves. His reading of 931 formed the basis of the first explicitly psychoanalytic interpretation of Greek tragedy ever staged, Hofmannsthal's Elektra of 1903.

Keywords:   Modernist, Wilamowitz, Herman Bahr, Hofmannsthal, Herakles, Vienna, Nervenkunst, Freud, Elektra

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