Women of Trachis

Dying Wishes In the court of law, the “dying declaration” is the only form of testimony that a Judge will not rule out as hearsay. The logic being, that a man at the very edge of his life has nothing to lose, so therefore would have no reason to lie. In Sophocles’ tragedy, Women of Trachis, several characters make dying declarations, some of them, in fact, lies! These deathbed declarations, allow us to see into the minds of these characters. When the story opens, Deineira has been getting worried that something terrible has happened to him.
She sends her son, Hyllus off to Eurytus to look for the lost warrior. Heracles’ herald, Lichas makes up a story about how Heracles was enslaved due to King Eurytus, and got his revenge by destroying the land and taking their women. However, a messenger points out that the whole reason Hercules ransacked the city was so that he could have the beautiful Iole for himself, for whom he was “hot with desire. ” Instead of being furious with Heracles for being unfaithful, she eschews the blame to the gods of love, who “temped” him.
It is then that she recalls the death wish of Nessus the centaur. As Nessus laid impaled with Heracles’ poison arrow, he whispered to Deineira that if she kept his clotted blood, she could use it later to “Charm on the mind of Heraclues so he will never see a woman he loves more than you. (87)” While it is generally uncommon for people to tell a lie on their death bed, this case was certainly an exception. Deineria was extremely naive to believe that a beast who had just been killed by her own husband would do her a favor.

It seems perfectly clear that the centaur would want to avenge his own death by killing Heracles, which he ended up doing posthumously, because Dieneria took his word for it. She doesn’t realize until after her husband’s death what the beast’s true intentions were. Had Dieneria not put all her trust in the centaur, and assigned Heracles more blame for his ownshortcomings, the story might have had a happier ending. Once Dieneria hears that her attempt to “charm” Heracles has ended up causing Heracles a long, painful death, she kills herself in anguish.
As Heracles is dying, throbbing with pain, he makes two grueling requests of his son Hyllus. First, he asks Hyllus to take him to the top of the mountain, chop down some trees, and set him on fire, to take him out of his misery, a task a son should never have to do to his own father. On top of that, Heracles insists that Hyllus marry Iole, the very woman who was the catalyst for the death of both of Hyllus’ parents. This is the worst imaginable scenario for Hyllus. By asking his son do this Heracles demonstrates his complete lack of sensitivity or compassion.
Not only does he have no remorse whatsoever for deserting his wife for another woman, he wants his son to carry on this legacy of adultery for the rest of his life by wedding her. This shows complete lack of respect to his wife, and lack of compassion for his son. These dying declarations demonstrate the character flaws that end up killing Deineria and Heracles. Deineria’s naiviety and and overtrust get her into trouble, while Heracles’ downfall is his lack of compassion. Together, these character flaws are enough to cause great tragedy.

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