Tragic irony in Ovid, Heroides 9 and 11

Classical Quarterly 45 (02):505- (1995)


A dominant theme in the ninth of the Heroides, Deianira's letter to Hercules, is Deianira's indignation that Hercules has been defeated by a woman: first by Iole ; then by Omphale . The theme is exploited so insistently that Vessey, who regards the epistle as spurious, sees in this insistence a sign of the forger's clumsiness. consider the exploitation of the motive of‘victor victus’ in Heroides 9, on the contrary, as a strong sign of Ovidian authorship. From the very beginning of the letter, the reader is reminded that if a woman, Iole, has metaphorically destroyed Hercules, another woman is on the point of destroying Hercules in a much more real and literal way, and this woman is none other than Deianira herself. When Deianira writes the letter, she has just sent to Hercules the garment soaked in Nessus' poison that will provoke Hercules' horrible death : thus Deianira, rather than Iole or Omphale, is the woman who vanquishes the unvanquished hero. But this is not only a matter of dramatic irony based on the general lines of the story. Heroides 9 is an elegiac rewriting of Sophocles' Trachiniae , and at the same time is inserted in the time and the ‘body’ of the tragedy. Ironic prefiguration in Heroides is normally realized through intertextual anticipation: thefuture events that are prefigured are present in the texts of the model epic or tragedy. Deianira blames Hercules for bis defeat: quern numquam Iuno seriesque immensa laborum fregerit, huic Iolen imposuisse iugum quem non mille ferae, quern non Stheneleius hostis, non potuit Iuno vincere, vincit amor

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Wit, Humour and Irony in Heroides 9.P. Murgatroyd - 2014 - Classical Quarterly 64 (2):853-855.

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