Hera gets irrational revenge on Herakles
Herakles’ wife and father are not sure if he will return from Hades, where he has been dispatched on his final labor. Lycos, King of Thebes, is at the palace gates, demanded the execution of Herakles’ two young children in order to protect himself from future usurpation. Just as the children are about to be led out to death, Herakles returns triumphant (as he always does) and kills Lycos, much to the joy of his happy family. As Herakles and his family offer prayers at the temple, Iris, handmaiden to Hera, and Madness enter. Reluctantly Madness accepts her assignment, which is to drive Herakles insane. She does so. In his deluded state, he murders his wife and children. His father mourns. When the bound Herakles awakes from his madness, he is downcast. But his friend Theseus takes charge of him and leads him off the stage and into his new bereaved life.
The gods, Hera in particular, put a heavy strain on humans. For no really good reason, she destroys Herakles’s life. His father hidesso that in his madness he will not commit the unforgivable sin of patricide. But at the end of the play, Theseus, a fellow human, allows Herakles to lean against him, taking him back to Athens and sharing half of his wealth. Trust in humans, not in the gods, although I love the personification of Madness. She does not want to do what she is sent to do.