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Amphitryon 38


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A: Jean Giraudoux Pf: 1929, Paris Pb: 1929 Tr: 1938 G: Com. in prologue and 3 acts; French prose S: Amphitryon's palace, Thebes, mythical past C: 5m, 4fJupiter plots with his son Mercury how he may seduce Alcmena, who is devoted to her husband Amphitryon. Jupiter arranges for Amphitryon to go to war, and takes on the form of Amphitryon, so that he can gain access to his chaste wife. Although he impregnates Alcmena with Hercules, Jupiter's seduction is far from triumphant, since Alcmena's powerful personality treats him like her own husband, and he finds himself trapped in connubial bliss. Determined to take her as a god, Jupiter plans to return the following night, but Alcmena disdains Mercury's offer of sleeping with a god. Instead, she persuades Leda, Queen of Sparta, who had been seduced by Jupiter in the guise of a swan, to take her place in the conjugal bed. Both women assume that Jupiter will return as Amphitryon, so when the real Amphitryon returns home, Alcmena happily gives him to Leda. When Amphitryon later discovers what has happened, he determines to fight Jupiter. Jupiter, whose anger over the substitution is assuaged by Alcmena's loyalty, agrees to help Amphitryon by making him forget what happened. In return, she agrees to pretend before the Theban populace that she had spent the previous night with a god, and the legend is born. Jupiter ascends aloft, leaving Alcmena unaware that she did indeed sleep with him.

A: Jean Giraudoux Pf: 1929, Paris Pb: 1929 Tr: 1938 G: Com. in prologue and 3 acts; French prose S: Amphitryon's palace, Thebes, mythical past C: 5m, 4f

Giraudoux reckoned that his witty retelling of the Amphitryon legend was the 38th version since Plautus' Amphitryon. Here the focus is less on the external complications of mistaken identities as on the effects the action has on both Jupiter and the mortals (echoing Kleist's treatment of 1807). The god is distinctly put out that he is forced to assume the role as well as the outer form of Amphitryon, and by introducing the character of Leda to the myth, Giraudoux explored questions of marital fidelity, which provide the old legend with new relevance.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Jean Giraudoux (1882—1944)


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