Retelling the story

Few stories have pre-occupied dramatists more than the Amphitryon myth. Originally a Greek legend, the story of Heracles’ mortal mother and foster father has provided extensive material for dramatic works over the centuries. Estimates at the exact number vary. Amphitryon 38, Giraudoux’s 1929 version, was so named because he claimed to have found thirty-seven previous versions before his own. A 1956 article by L.R Shero, organised by the American Philological Association, charts fifty-five.

One possible explanation for the endurance of such a story perhaps lies in its scope. Its ability to support moments of tragedy in partnership with those of comedy offers a tale that has captured the imagination of many playwrights. From Euripides to Dryden, from Plautus to Kleist, the story of Amphitryon spans nearly two and a half thousand years of theatrical history.

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