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Abstract

Hercules: the secular and the spiritual, examines the work of two ancient playwrights, Seneca and Euripides, comparing their individual treatments of a common Hercules tragedy narrative. Although both writers are considered existing within the era of classical literary history, there is a gap of nearly 400 years between when Euripides wrote Hercules for a Greek Dionysia Festival, and the version that Seneca wrote while serving as a statesman in Rome. Likewise, there is a noticeable difference in how each play treats the topics of spirituality and religion. This essay explores the choices that each playwright makes concerning their depiction of gods, mortal men, and the origins of violent madness, positing that Euripides’ work is rooted in deep religious traditions while Seneca modifies his source material to tell a secular tale of caution and cultural morality.

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