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31.4.Yoon

The anonymous character who arrives onstage at Hcl. 630 is generally identified by editors as θερá½±πων, following the dramatis personae of the hypothesis; only Mastronarde (1979:96 n.64) notes that “he is a soldier, not a servant.” There are, however, strong reasons for identifying this character as neither a solider nor a servant, but as Hyllus' herald, who functions not only as a reporter figure but as the only onstage representative of his absent master.

The figure's usual identification as a servant depends primarily on his self-introduction as Ὕλλου πενέστης (639); however, comparison with other plays shows that similar expressions are commonly used in the introduction of heralds, while the term κῆρυξ is suggestively used at 648 and 655. The military context accords with the functions of heralds in both literature and history, and the character's dramatic role is comparable to those of other heralds as against those of so-called messengers; he is not an independent witness presenting an offstage event, but an emissary representing an offstage entity. His identity would have been clearly conveyed to the original audience by his costume.

This identification has subtle but wide-ranging effects. It accounts for the unusual directness of tone adopted by the Ὕλλου πενέστης in his exchanges with both Iolaus and Alcmene, and casts particular light on the contested attribution of 961-72. The potentially ephebic appearance of heralds heightens the effect of the character's interactions with Iolaus, and highlights the play's thematic exploration of age and youth. Most importantly, the identity of this figure gains particular significance from the conspicuous absence of Hyllus throughout the play and the uniquely representative quality of the herald's role. The Ὕλλου πενέστης provides an important point of contact with the son of Heracles; his identification as a herald - a passive and obedient agent of his master according to Greek convention - encourages us to further associate his speech, actions, and even characterization with the absent Hyllus, providing us with an onstage representative to complement the reporter-figure's account of the hero's battlefield exploits. He therefore contributes significantly to the play's concern with and complex use of representation, as demonstrated in the many absences, reports, and reversals of expectation that feature in the play; his role provides suggestive parallels with those of Eurystheus' herald in the opening and the anonymous daughter of Heracles in the central episode. The Ὕλλου πενέστης grants the audience greater access to Hyllus than has hitherto been acknowledged, and recognition of his identity as a herald allows us to more fully examine the representation of Heracles and his family in this play.

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