Heracles (Hercules): Later Adventures and Death
In a Nutshell
What happens after the happily-ever-after ending?
What happens after the cowboy rides off into the sunset?
What happens after the athlete wins an Olympic gold medal?
What happens after the hero completes his quest?
In general, we aren't too interested in finding out the answers to these questions. We prefer the happy ending and the big Hollywood finish. End of story. However, Heracles' story doesn't wrap up so neatly. Just when we think he's about to ride off into the sunset after completing the Twelve Labors, he gets himself into trouble again. And again. And again.
This later phase in Heracles' life is full of many little adventures, and each of these adventures teaches Heracles something new. While they pale in comparison to the Twelve Labors, it's interesting to see that a great hero like Heracles continues to struggle through life. He's still very human and pretty darn flawed. Completing the Twelve Labors was a HUGE, godlike accomplishment. However, the story of Heracles' Later Adventures and Death shows us that he wrestles with the ups and downs of life just like the rest of us.
From tragic love affairs, to brutal wars, to a stint as a cross-dresser, Heracles' life wasn't dull even for a second. Sit back, relax, and check out the final years of the guy who put the H in hero.
Explore the ways this myth connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
- In the Odyssey by Homer, Odysseus runs into the ghost of Heracles in Hades. This sighting is a little confusing since Heracles would have been immortal at that point and hanging out on Mount Olympus.
- Heracles pops up in The Metamorphoses by Ovid when the river god Achelous describes having a fistfight with the hero over a lady, Deianira. Heracles ends up winning Deianira's hand in marriage, but dies later on as a result of her jealousy. He shows up again when he rescues Hesione, daughter of Laomedon, from a sea monster. But then he causes major trouble because the Trojans won't give him the horses they promised him. Word to the wise: Don't break a promise you've made to Heracles.
- The men in Love's Labor's Lost by William Shakespeare sure do love them some Heracles. They like to talk about his many feats and the fact that he was love-struck, just like them.
- We see how much Hamlet idolizes his father when he talks about how his uncle Claudius measures up to Old Hamlet as much as he (Hamlet) measures up to Hercules in Hamlet. (Hamlet is being super sarcastic here.)