|The Peacock Complaining to Juno, Gustave Moreau|
All of which is true. As gods go, she's one of the worst to cross. (Only Artemis really equals her in terms of vicious retribution. The men, in contrast to either woman, are sissies who can't deal out pain.) But the classic portrait of her is rather one-sided. She deserves far more of a break than she gets.
Why, you ask? Well, let's start off with some early childhood trauma. The girl was swallowed whole and alive by her father at the moment of her birth. And stayed alive, in his stomach, until her littlest brother was ballsy enough to fight back. That right there should win our sympathy.
Oh, and that littlest brother? With a woman already on his arm (Metis, mother of Athena and all-around badass herself), Zeus decided to sleep with his older sisters. Demeter said yes, which is how we get Persephone; Hestia just snorted and went back to her fire; Hera flat-out
|Hera and Zeus, Jun-Pierre Shiozawa|
Who else thinks that the subsequent wedding of Zeus and Hera must have been the most awkward event ever?
Right now, we've got a plucky young goddess who survived life inside Dad's belly, only to be claimed as spoils by her liberator. At this point, Hera does one of two things. Either she decides that she might as well make good on what she's got, or she decides to spend her whole life avenging herself on the bastard brother who dealt her this crappy hand. It depends on your interpretation, really, but it's understandable either way. She can be admirable for doing her best, or she can be tragic in the same way as Macbeth. Whichever you prefer, it makes her a far more interesting character than a cardboard villainess.
|Hera Imprisons Io, Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire|
And then there's the hilarious, but also touching, scene in the Iliad where Hera seduces Zeus to distract him from the fighting so Poseidon can help the Greeks. His opening gambit is to recite a list of women he's slept with, something usually guaranteed to send Hera into a rage. But
|Jupiter and Juno on Mount Ida,|
|Juno Ludovisi, artist unknown|
It doesn't make it right, and I still feel awful for poor innocents like Semele. But it does make more of Hera than she usually gets. And she gets so little that there's got to be some parts of the story missing.