Who Was Hermes in Hadestown?

If you’re a fan of the Tony Award-winning musical “Hadestown,” you may be wondering who exactly is Hermes and why he’s such an important character in the show. In Greek mythology, Hermes is known as the messenger of the gods, but in “Hadestown,” he serves as both a narrator and a guide for the audience.

The Role of Hermes

Hermes is played by Tony-nominated actor André De Shields in “Hadestown,” and his character serves as a sort of master of ceremonies for the audience. He introduces us to the world of the show and sets the stage for what’s to come. Throughout the performance, Hermes comments on what’s happening on stage, gives us insight into the characters’ motivations and feelings, and even provides some comic relief.

But Hermes is more than just a narrator or commentator. He’s also a guide for Orpheus, one of the show’s main characters. When Orpheus descends into Hadestown to rescue his love Eurydice from Hades, it’s Hermes who gives him advice and encouragement along the way.

The Mythological Roots of Hermes

In Greek mythology, Hermes was one of the twelve Olympian gods and was often depicted as a young man with winged sandals or a winged helmet. He was known for his speed and agility, which made him an ideal messenger for the other gods.

Hermes was also associated with commerce, thieves, and travelers. He had a reputation as a trickster god who could talk his way out of any situation. In some stories, he even helped mortals by teaching them new skills or protecting them from danger.

The Significance of Hermes in “Hadestown”

In “Hadestown,” Hermes represents both the mythical figure from Greek mythology and something more modern: he stands in for storytellers and musicians who pass down tales from generation to generation. The character of Hermes acts as a guide for the audience, leading them through the narrative and helping them understand its themes and messages.

Hermes also has a personal connection to the other characters in the show. He’s known Orpheus since he was a young boy, and he feels a deep sense of responsibility to help him on his journey to Hadestown. This relationship adds an emotional depth to Hermes’ character that goes beyond his role as a narrator or commentator.

The Legacy of Hermes

The character of Hermes has had a lasting impact on popular culture beyond “Hadestown.” In literature, music, and film, Hermes has been portrayed as a messenger, a trickster, and sometimes even a hero. His legacy as one of the most beloved figures from Greek mythology continues to inspire artists today.

In “Hadestown,” André De Shields’ portrayal of Hermes is one of the show’s highlights. His commanding presence on stage, combined with his singing and dancing talents, make him an unforgettable character that audiences will remember long after they leave the theater.


Hermes may be best known as the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology, but in “Hadestown,” he serves as much more than that. As both a narrator and guide for Orpheus, he helps us understand the story’s themes and messages while adding humor and emotional depth to the show. André De Shields’ performance as Hermes is just one reason why “Hadestown” continues to captivate audiences around the world.