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Euripides' Alcestis by Euripides
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Euripides' Alcestis

by Euripides

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g r i m ( )
  Achromatic | Feb 16, 2014 |
I can now understand why they call this a problem play: for most of the play it is a tragedy but suddenly, at the end, everything turns out all right. One commentary I have read on this raises the question of whether it is a masterpiece or a train wreck. What we need to remember though is that this would have been one of the seven plays of Euripides that were selected to be preserved (and I say this because unlike the other two classic playwrights, he have a whole volume of Euripidean plays that came down to us along with the seven masterpieces).
However it is the myth sitting behind this play that we need to consider, and it seems that Euripides actually added nothing to the myth, and the resurrection of Alcestis at the conclusion of the play is something that existed in the original myth. The story was that Alcestis was an incredibly beautiful woman (surprise, surprise) and her father held a contest to see who would be the most worthy suitor - Admentus won the contest. With regards to Admentus, he had helped Apollo by taking care of the god after he had been kicked out of Olympus, and Apollo rewarded Admentus by helping him complete the task to win over Alcestis' father.
However, after the marriage, Admentus did not make the required sacrifice and was to die, but once again Apollo intervened and saved his life by making the furies drunk. The catch was that somebody had to die in Admentus' place. This is a little different than what I gathered from the play, and that was that for helping Apollo, Admentus was given the gift of a longer life, but there was a sting in the tail, and that was that somebody else had to willing give up their life. Admentus' parents basically told him to bugger off, but Alcestis, his wife, stepped in as the sacrifice, much to Ademntus' horror.
The play begins with Alcestis dying, and this happens pretty quickly. However, while Admentus and his household is in mourning, Heracles rocks up on his way to Thrace to complete one of his tasks. Now, hospitality is very, very important to the Greeks, and despite his mourning, Heracles is welcomed into the house and given guest quarters, however he is not told what is happening. Heracles finds out after speaking to a servant, and in appreciation for Admentus opening up his house, he goes and defeats death and brings Alcestis back to life.
Now, here is another instance of resurrection in Greek mythology. Here we have Heracles defeating death to bring someone back to life, however this differs from Christian mythology in that a second person steps in to overturn death, even though he is the son of Zeus. This is more like Jesus bringing Lazerus back to life as opposed to Christ returning from the dead. However we do see glimpses here of the concept of the son of God defeating death.
Admentus is truly a tragic character, probably one of the most tragic of the Greek heroes that I have read, though I note that it is Euripides that seems to use this the best. However, it does not end badly for Admentus, and his tragic flaw: his desire for a long life; does not truly bite him. In a way it causes division within his family, such as with the death of Alcestis and the fact that he drives away his father. Admentus is a truly selfish individual - what right does he have demanding the life of his father-in-law so that he might live longer. It does not work like that, and it seems that Euripides is in agreement.
This play is about death, pure and simple, and how death destroys relationships. We also get a glimpse into the mind of Admentus, as he mourns over the death of his wife. We see that despite his longer life it is no longer a life worth living and in fact he no longer wants to spend any time where he will be reminded of Alcestis' sacrifice. I guess the main reason he mourns so hard is not the futility and meaninglessness of death (as some Christians might suggest) but rather because the death came about through his own selfish desire to live longer.
Yet he does not learn from this, and in fact he is rewarded for his selfishness. Okay, it is clear that the reward comes not from his own failings as a human being, but rather because despite his grief and mourning (though I doubt a psychologist would suggest that this is the natural grief process) he still fulfilled his duty towards his guest. Also, despite his lying to Heracles, Heracles still saw fit to reward him for his hospitality. Still, those last five pages where Alcestis returns from the dead, despite her no longer having a voice in the play, just does not seem to sit right. ( )
  David.Alfred.Sarkies | Jan 24, 2014 |
Uma das mais belas tragédias da mitologia grega, escrita belamente por Eurípides. Confirmou seu título, aliás, de o mais trágico dos poetas. ( )
  JuliaBoechat | Mar 30, 2013 |
Rated: B
The New Lifetime Reading Plan: Number 7a ( )
  jmcdbooks | Jan 28, 2013 |
Edition: // Descr: xl, 130 p. 19 cm. // Series: Call No. { 882 E7 4 c. #2. } Edited with Introduction and Commentary by A.M. Dale. // //
  ColgateClassics | Oct 26, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Euripidesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aldington, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arrowsmith, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beye, Charles RowanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Conacher, D. J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dale, A. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitts, DudleyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hadley, William SheldonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Halleran, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hughes, TedTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Italie, G.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jerram, C. S.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lattimore, RichmondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Luschnig, C. A. E.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murray, GilbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roisman, Hanna M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vellacott, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Is contained in

19 Plays: Alcestis / Andromache / Bacchae / Children of Heracles / Cyclops / Electra / Hecuba / Helen / Heracles / Hippolyta / Ion / Iphigenia in Aulis / Iphigenia in Tauris / Medea / Orestes / Phonecian Women / Rhesus / Suppliant Women / Trojan Women by Euripides

4 Plays: Alcestis / Children of Heracles / Hippolytus / Medea by Euripides

Euripides by Euripides

10 Plays: Alcestis / Andromache / Children of Heracles / Helen / Hippolytus / Ion / Medea / Rhesus / Suppliant Women / Trojan Women by Euripides

Seven Famous Greek Plays: Prometheus Bound, Agamemnon, Oedipus The King, Antigone, Alcestis, Medea, The Frogs by Whitney J. Oates

11 Plays: Alcestis / Andromache / Children of Heracles / Electra / Hecuba / Helen / Heracles / Hippolytus / Medea / Suppliant Women / Trojan Women by Euripides

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195061667, Paperback)

At once a vigorous translation of one of Euripides' most subtle and witty plays, and a wholly fresh interpretation, this version reveals for the first time the extraordinary formal beauty and thematic concentration of the Alcestis. William Arrowsmith, eminent classical scholar, translator, and General Editor of this highly praised series, rejects the standard view of the Alcestis as a psychological study of the egotist Admetos and his naive but devoted wife. His translation, instead, presents the play as a drama of human existence-in keeping with the tradition of Greek tragedy-with recognizably human characters who also represent masked embodiments of human conditions. The Alcestis thus becomes a metaphysical tragicomedy in which Admetos, who has heretofore led a life without limitations, learns to "think mortal thoughts." He acquires the knowledge of limits-the acceptance of death as well as the duty to live-which, according to Euripides, makes people meaningfully human and capable of both courage and compassion. This new interpretation compellingly argues that, for Euripides, suffering humanizes, that exemption makes a man selfish and childish, and that only the courage to accept both life and death leads to the realization of one's humanity, and, in the case of Alcestis, to heroism.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:56 -0400)

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