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Queen Alcestis has volunteered to die in her husband’s place, and at the start of this Greek tragedy, Alcestis is close to death. As a result of a bargain made between Death and the god Apollo, Alcestis will die instead of her husband, King Admetus. On her deathbed, Alcestis requests that in return for her sacrifice, her husband will agree to never remarry and will never forget her. Admetus agrees and tells her that he will honor her memory by leading a sober, quiet life. Alcestis then dies, and shortly thereafter an old friend of the king’s, Heracles, arrives at court. Admetus cannot bear to be inhospitable, so he orders his servants to entertain the guest—but this violates his promise to his dead wife to avoid merrymaking and frivolity. His servants are angered that they are unable to mourn her death properly, and finally, after Heracles gets drunk, they inform him of the tragedy that has just occurred. Heracles is embarrassed and decides to confront and fight with Death at the tomb of Alcestis; he returns from this confrontation with a woman whom he urges Admetus to marry. But it remains unclear whether this new union would break Admetus’ promise, or if it would in fact help him keep it.
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Opening Lines (Experimental)
ADMETUS, _King of Pherae in Thessaly_.
ALCESTIS, _daughter of Pelias, his wife_.
PHERES, _his father, formerly King but now in retirement_.
TWO CHILDREN, _his son and daughter_.
A MANSERVANT _in his house_.
The Hero HERACLES.
The God APOLLO.
THANATOS _or_ DEATH.
Reviewed by emiletic on Oct 15, 2009
Alcestis, still has the power to outrage
I found this tale outrageous. The heroine was truly admirable, the friends were true friends, but the parents called Admetus out for what he truly was: a total narcissist jerk.
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Ratings for 'Alcestis' by Euripides