Alcestis (Euripides)

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Alcestis ( ancient Greek Ἄλκηστις ) is a tragedy by the Greek playwright Euripides , which took place in 438 BC. Was premiered as the fourth part of a tetralogy . The first three parts of the tetralogy were the Cretan women , Alkmaion in Psophis and Telephos . The motifs of the piece are the topoi common in Greek mythology of vicarious death for another and the bringing back of a dead person from the underworld . The tragedy takes place on the day of the death of the main character Alcestis . The parents of Alcestis' husband Admetus had refused to die in his place, whereupon Alcestis wants to die for him.


The prehistory is told by Apollo : Zeus had forced Apollo to serve a mortal and Apollo chose Admetus as his master. Since Admetus proved to be a benevolent ruler, Apollo rewarded him with being able to postpone his death with the help of a deputy who dies instead of him. When Thanatos wanted to get Alcestis, Apollo announced to him that Heracles would descend into the underworld in order to free it again. This is followed by a chorus of grieving old men, a servant's report of the farewell to Alcestis and the farewell of the spouses in the form of a threnus and dialogue. The first part of the tragedy ends with a lamentation for the dead of Admetus and the son of Admetus and Alcestis Eumelos and a farewell song by the choir. In the second part, Heracles arrives at Admetus and is asked to linger without him knowing about Alcestis' fate. Admetus argues with his father Pheres and accuses him of not having died for Alcestis. Pheres again accuses Admetus of being the murderer of Alcestis because he let her die in his place. When Heracles learns of the fate of Alcestis, he agrees to bring her back from the underworld. After Heracles is already on his way, Admetus begins to understand what he has done and regrets having allowed his wife to die. When Heracles finally returns with a veiled woman and asks Admetos to take her into his house, Admetos initially refuses. He assures Heracles of his loyalty to his deceased wife, but ultimately gives in and takes the unknown woman into his home. Heracles then pulls the veil from the woman's face and it turns out that it is Alcestis, who was freed from the underworld.


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