Sunday, April 29, 2012
Alcestis: An innovative tragedy
From its custom rattling arrangement in its tetralogy to its ambiguous tragicomic tone, Euripides earliest tragedy Alcestis has been a composition full of controversy and ambiguity. Alcestis was originally produced for and performed at the City Dionysia in 438 BC as the fourth play in his entering tetralogy, a spot traditionally held for the Satyr play, a satirical farce, which sparks much debate. This uncertainty is expressed especially when classifying it due to its happy ending and humorous additions, but, Alcestis is truly a tragedy by the Aristotelian concept as set out in Aristotle’s Poetics and is a predecessor to almost all tragedies afterwords especially Shakespeare’s romantic genre.
Alcestis begins with Apollo, being banished to serve under a mortal, being moved by Admentus’s, a young king, kindness. Apollo, in the prologue of the Alcestis, laments the situation fate has forced Admentus, who is going to die young, into. Through the trickery Apollo and comic banter with Death, Admetus escapes Thanatos, Death who he had persuaded to take a substitute for Admetus. It seemed a fine idea to both Admetus and Apollo, however Death made one stipulation, the substitute had to be a voluntary one. Admetus, still undisturbed, believed his elderly parents would lovingly and willingly take his place and die. Instead, his parents made it clear, especially Pheres, his father, that life was sweeter and more precious as one got older and his parents had no intention of dying for him.
None, except his young beautiful wife Alcestis will die for Admentus and she sacrifices her life in his stead. Death comes for Alcestis, leaving her grieving husband to contemplate a life of shame, promised celibacy and isolation. Shortly after her death Heracles comes to visit. Heracles sees his friend in mourning and questions him as to who has died. Admetus assures his friend that it was simply an outsider and that Heracles was...