Euripides: Alcestis / Άλκηστη του Ευριπίδη 0856682349, 9780856682346

The theme of Euripides' Alcestis blends the primitive folk-tale of the self-sacrificing bride, Alcestis, and of Her

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edited with translation and commentary by

D. J. Conacher


0 D .J. Conacher 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means without the prior written permission of the publishers.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data CONTENTS Euripides Alcestis. — (Classical texts). I. Title Π. Conacher, D .J. III. Series 882'.01 PA3973.A5


ISBN 0 85668 234 9 doth ISBN 0 85668 235 7 limp



Classical texts ISSN 0953 — 7961





Printed and published in England by ARIS & P HU T TPS Ltd, Teddington House, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 8PQ, England.



v 1

INTRODUCTION TO ALCESTIS Ancient information I. Π. The myth and its adaptation m. The play and its problems Genre and tone i. ti. Themes and structure The treatment of Admetus iii. iv. Some other views V. Visual aspects IV. The text Notes to Introduction to Alcestis

35 37 43 46 47 48 50



29 30






GENERAL EDITOR'S FOREWORD Euripides' remarkable variety of subject, ideas and methods challenges each generation of readers — and audiences — to fresh appraisal and closer definition. This Series of his plays is in the general style of Aris and Phillips' Classical Texts: it offers university students and, we hope, sixth—formers, as well as teachers of Classics and Classical Civilisation at all levels, new editions which emphasise analytical and literary appreciation. In each volume there is an editor's Introduction which sets the play in its original context, discusses its dramatic and poetic resources, and assesses its meaning. The Greek text is faced on the opposite page by a new English prose translation which attempts to be both accurate and idiomatic. The Commentary, which is keyed wherever possible to the translation rather than to the Greek, pursues the aims of the Introduction in analysing structure and development, in annotating and appreciating poetic style, and in explaining the ideas; since the translation iteself reveals the editor's detailed understanding of the Greek, philological comment is confined to special phenomena or problems which affect interpretation. Those are the guidelines within which individual contributors to the Series have been asked to work, but they are free to handle or emphasise whatever they judge important in their particular play, and to choose their own manner of doing so. It is natural that commentaries and commentators on Euripides should reflect his variety as a poet. This volume is the fifth in the Series. The first, Trojan Women by Shirley A. Barlow (1986), included a General Introduction to the Series written by her; it is reproduced in this volume, p p .1 -2 1 . The General Bibliography (pp.22—26) has been updated with the addition of a few items in Section VI.. For most plays in the Series the Greek text is reproduced from the new Oxford Classical Text of Euripides, edited by Dr. James Diggle, with his own and the publisher's generous permission; an explanatory note will be found at the end of the Introduction, p.48. University College of Swansea

Christopher Collard


The text used in this edition is reprinted, by permission of the Clarendon Press, from the O xford Classical Text of Euripides (vol. I, Oxford 1984), edited by J . Diggle. The Apparatus Criticus has also, by similar permission, been drawn from the same edition, except that orthographic trivia and the recording of obvious errors, where the corrections are equally obvious, have been deleted. All such reductions have, of course, been made on the responsibility of the present Editor. I should like to record here my gratitude to Dr. Diggle and to the Clarendon Press for their generous permissions. Certain passages in the Introduction (specifically Part Π and most of Part ΙΠ [i]) have been reprinted (with a few minor changes) from D. J. Conacher, Euripidean Drama (University of Toronto Press and Oxford University Press, 1967) pp. 327 —31 by kind permission of the University of Toronto Press. Among various studies and editions of the Alcestis which I have consulted, none has been more valuable to me (as readers will recognize from my own Commentary) than A. M. Dale's annotated edition of the play (Oxford 1954). Although the present edition takes a different approach in some respects, there remain certain areas where her learned and lucid Commentary "says it all". Nowhere, of course, is this so true as in the metrical analyses of lyric passages. In this area, I have decided to suppress comments of my own as either redundant or (more often!) derivative and simply to refer the reader to Miss Dale's supreme and acknowledged expertise. I should like to acknowledge a particular debt to the general editor of this series. Professor Christopher Collard, whose many valuable suggestions and corrections have greatly improved both my translation and commentary. Needless to say, I alone am responsible for any errors and shortcomings that may remain. Finally I am grateful to my College, Trinity College in the University of Toronto, for a typing grant, and to the patience and efficiency of Ms. Siobhan Jones in typing the MS.

GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES I. The Ancient Theatre The contemporary theatre consists of many different types of performance, and these are on offer most of the time at numerous small theatres in many places, particularly in centres like London and New York where the cultural choice is vast. Audiences go to only one play at a time — unless, that is, they are attending something special like Wagner's Ring Cycle — and they go primarily for entertainment, not to be overtly instructed or to discharge a religious obligation. The choice includes musicals, ballets, operas, variety shows, classical plays, contemporary plays, thrillers, serious prose plays, verse dramas, domestic comedies and fringe theatre. Audiences range from the highly intellectual, who might be devotees of serious opera, or of Becket or Eliot or Stoppard, to the self—acknowledged low—brow, who go to the theatre to escape from real life and have a night out away from the harassments of home and work. In spite, however, of this range in type of audience, the English speaking theatre—going public has long been, and probably still is, predominantly middle class. It is not representative of all strata of the population. I mention all these obvious things merely to draw a contrast with the ancient theatre. For the ' classical Greek theatre did not have this fragmentation of genre, location or audience. The genres were few, all in verse, consisting of only four types — tragedy, satyric drama, comedy and dithyramb. There were neither scattered small theatres, nor performances on offer all the time. Theatres were outdoor, few and far between, and performances were concentrated into one or two dramatic festivals held at select times of the year. One could not go to the theatre all the time in ancient Greece. Audiences were vast mass ones (probably 14,000, for instance, at the theatre of Dionysus in Athens) and were drawn from a wide section of the population. Moreover their reasons for going were as much religious, or to glean instruction, as for pure entertainment. They would not have expected their tragedies to allow them to escape into a fantasy world which bore little relation to reality — or to escape into another private domestic world which had no public relevance. Greek Tragedy was in no way portrayed on a small canvas, nor was it personal in character. It was grand and large, and it dealt with elevated social, political, religious, and moral issues in elevated poetic language. It conveyed these themes through traditional myth, and was thus communal in another sense than just haring a mass audience — it had a mass audience with a shared heritage about to be presented on stage. This heritage had both religious and secular associations.1 1

First, religious. Tragedy, like the other dramatic genres, was an offering to the God Dionysus whose statue stood in the theatre throughout dramatic performances. The main festival at Athens, the Great Dionysia, happened once a year for a few days in the Spring when tragedies, comedies, satyr plays and dithyrambs were performed in open competition in Dionysus' honour. The occasion was for the whole cammnnity and a kind of carnival air reigned. The law courts were closed. Distraints for debt were forbidden. Even prisoners were released, according to Demosthenes, and any outrage committed during the performance was treated as a sacrilegious act. Although such religious ceremonial was essential to the presentation of drama at Athens, it wits the state which managed the production side. A selected official, an archon, in charge of the festival, initially chose the poets and plays, and was responsible for the hiring and distribution of actors. Thus the theatre was also a state function. Peisixtratus had been the one to institute tragic contests recognised by the state, and the first competition was held in 534 B.C. when Thespis won first prize. At each festival from then on, three poets were appointed as competitors, and each exhibited four plays (three tragedies and a satyr play). The general name for the group of plays was didaskalia or teaching, because the author taught (edidaxe) the plays to the actora. A herald proclaimed the victorious poet and his choregus (trainer of the Chorus), and these were crowned with ivy garlands. The poet and choregus who won a prize were listed on public monuments, and in later times actors' names were also recorded on official lists. The moimments of stone erected near the Theatre of Dionysus at Athens, as well as private emimmonta set up by the choregus, or the dedication of masks, marble tablets or sculptural reliefs and the didaskaliai, show how high a place the tragic poet held in society. The place of the poet in ancient fifth century society is thus different from the way poets or dramatists are regarded by most people today. His place was in a context of the Whole community and so was the subject matter of his plays.

Π. Greek Tragedy

Tlta saost scholarly and detailed discussions and evidence for the festivals, staging and performances of the ancient Greek theatre may be found in A.W. Pickard—Cambridge, The Dramatic Festivals o f Athens and The Theatre o f Dionysus in Athens. Shorter and more easily digestible treatments, also suitable for the Greekless reader, may be found in P.D. Amott, Introduction to the Greek Theatre, H.C. Baldry, The Greek Tragic Theatre, E. Simon, The Ancient Theatre, and T.B.L. Webster, Greek Theatre Production. (See General Bibliography, Section VIII). A.E. Haigh's The Attic Theatre (Oxford, 19073), though very old now, and in many ways superceded, has some very useful details on ancient sources.

Greek Tragedy treats passions and emotions of an extreme kind (fear, anger, hate, madness, jealousy, love, affection) in extreme circumstances (murder, suicide, incest, rape, mutilation). Its potency is felt all the more because such circumstances and such emotions occur within the close confines of a family.1 Were the protagonists unrelated, such intensity would be lacking. Yet offsetting all this vibhince is the concentrated and controlled form of the plays which serves as a frame for the action. Of all art forms Greek Tragedy is one of the most formalised and austere. The combination of such formality with the explosive material it expresses, is what gives this drama its impact. In life, extremes of emotion do not often have shape and ordered neatness. They are incoherent and chaotic. The newspapers show everyday the havoc wrought by acts like murder, incest, rape and suicide — the vmy stuff of Greek Tragedy. Amid such havoc the perpetrators or victims of violent deeds seldom have either the temperament or the opportunity to express in a shaped form how they feel or felt at the time. Lawyers may later impose an order for them, but it cannot be their own response as it was at the actual moment of disaster. What Greek Tragedy does is to create an imagined action, through myth, where the characters are able to articulate the thoughts and emotions which drive them, and where the audience is given also the thoughts and emotions of those involved with the main actors, i.e., relatives, friends, outsiders. It does this moreover in such a way that the lasting effect is not one of repugnance, bat of acceptance and understanding. The material of Greek Tragedy is shaped and transformed into art in two main ways. One is through the creative harnessing of ancient myth and more modern insights. The other is through the formal conventions of language and structure. First the combination of myth with more contemporary elements. By this I mean the blending of traditional stories, the shared heritage, with the perspectives which come from the city state, particularly fifth century Athens. This means an expiorive mixture tof past und present. Consider first the mythical element:— 1) Myth means the past to a Greek tragedian, a past which he has inherited over centuries, ever since the earliest stories were recited to his ancestors. 2) This past myth is usually concerned with the heroic — the great heroes as they are presented in epic and lyric poetry. 3) In this telling of the heroic, the individual is important. It is the single figure and his greatness which stands out, whether Achilles or Agamemnon or Odysseus or Ajax or Philoctetes or Heracles. 4) This single figure is so glorified that he may often have become, in epic and particularly in lyric poetry, a model, an archetype of




heroic qualities. Against this let us set the other side - the contemporary world of the poet which must confront this mythical material. 1) It is the present with present values and attitudes. 2) It is not a heroic world - it is the city state with its keen interest in contemporary politics and social issues. 3) It is interested in collective values much more than in the lone outstanding individual. The community matters. 4) It is interested in asking questions, not in eulogising the great heroes — at least not exclusively. As Vemant says, when past heroes become incorporated into contemporary tragedy, they turn into problems and cease to be models. In the creation of tragedy, therefore, we have the meeting of the mythical past, with its stress on the greatness of the hero, with the contemporary present, with its stress on collective values and the asking of fundamental questions. Vernant puts it very elegantly. T ragedy is a debate with a past that is still alive" and Tragedy confronts heroic values and ancient religious representations with new modes of thought that characterise the advent of law within the city state".2 So too Nestlé, Tragedy is born when myth starts to be considered from the point of view of an (ordinary) citizen".3 The heritage of myth is well represented by epic poetry In the shape of Homer, and lyric poetry in the shape of Pindar. Tragedy borrows heavily from the stories told by Homer. In fact Aeschylus was said to have called his plays "rich slices from the banquet of Homer".4 From the Iliad we meet again in tragedy the heroes Agamemnon, Ajax, Menelaus, and Odysseus, as well as Hecuba, Andromache, Helen and Clytemnestra. Other figures from the Dther epic cycles such as Philoctetes, Heracles, Theseus and Oedipus form the main subject of tragedies. Agamemnon for instance plays a leading role in Homer's Iliad and Aeschylus' Oresteia, yet in the transformation from one author to another, setting, concept and climate have changed. Agamemnon is no longer seen as prestigious leader against the backdiop of a glorious war. The new domestic situation in which he is depicted strips him both of prestige and of a glorious eause. The righteousness of the Tiojan war is questioned, Agamemnon's motives are questioned, his weaknesses dwelt upon rather than merely lightly indicated. In this new setting our concept of the hero is found to undergo a change, but it is not only that the setting alone brings about that change, it is that the tragic poet explores a complexity of motive, both human and divine, which would have been inconceivable in Homer's day. It is not simply the greatness of the heroic figure which interests Aeschylus, but the weakness and complex negative traits which underlie the reputation of that heroic greatness. He uses the familiar epic frame in which to paint a new picture in a dramatic form.

In Homer, whatever the heroes' faults, they are unquestionably great and glorious. Eulogy is implicit in the very epithets used to describe them. Pindar also eulogises several of the great hero figures who become later the subject of tragedies. Among them are Ajax, Heracles, Jason and Philoctetes. Homer and Pindar both celebrate Ajax's greatness, particularly his physical strength. Homer calls him "great", "huge", "strong", "tower of defence", "rampart of the Achaeans", "like a blazing lion".5 He defended the ships against the onslaughts of Hector. He was pre-em inent in the battle for the body of Patroclus. He held a special place of honour at one end of the Greek encampment.5 Even in the Odyssey, in the Underworld, where he turns his back on Odysseus, his silence is majestic and impressive. 7 Pindar glorifies Ajax in the fourth Isthmian and pays tribute also to Homer's celebration of the hero's greatness. Neither Homer nor Pindar, however, ask fundamental questions about the nature of the man — they are content merely to celebrate him as a hero. But Sophocles begins from where Homer and Pindar left off. He too acknowledges this hero's greatness, but he asks stringent questions at the same time. His play Ajax is the vehicle for such questions: How can the world comfortably contain such an individual? How can society function properly with one such as him in its midst? How can Ajax himself survive when he confuses so tragically the rôles of comrade—in—arms and arch enemy? What does it mean to him mentally to take the decision to kill himself? In this play we see Ajax not only as a glorious single heroic figure, but also as a tragic character who is so because he is isolated from others, and is unable to communicate with them successfully. He is seen in the perspective of those around him — Odysseus, Tecmessa, Teucer, Agamemnon and Menelaus. Undoubtedly he has that epic star quality which the others do not possess and the continuity with the heroic past is important and a fundamental part of the whole conception — but that is not the whole of it. He is a problem both for himself and for others, and because he is a problem we see the tragedy unfold. The heroic individual is balanced against the collective values of a more modern society, represented particularly by Odysseus, and to some extent by Agamemnon and Menelaus — odious though they are.8 What makes the drama of the play is precisely this tension between the old heroic individual concerns (the core of the myth), and the newer collective values of society which had more relevance to Sophocles' own time. Of course this is an over—simplification — there are problems implicit in epic too, as in Achilles' case, but they are not articulated as problems, they are just told end the audience must draw its own conclusions. One of the most eulogised heroes in Pindar is Heracles. He is celebrated as the glorious hero par excellence — monster—slayer and civiliser of the known world. In the first Nemean Pindar introduces him.



and then goes on to describe his miraculous exploits as a baby when Hera sent snakes to destroy him in his cradle.9 In the ninth Pythian are the words: Stupid is the man, whoever he be, whose Ups defend not Herakles, who remembers not the waters of Dirke that gave him life, and Iphicles. I, who have had some grace of them, shaU accomplish my vow to bring them glory; let only the shining Ught of the singing Graces fail me not.1 0 In the fourth Isthmian he speaks of Heracles' ascension to Olympus after civilising the known world, and in the second Olympian he greets Heracles as the founder of the Olympic games.11 Euripides takes the spirit of the Pindaric celebration and incorporates it early in his play. The Mad Heracles, in an ode somewhat reminiscent of Pindar.12 In it the chorus eulogises the great labours of Heracles, stressing his superhuman strength and effortless valour. But this dramatist too is concerned ultimately not with mere celebration but with problems. The end of the play shows a transformation: not the glorious invincible hero, but a vulnerable human being struck down by madness. This is a disgraced and humiliated Heracles who is broken and dependant. It is society who rescues him in the shape of Theseus his friend and Amphitryon his father. As the hero is brought down to the level of others, the superhuman isolation goes and human social values are seen to count. Onee again the tension between ;the lone heroic figure and socially co-operative values are worked through in the course of the drama. Perhaps nowhere is this blend of archaic myth and mere recent thought, of the clash between the heroic individual and collective co-operation, seen more clearly than in Aeschylus' Oresteia. There, an archaic story of the heroic Mycenaean age ends up in Athens — not famous in Mycenaean times nt all, and an Athens, at that, with contemporary resonances. The old story of a family's blood feud is played out in the Agamemnon and Libation Bearers where the tribat law of vendetta rules, and blood is shed for blood in seemingly endless succession. In the last play of the trilogy - the Eumenides — a modem legal solution is imposed, and by means of a new jury system at the court of the Areopagus at Athens, a public net a private judgement is made on the crime of murder. The setting up of this court in the play reflects an historical event, the confirmed attribution to the Areopagus of homicide cases in 462 B.C. by Ephialtes, and the patronage which Athene, the patron goddess of Athens, extended to this institution and to Athens as a whole. Thus the present community of the whole city is inextricably blended with what is ostensibly an archaic drama recounting an ancient myth. Thirty two tragedies survive, and of these, nineteen have as tbeir setting a city or polis, a polis with a ruler, a community and political


implication which have a bearing on contemporary issues. Of these nineteen, the Eumenides is set in Athens itself, Sophocles'Oedipus at Colonus is set at Colonus, very near Athens, Euripides' Suppliants isset at Eleusis very near Athens, and his Heracleidae is set in Athens itself. The rest are in Greek cities like Corinth, Thebes, Mycenae, or Troizen. All these cities have a turannos or sole ruler. The setting and the form of rule are ostensibly archaic to fit the traditional myth, but again and again the dramatist imports contemporary resonances which will be of particular interest to his audience. Two of Sophocles' plays — the Antigone and Oedipus the King — are set in a polis, though that of Thebes not Athens, and both, particularly the Antigone, are to some extent concerned with the question of rule in relation to the ruler and his citizens. Sophocles was not on the whole aiming to make specific references to the contemporary political scene13 although the plague at Thebes in Oedipus the King will have awoken familiar echoes in the audiences' minds of their own privations from plague at Athens in the opening years of the Peloponnesian W ar.14 But this aside, Sophocles was concerned in these plays much more with general questions of what makes a good ruler in a city, what stresses affect him and what should be his relations with the citizens. Such questions would be of perennial interest to the inhabitants of a city like Athens, even though the mechanisms of rule were no longer the same as they had been under the tyrants, and even though the dramatic location was Thebes not Athens. Such examples show that in Greek tragedy the archaic myths are transmitted not only to preserve their traditional features — though this transmission of the past is a vital ingredient of the dramatic conceptions and indeed forms an assumption from which to view the whole dramatic development1s — but they are also permeated by a sense of what the present and the city state mean. The old hero is put in a new context where new judgements are made on him. There is a sense of the community, sometimes represented by the comments of the chorus as ordinary citizens, e.g. in the Antigone, Oedipus the King, Medea and Hippolytus and sometimes by the comments of other characters who represent the common good like Odysseus in the Ajax, Theseus in the Heracles, the messengers in the Bacchae. The hero may have greatness, as he often has in Sophocles, but the greatness does not go unchallenged. It is not flawless. In Euripides the greatness may disappear altogether, as in the case of Jason, once the great hero of the Argonauts, and now a paltry mean—minded person caught in a shabby dometic situation, or Menelaus as he appears in the Helen or Agamemnon in the Iphigenia in Aulis. This questioning spirit so characteristic of Greek Tragedy is also important when one considers it as a religious event. It has often been said that tragedy's origins lie in ritual.16 This may be true. But that 7

implies repetition, dogma and unquestioning belief, and classical tragedy was never like this, although its performance was sacred to a god, and its content still reflected to some extent the relations between gods and men. For gods as well as heroes were inherited from earlier myth and the innovations the dramatists bring to religious consciousness are just as important as the developing complexity in their grasp of human behaviour. In fact the two are inextricably linked. It is not too much to say that the gods dominate the world of tragedy and those gods are no longer the sunny Olympians of Homer. In the interval between the eighth century and the fifth, moral consciousness has been bom and the gods become associated with the implacable punishment of men's wrongdoing. Whether Aeschylus' all—seeing Zeus who is associated with. Justice, or Sophocles' relentless oracles which always come true in the fulness of time, or Euripides' pitiless Aphrodite_or Dionysus, the gods hover above the heroes' actions watching men trip themselves up. And whether it is the passionate belief of Aeschylus, or the inscrutable acceptance of Sophocles, or the protesting criticism of Euripides, the gods are always there at the heart of tragedy and the new problematic lives of the heroes must be seen against this divine background. But tragedies are not sacred texts. By classical times the art form was emancipated, and the authors free to change traditional treatments, criticise even the divine figures and sometimes, as Euripides did, show radical scepticism about the gods, their morals and even their very existence. This is all the result of a creative meeting between two worlds — the archaic, traditional, aristocratic, heroic world of myth, and the newer contemporary values of the democratic, highly social city state where the ordinary citizen's views counted in the general reckoning of human conduct and achievement, and where contemporary thinkers were questioning moral and theological issues. The tragedians had available to them all the resources of inherited myth which they incorporated into their own experience as beings within the polis. They also had to work through the contrived shapes of language and structure which conventionally belonged to the dramatic genre of tragedy. As we see them, these contrived shapes are overt and analysable, and their variety of style and development is largely responsible for the rich and complex experience which comes from watching this drama. Through them the dramatic action is assimilable: through them the reactions of those watching and listening are orchestrated. In other words they Biter through their disciplined structures the inherent turbulence of the basic material, thus controlling by form and pace the responses of the audience. First the verse form. Greek Tragedy was written in verse in an elevated and traditional poetic language. Most translations, even the verse ones, are misleading in that they do not record the variety of verse forms employed in the different sections of the plays. Spoken dialogue was in iambic trimeter. The sung portions, choral odes and solo arias, and some

exchanges between actor and chorus, were in lyric metres of which there was a wide range and variety to express different moods. Rhyme was not used. Music would accompany the lyric portions, often on the pipe but the music accompanying the drama has unfortunately not survived except for tiny almost unintelligible fragments. The long spoken episodes, rather like acts, stand between shorter sung choral odes, or stasima as they are sometimes called, of which there are usually three or four in the course of the play. A processional song called the parodos marks the first entrance of the chorus into the orchestra and the name is clearly associated with that of the parodoi or side—entrances. The choral odes were danced as well as sung, and had elaborate choreography which again has not survived. Modern productions have to use imagination in providing steps and music in which to express the lyric parts of tragedy, but they can on the whole successfully reproduce the basic metrical rhythms and recurring patterns of the words themselves. The language in which iambic speech and choral lyric are written, differs. The former is in the Attic dialect, the latter includes elements from a Doric form of Greek, pethaps reflecting the Peloponnesian origins of choral songs. There is the utmost contrast in Greek Tragedy between the spoken portion and the lyric. The former, though in verse, resembles more nearly ordinary conversation and, with occasional colloquialisms, particularly in Euripides, its language also owes oiuch to rhetoric, particularly in the set debate and the longer speeches. Euripides' language here is outstanding for its fluency and clarity of diction whether employed in argument, appeal, statement of feeling or philosophical reflection.1 7 The lyrics on the contrary are in more elaborate metres and highly poetic language containing more ornament, more images, more condensed syntactical structures and more compressed thought patterns.18 They are composed in the tradition of the great lyric poets, particularly Pindar whose somewhat obscure but highly colourful and elaborate style was famous in antiquity and would have been familiar to the dramatists' audience. It is hard to communicate in a few words just what the lyric metres achieve in Greek Drama. And indeed we do not always know. But one can say that they characterise and control pace, mood, and tone. They act as a kind of register of emotion. Certain metres, like the dochmiac, for instance, are associated with high points of excitement, others like the ionic rhythms have cult associations, others, like the dactylic, convey a strong sense of insistent and forward movement, or may recall the hexameter beat of epic. Frequently it is the subtle blend and changing of rhythms which create special effects as for instance when the opening ionics of the Bacchae parodos, evoking religious and cult associations, turn eventually through choriambs and glyconics to excited dactyls as the pace gathers momentum and the women sing of rushing off to the mountains,19



or when the primarily iambic first stasimon of the Trojan Women is given an epic flavour at the beginning by its opening dactyls. The lyric metres, more emotional than iambic trimeters, are. often used in contrast with the trimeter in mixed dialogues where one actor sings in lyrics and another replies in spoken utterance or where an actor will speak his lines and the chorus reply in sung lyrics. In this way the different emotional levels are offset as for instance at Ale, 244, where Alcestis, in a semi—delirious trance, as she has a vision of approaching death, is given lyrics, and the uncomprehending Admetus speaks in iambics. The chorus are always at the heart of the piny· Singing and dancing to music, they have a function which is both a part of, and yet slightly separated from, the main action. Placed in the orchestra, the circular dancing space, the chorus are. physically distanced from the actors and like the messenger they are usually, though hot always, outsiders who look at the happenings from a slightly different point of view from the protagonists. They are ordinary citizens,20 the protagonists are not. The chorus' task is to change the gear of the action, interrupting its forward flow and examining it in new perspectives. Their look at events allows time for reflection and judgement, leisure to consider motivation and causal explanations. They may as so often in Aeschylus — e.g. in the parodos of the Agamemnon (40 ff.) — bring to light a whole realm of background material which sets into relief the immediate events, or they may as in the ode on Man in the Antigone (332 ff.), cast specific actions in a more universal context. Their rôle is that of an interested commentator who is able not only to reflect, but to look around as well as directly at an action, proriding a sort of philosophical pause in highly poetic form. But sometimes,- as in the Bacchae, for instance, they are strongly involved in the action as participants, and here their songs actually enact the religious rituals which are at the heart of the play's experience. Here there is no detachment, only devotion to the god. The choral function is complex and multiple, and varies from context to context, particularly in Euripides. The varied lyric metres show a fine register of different emotions and indicate tone and mood. Frequently they change as an ode proceeds. Lyric is however not restricted to the chorus, and the solo aria is often a tour de force in the playand associated with high emotion expressed through the lyric metres in which it is cast. This aetor's song in lyric is called a monody. Not all plays have one but some, as for instance the Ion, Trojan Women and Phoenician Woment of Euripides, have two or more. The monodies of Greek tragedy formed high points of sympathetic identification with hero or heroine — more usually the latter since only a very few male characters are given one to sing in all of extant Greek tragedy. Here the author sought to move his audience with stirring music and words that excited pity. The monody is often designed to present a subjective and partial point of view which reflects the strong preoccupations of the singer, but which may be at variance with other 10

views presented in the play. Eurpidides, the most renowned composer of monodies, gives his singers just such passionate commitment and bias.21 Examples are Ion's adoration of Apollo, Creousa's blasphemy against the same god, Hecuba's aching despair, Cassandra's delirious wedding song, or Electra's passionate grief.22 The monody has a lyric non—logical structure with images, personal apostrophes, laments and prayers predominating.2 3 Among the spoken parts of the play are certain set pieces, easily recognisable in formal terms, such as the messenger speech, agon (debate), rhesis (single set speech) and stichomythia (line dialogue). In Euripides these are much more obviously marked off than in Sophocles and Aeschylus so that they sometimes seem almost crystallised and isolable in themselves rather than merging into one another or growing naturally. Euripides no doubt had his own reasons for this and indeed often the sharp contrast between modes creates a dramatic excitement of a peculiarly impelling kind.24 The messenger speech, much beloved by Euripides, is one such spoken device.25 It isa set narrative speech in iambics, reporting offstage action to the actors on the stage and to the audience. Perhaps here the rôle of the imagination for the audience is at its height. A whole scene is set for the spectator with exact detail sketched in so that visual and auditory images etch themselves sharply on the mind. Gone are the personal apostrophes, images, laments and prayers of the lyric style. Here, instead, is ordered narrative in strict chronological sequence, full of verbs of action and graphic physical detail. Unlike the monodist, the messenger is an outsider, a third person objective witness who records events in an unbiassed way and in such a manner that the audience can make their own judgements. It would be a mistake to think of the messenger's report as a poor substitute which fails to make up for what cannot be shown on the stage. On the contrary it is superior to spectacle. The Greeks delighted in narrative ever since the performances of the epic rhapsodes were formally instituted by Peisistratus, and long before that no doubt, and such extended reports will have given special pleasures in themselves. As Aristotle saw, there were disadvantages to mere horror spectacles even had it been feasible to stage them .26 For they produce confusion and shock — so that their impact would preclude proper assimilation of the events. What the messenger does is to control and stage the experience so that it is assimilable to the spectator bit by bit in an ordered way. Euripides' messenger speeches with their quiet pictorial beginnings, their slow build-ups, their fragments of recorded conversation, and their graphic descriptions of the climactic acts of horror in visual terms, are masterpieces of the art of narrative. The two in the Bacchae for instance not only tell the audience what has happened, but make imaginable through pictures the Whole Bacehic experience. Here the narrative is indispensable, for it is inconceivable that the audience would ever be able 11

to view directly the mass attack of the women upon the cattle or upon Pentheus. It would be utterly beyond stage resources. But if by any chance they were allowed to view it, it is unlikely that they would emerge with as clear and as objective a picture as the messenger is able to give. Narrative enables greater total understanding than mere spectacle, and can condense more into a short space of time. In that it is one degree removed from direct sight, and is delivered by an imperial witness, it practises a kind of distancing which reduces the crude horror of the tragic action and requires balanced judgement as well as an emotional respdnse. Many tragedies contain a set debate or 'agon' where one character presents a case in formal terms, and another, as adversary, responds point for point in a counter speech. Euripides, partibularly, formalised such debates, so that they often resembled law -court speeches, and they are indeed sometimes cast in formal rhetorical terms. 27 Examples are Medea's great debate with Jason, or Hecuba's with Helen in the Trojan Women. In these, logical and orderly exposition is more important than naturalism. It is never possible entirely to separate feelings from reasoned thought — nor should it be. But the modes of tragedy assault both, in differing degrees, by different routes. The solo aria is a direct appeal to the feelings through emotive sound and image, through words of personal address and ' reaction. The messenger speech appeals to the audience's consciousness through an ordered evocation of the senses so that one perceives and hears a chronological sequence of events in the mind's eye and ear. The agon, on the other hand, captures the audience's hearts and minds by persuasion through reasoned argument. Although the result may involve the emotions, the method is more intellectual than in either the aria or the messenger speech. Thus the agoti in the Trojan Women with its sharp development of points of debate gives an academic edge to an action 'which is Otherwise predominantly lyric in mood. The rhesis is a set speech of an actor which works by persuasive and ordered lope and which may none the less often make strong appeal to the emotions. It is the commonest of all dramatic forms and one of the most varied, and overlaps with other parts. It may, for example, form part of a debate scene, it may convey extended dialogue or it mey stand on its own in monologue. Its tenor may be argumentative, reflective, pathetic, informative or questioning. Many set speeches take the form of a monologue where the speaker examines his or her motives and actions in an intense process of self-examination.2 8 Such are Medea's speech to the women of Corinth a t Med. 214 ff. or her monologue at 1021 ff., Phaedra's speech at Hlpp. 373 ff. or 616 ff., Hecuba's speech at Hec. 585 ff. Often it is hard to separate the emotional element from the thought element when the poet gets the balance right. For instance Medea's speech at Med. 1021 ff., where she debates whether she can bring herself to kill her own children, has a tight logical structure, but through this

makes strong appeal also to the emotions.29 There is a delicate balance between direct apostrophe, a simple expression of raw feeling, and reasoned alternatives which are worked out logically. But the dramatist brilliantly gives the impression that the logic is forced out desperately by a person fighting for control in a situation where the emotions threaten to take over. The result is a powerful speech which assaults both our emotional and our thinking faculties, made no less effective by the violent swings of stance which Medea takes as she is torn between the immediate sight of her children before her, and the more long-term thought of her future life as it must follow from present circumstances. Stichomythla is a special kind of formal dialogue where the characters speak in single line exchanges. It is not the only kind of dialogue or even the commonest in tragedy but I single it out here because of its regular and easily identifiable form. Such a tight and formal framework permits speed, concentrated and pointed utterance within its compass.30 It is particularly suited to scenes of interrogation such as we see in the Bacchae where it communicates with its economy and rapid pace the extreme tension and changing shifts between the god Dionysus and Pentheus the King.31 All these items, monody, choral ode, messenger speech, set debate, rhesis and stichomythia make up the 'formal' elements of Greek Tragedy. Now 'formal' sometimes conjures up an image of fossilisation and aridity, but this is far from the case. On the contrary, the variety of metre, language, dialect and mode within the compass of one tragedy, and the alternation of song and speech, and of lyric and dialogue, made Greek Tragedy a rich experience offering a range seldom even dreamt of today. Each mode approaches the same dramatic action in a new way, with its own perspective and its own style, so that the audience is constantly exposed to shifts of perception, and the contrasts such shifts imply. Moreover each mode would have had its own associations — lyric arousing echoes of the great lyric tradition in Greece, narrative, reminiscent of epic, catering for the pleasure in story-telling the Greeks always had. And each mode carried with it its own responses which contrasted with others. Thus the great debates provided intellectual stimulus and were set off against the more emotional colouring of choral odes and arias. All were combined within the one dramatic action. With great range of form went an economy and concentration lacking in much modern drama. The action was usually confined to twenty—four hours in one place, and was so arranged that all the parts could be taken by three actors. Scenery was sparse, subtle gestures and expressions were precluded by masks, heavy costumes and the sheer size of the theatre. But these things in themselves explain why the burden must be on the language (speech and song) and why the words were so important. In them were all the things which today are done by elaborate costume, m ake-up, close-up photography, lighting, scenery, stage directions, and all



the rest. To the Greeks the expressed utterance was all — or almost all.32 So it was that the very great range of form in Greek Tragedy evinced in the different modes of speech and sung lyric, was matched by an equal range of expressions of complex human emotion, action, and thought made to fît those forms and channelled into patterns of plot, setting and action of extreme economy. It was this rich content within a controlling structure which involved too a creative harmonising of past and present attitudes through use of myth, as I outlined at the beginning, which gave, and still does give, Greek tragedy its forceful, concentrated impact.

Euripides was the youngest of the three great Athenian tragedians (c.484—406 B.C.) although Sophocles, his slightly older contemporary, outlived him by a few months. In his lifetime he was not as popular with the Athenian public as the others, winning fewer prizes (four first prizes out of twenty two occasions) and ending his life in voluntary exile away from Athens at the court of Archelaus of Macedon.33 More of his work has survived than the meagre seven plays each we have of Aeschylus and Sophocles. Nineteen plays entire have eome down to us under his name, including the satyr play Cyclops, the Alcestis, a substitute for a satyr play, and the probably spurious Rhesus. Perhaps because of the wider sample known to us, part of which has been preserved by accident and not by deliberate selection, his work seems uneven and diverse in range.34 There are the great tragedies of a very high order such as the Medea, Hippolytus, Trojan Women and Bacchae. But there are also plays where tragic themes mix with lighter elements and the ending is happy, such as the Alcestis, Ion, Iphigenia in Tauris, Helen. Attempts to categorise Euripides' style and plot by chronological criteria, thematic groupings, or structural elements, have largely failed, since there always seem to be exceptions which prevent such categories being watertight.3 5 Euripides is the most elusive of dramatists and the most resistant to fixed labels. Not that his contemporaries hesitated to fix labels upon him. The comic poet Aristophanes was one such, a sharp critic who parodied him for his choice of subject matter, characters, "plots, opinions and style.36 Aristophanes saw him as ultra—trendy, undermining traditional religious and moral beliefs in a dangerous way and introducing outrageous musical innovations. He saw Euripides' characters, particularly his women characters, as unprincipled and shameless, too clever for their own or anybody else's good. He thought that Euripides elevated the ordinary to an absurd degree, making the trivial seem important, and low characters appear too significant. He therefore saw him as destroying the old heroic values and introducing instead ambiguous moral standards.37 A rebel in

fact of a most subversive kind. This is quite a catalogue of blemishes. How misleading is it? Aristophanes is concerned of course mainly with raising a laugh — and for this, grass exaggeration is necessary. None the less much of his criticism is apt, if in a superficial way. Euripides does introduce women characters who are criminal in their actions, like Medea who kills her children and two others, or like Phaedra who falsely incriminates her stepson thus thdirectiy causing his death. But Aeschylus had portrayed Clytemnestra — surely a woman of towering criminality. Why the fuss now? Perhaps because Euripides led the audience to see the action from these characters' points of view, whereas Aeschylus hardly encourages us to sympathise whh Clytemnestra. Euripides was able to show what it fe lt like to have to kill your children or your mother; to be consumed by devouring jealousy or a desire for revenge; to fight an overmastering love and struggle with the consequences of madness.3 8 And in so doing, unlike Sophocles, who an the whole portrayed characters who retained their wholeness and integrity throughout their tragedies, he explored weakness not strength, and exposed those elements in character which revealed disintegration and the split persona. Electra, Orestes, Pentheus, Phaedra, Admetus and even Medea or the great Heracles all reveal in some degree traits which characterise such disintegration and a nature divided against itself.39 To say that in so presenting his characters Euripides was debunking the heroic is only part of the truth. Undeniably in a play like the Electra all the old heroic assumptions and settings are undermined or changed. Electra and Orestes are no longer the single-minded champions of justice. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus are no longer the uncompromising villains they were in Aeschylus. The murders are no longer performed in such a way that they can be seen as heroic actions. Even the setting has changed from grand palace to impoverished hovel. And in other plays too such as Iphigenia in Aulis, great leaders of the heroic tradition like Agamemnon and Menelaus appear in particularly despicable lights, shifting their ground, arguing for expediency and promoting personal ambition at the expense of principles. Yet it would be a mistake to say that Euripides had no concept of what it meant to be heroic if we think of this word not in its narrow archaic sense of military and physical valour, but in more general terms. It is that often he redefines traditional heroic qualities or else transfers them to women, placed in different situations from male heroes. Medea for instance, although a woman, shows many of the great heroic qualities of say an Ajax or an Achilles: bravery, desire to preserve her own honour, refusal to be laughed at by her enemies, the decisive nature to act in revenge.40 What makes her interesting is the combination of these traditional qualities with her rôle as a woman and mother. In the Trojan Women, Hecuba the old queen of Troy is heroic in her



m . Euripides

endurance ot tne sufferings inflicted on her by the Greeks, and in her fight to preserve her family. And when Euripides in the first stasimon mai«* the chorus "Sing, Muse, of Ilium, a lament consisting of new songs"41 he is redefining the old epic notions of glorious war and transferring them to a setting where it is the victims who are seen as the true heroes — a point Cassandra also makes in her speech at Tro. 365 ff. Several women characters voluntarily surrender their lives for a noble cause — such as Iphigeneia in Iphigenia in Aulis, the parthenos in the Heradddae, or Evadne in the Suppliants, not to mention Alcestis who dies to save her husband. These are all examples of heroism, though not in the traditional masculine mould. In the Heracles where the protagonist is male, Euripides contrasts the old traditional and active heroism of Heracles in performing the labours, with the more passive qualities of endurance he must display in facing up to the terrible consequences of his subsequent madness. He rejects the traditional hero's solution to disgrace, namely suicide — the way Ajax had tairpn — and decides to live on in the company of his humiliation and misery. A new heroism perhaps for a newer age.42 Aristophanes, through the mouthpieces of Aeschylus and Dionysus in the Frogs, regretted the passing of the old standards and saw nothing but demeaning and undignified negativism in their place. "Oikeia pragmata”, "ordinary things", to him were not worthy of tragedy. But Euripides' celebration of the ordinary, if so it may be called, is often a positive and important part of the way he saw events and actions. It is not only in settings and small actions we see it at work,43 but also in characters. Again and again relatively humble characters play a significant rôle in a play's events. The former husband of Electra is The old servant in the arguably the only sane person in the Electra, Hippolytus has the wisdom Hippolytus lacks. The two messengers in the Bacchae grasp the truth of the Dionysiae phenomenon with an instinctive sense denied to all the other characters in the play.44 They in fact carry the message of the play — that it is dangerous to deny such instinctive wisdom and to mock at belief. Aristophanes was therefore right when he said that Euripides introduced the ordinary into tragedy. He did. The ordinary person is listened to and often proved right. And if this is regarded as an overturning of values, it is a positive and significant one, and should not be dismissed as mere rabble rousing. What Aristophanes saw as frivolity and irresponsibility in Euripides in fact sprang from a deep care for the world and a wish to protest at its wrongs. This is what his characters show. It was not to abandon a portrayal of the heroic but to redefine it. And all the charges of agnosticism or heresy which the comic poet loved to heap upon Euripides' shoulders are likewise superficially true, but in a deeper sense misleading. Aristophanes was wrong to see Euripides' own views in every character who railed against the gods. Indeed his own views are difficult

to recognise since he is usually much too good a dramatist to intrude his own persona. His characters display many different beliefs as their rôle and the occasion demands. It is true however that attack on the gods is a persistent and recurring theme from major characters. Repeatedly his leading characters — Hecuba, Iphigeneia, Amphitryon, Heracles, Ion, Creousa, Electra, Orestes — express their despair at a Universe negligently managed by divine beings.45 But his despair springs not from a reluctance to believe at all on their part, but from an outrage that gods, as they are commonly understood, can be so amoral and utterly uncaring of human well-being. It is the disillusion of the perfectionist that Euripides so often portrays. As Heracles is made to say,45 but I do net believe the gods commit adultery, or bind each other in chains. I never did believe it; I never shall; nor that one god is tyrant of the rest. If god is truly god, he is perfeet, lacking nothing. These are poets' wretched lies. Such sentiments come not from the frivolity of his characters, bet from their taking the Universe too seriously. If there is a fault it is the latter not the former, that should be laid against Euripides' door. And no one who has heard or read the Bacchae could possibly accuse its creator of either agnosticism or superficiality. There are depths in it still being explored today. The very characteristics in Euripides' work which disturbed Aristophanes and his contemporaries — his moral ambiguity, his scepticism, his anti—heroic stonce and his common touch — are what appeal to the modern reader for they seem more in keeping with our own age. In the twentieth century we have been preoccupied with doubt and disintegration, demythologising and rationalising, and this is what Euripides epitomises. We can admire the sheer brilliance with which he manipulates the myths in a way which both uses and exposes their assumptions. While keeping the traditional stories as a frame, he yet undercuts them by rationalising many of the attitudes which have previously underpinned them. Notions of the very gods he uses come under attack: old conceptions about pollution and guilt are questioned; traditional criteria for judging character are scrutinised and found wanting. And in this problematic climate his characters like Electra, Orestes, Medea, Phaedra or Pentheus, pick their way, on the verge of collapse under the strain, as their rational grip loses the battle with the forces of disintegration. But the drama he created did not always offer purely negative perspectives. Again and again positive human values are seen to triumph over divine neglect or apathy — the friendship of Amphitryon and Theseus, the supporting love of Hecuba for her family and her courage, the integrity of Ion, the compassion of Cadmus and Agave, the selfless sacrifice of Iphigeneia, Alcestis, the parthenos in the Heradeidae, and the



cheerful sanity of ordinary people like messengers, or servants. In the importance he attached to supporting rôles and to the close interaction between his characters, Euripides prefers not to focus upon one dominating protagonist. The whole social context is what matters, and environment and social factors play a much larger part in determining the main character's rôle and the course of the action than they do in Sophocles (with the exception perhaps of the Philoctetes).47 In short Euripides was adventurous — adventurous above all in his treatment of myth. And adventurousness here meant an entirely new perspective on plot, character, moral and religious values, and social factors. But he was adventurous too in treatment of form and structure. He experimented with music and lyrics, with metrical forms and with the breaking up of dialogue. He increased the rôle of the solo aria and messenger speech and he sometimes changed the traditional function of the chorus. He introduced more colloquialism into the dialogue and more elaboration than Sophocles into the late lyrics, thus increasing contrasts between the modes. What is clear is that he reshaped tragedy in a radical way so that it could never be quite the same again. He went as far a t he could in giving it a new image without abandoning its basic conventions. And there is common agreement that his work is, at its best, of the first rank. Of course there are faults and unevennesses in the plays: echoes from the soap-box occasionally, irrelevant rhetorical excrescences sometimes, self-indulgence in over—elaborate ornamentation of some of the later lyrics, too blatant melodrama perhaps in certain plays, loose plot construction in others.48 But informing all is an understanding of a very powerful sort, a mind which for all its critical sharpness, also knew the human heart and dissected it not only with uncanny perception but also with compassion. It was Aristotle who called Euripides tragikotatos ton poeton, "the most emotionally moving of the poets",49 a paradox one might think for one who was also the most intellectual or dramatists,1but a paradox that for him somehow makes sense. Shirley A. Barlow

Notes to General Introduction 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24.


Aristotle, Poetics, ch. XIV, 1453 b, 19—22. Vemant & Vidal—Naquet, 10; 4. Cited ib., 9. Athenaeus, 347e. Homer, It. 23. 708, 842; 3. 229 ; 7. 211; 17. 174, 360; Od. 11. 556; II. 3. 229; 6. 5; 7. 211. II. 11. 5 - 9 . Od. 11. 543 ff. See especially Soph. A). 121 ff. where Odysseus rejects the traditional Greek view of the rightness of hating one's enemies and 1067 ff. where Menelaus complains of the problems an individual such as Ajax poses for the army as a whole and its discipline. Pindar, Nem. 1. 33 ff. Pyth. 9. 87 ff., transi, by R. Lattimore. Isth. 4. 56 ff. Ol. 2. 3 ff. H.F. 348 ff. Unless the use of ton stratêgon 'the commander' Ant. 8, and andrôn prôton 'first of men' O.T. 33 are veiled references to Pericles who was stratèges 'general', and whose influence was very much that of first citizen. See Thuc. 11.65.10; V. Ehrenberg, Sophocles and Pericles (Oxford 1954) 105 ff. O.T. 168 ff. In fact Aristophanes set great store by what he saw as the rôle of tragedy to preserve traditional heroic featuresand criticised Euripides strongly for debasing such features. See next section. For a recent analysis of ritual elements in Greek Drama see F.R. Adrados, Festival, Comedy and Tragedy (Leiden, 1975), chs. Π, VII, v ra , XI. CoUard (1981) 20 -2 3 , 25 -2 7 . Ib. 26 -2 7 . Ba. 64 ff. and Dodds' analysis, Bacchae (1960) 72—74. Not in the technical sense of course since women were not full citizens but in the sense of people concerned at issues in the community. On the function of the monody see Barlow, ch. ΠΙ, 43 ff. Ion 82 ff., 859 ff.; Tro. 308 ff., 98 ff.; El. 112 ff. e.g. Hipp. 817 ff.; Ion 82 ff., 859 ff.; Tro. 98 ff.See also Barlow, 45 ff. See for instance the contrasts in Trojan Women between the prologue and Hecuba's monody, between Cassandra's monody and her iambic 19

25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36.




rhesis, between the great debate and the subsequent choral ode, between the iambic dialogue at 1260 ff. and the lyric kommos which ends the play. On the messenger speech see Barlow 61 ff. Aristotle, Poetics, ch. ΧΙΠ, 1453 b, 8—10. On the agon see C. Collard, G & R, 22 (1975), 58 —71; J. Duchemin, L'Agôn dans la tragédie grecque (Paris, 1945). Collard (1981) 21 -2 2 . I am assuming here that 1056 —80 are genuine as it seems to me they must be (pace Diggle, Tomus I (1984) of his Oxford Classical Text). Collard (1981) 22. Ba. 463 -5 0 8 , 647 -6 5 5 , 802 -841. N.B. the change to two-line dialogue, i.e. distychomythia, at 923 —962. But for the rôle of the non-verbal in theatrical performance see Taplin (1978) passim. See the chart of chronology and award of prizes in Collard (1981) 2. Collard (1981) 3; Barrett, Hippclytos (1964) 50 ff. Collard (1981) 5. Criticisms of Euripides occur extensively in Frogs, Thesmophoriazusae, substantially in Acharnions and in scattered references throughout Aristophanes' other works. See G.M.A. Grube, The Greek and Roman Critics (London, 1965) 22—32; P. Rau, Paratragodia (München, 1967); K.J. Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (London, 1972) 183-189. Religious beliefs: Frogs 888 ff. Immorality: Frogs 771 ff., 1079 ff., Thesm. 389 ff. Musical innovations: Frogs 1298 ff., 1331 ff. Women characters: Frogs 1049 ff., Thesm. 389 ff. Cleverness: Frogs 775 ff., 956 ff., 1069 ff. Stress on the ordinary or sordid, the antiheroic: Frogs 959 ff., 1013 ff., 1064, Ach. 410 ff. A point made by Vickers 563—4 and 566 (apropos of the Electra). See Medea's agonised speech at 1021 ff., Electra's remorse at 1183 ff., Hermione's vindictive jealousy expressed in the scene at And. 147 ff., Hecuba's gloating revenge over Polymestor Hec. 1049 ff. and her justification before Agamemnon 1233 ff., Phaedra's struggle with her love at Hipp. 373 ff. particularly 380—381 and 393 ff., Heracles' struggle to face the consequences of his madness from H.F. 1089 to the end. Electra and Orestes in the Electra both suffer remorse for their murder of their mother. Orestes in the Orestes is reduced to madness through guilt and tormented by conscience (sunesis). Pentiums is destroyed by the very thing he professes to despise, ending his life as voluntary spectator at a Bacchic revel from which he had previously dissociated himself. Phaedra knows how she should be but cannot achieve it. Her love overrides her better judgement as does Medea's hate (Hipp. 380 -3 8 1 , Med. 1078 - 9 ) . Admetus suffers


40 41. 42. 43.

44. 45. 46. 47. 48.


acute remorse for letting Alcestis give her life for him (Ale. 861 ff. and 935 ff.). Heracles is on the brink of total disintegration (H.F. 1146 ff.). B.M.W. Knox, 'The Medea o f Euripides', YCS 25 (1977), 193-225, esp. 198—9. Tro. 511 ff. See my note on this passage. See esp. H.H.O. Chalk, 'Arete and Bia in Euripides' Herakles', JHS 82 (1962), 7 ff. Settings such as the farmer's cottage in the Electra or the drab tents of the Greek encampment in the Trojan Women. Often ordinary actions are described such as when the chorus and companions are doing the washing (Hipp. 121 ff., Hel. 179 ff.) or Ion is sweeping out the temple with a broom (Ion 112 ff.) or Hypsipyle sweeping the step (Hyps. fr. 1. ii Bond), or the chorus describe themselves getting ready for bed (Hec. 914 ff.). Ba. 769 ff., 1150 ff. Trojan Women 469 ff., 1240 ff., 1280 ff. I.T . 384 ff. H.F. 339 ff., 1340 ff. Ion 435 ff., 1546 ff., 911 ff. El. 979, 981, 1190, 1246. 1341—1346 transi, by W. Arrowsmith, cf. I.T . 384 ff. See n. 43. These points are covered by Collard (1981) e.g. rhetorical excrescences 25—26, over—ornamentation of lyrics 26—27, melodrama to be seen in last minute rescues or recognitions 6. Many plays have been criticised for their plot construction in the past; see my article on H.F. in G & R 29(1982), 115 —25, although, as I have pointed out, opinions on this subject are now changing. Aristotle, Poetics, ch. ΧΙΠ, 1453a, 28 -3 0 .


GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY (This Bibliography has been compiled by the General Editor, and concentrates on works in English; a supplementary Bibliography for Alcestis follows, compiled by the editor of this volume). I: complete critical editions The standard edition is by J . Diggle in the Oxford Classical Texts: Tomus I (1984) Cyclops, Alcestis, Medea, Heraclidae, Hippolytus, Andromacha, Hecuba; Tomus Π (1981) Supplices, Electra, Hercules, Troades, Iphigenia in Tauris, Ion·, until Tomus ΙΠ is published, its predecessor, by G. Murray (19132), will remain standard for Helena, Phoenissae, Orestes, Bacchae, Iphigenia Aulidensis, Rhesus. The edition of R. Prinz and N. Weeklein (Leipzig, 1878—1902) is still useful for its apparatus and appendices. The 'Collection Budé1 edition, by L. Méridier and others (Paris, 1923 onwards), still lacks Rhesus; it has French translation, introductory essays and some notes. The 'Bibliotheca Teubneriana' issues plays singly, each with bibliography and some with brief critical notes, by different editors (Leipzig, 1964 onwards). Fragments: when it is published. Volume V of Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, Euripides, ed. R. Kannicht, will at last unite in one book the many long—known and frequently re —edited fragments with modern finds. For the present, see Hypsipyle, ed. G.W. Bond (Oxford, 1963); Phaethon, ed. J . Diggle (Cambridge, 1970); A. Nauck, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta (Leipzig, 18892, reprinted Hildesheim, 1964 with Supplementum by B. Snell); D.L. Page, Greek Literary Papyri ('Loeb', London, 1942); C. Austin, Neva Fragmenta Euripidea in Papyris Reperta (Berlin, 1967). History of the text: W.S. Barrett, Euripides: Hippdytos (Oxford, 1964) 45 —90; G. Zuntz, An Inquiry into the Transmission o f the Plays o f Euripides (Cambridge, 1965) esp. 249-88; J. Diggle, Praefatio to his OCT Tomus I, V — xiv. Π: complete commentaries F.A. Paley (London, 1857’ — 18892) (commonsensical and still useful). E. Schwartz, Scholia in Euripidem (Berlin, 1887 -9 1 ) (nine plays only; a more widely based edition of the ancient and medieval scholia is needed). 'Reference' commentaries on single plays are: W.S. Barrett, Hippdytos (Oxford, 1964); G.W. Bond, Heracles (Oxford, 1981); C. Collard, Supplices (Groningen, 1975); J.D . Denniston, Electra (Oxford, 1939); J . Diggle, Studies on the Text o f Euripides (Oxford, 1981); E.R. Dodds, Bacchae (Oxford, 1960); R. Kannicht, Helena (Heidelberg,


1969); R. Seaford, Cyclops(Oxford, 1984); U. von Wilamowitz—Moellendorff, Herakles (Berlin, 18952; reprinted Bad Homburg 1959); C.W. Willink, Orestes (Oxford, 1986). Commentaries on the other tragedians important for reference are: E. Fraenkel, Aeschylus: Agamemnon (Oxford, 1950); R.C. Jebb, Sophocles (7 vols., Cambridge, 18831—19033); A.C. Pearson, The Fragments o f Sophocles (3 vols., Cambridge, 1917). Ill: complete English translations D. Grene, R. Lattimore (eds.). The Complete Greek Tragedies: Euripides (2 vols., Chicago, 1958 —9). P. Vellacott, Euripides (4 vols., Harmondsworth, 1953 —72) ('Penguin Classics'). IV: lexicography J . T. Allen, G. Italie, A Concordance to Euripides, Berkeley/London 1954, reprinted Groningen 1970; Supplement by C. Collard, Groningen 1971. V: bibliographical aids L'Année Phildogique has recorded publications since 1924. Anzeiger fü r die Altertumswissenschaft has published occasional evaluative surveys since 1948. From Section VI below, see Burian, Cambridge History o f Greek Literature, I, Collard (evaluative), Lesky (1983; bibliography only till 1971) and Webster (esp. lost plays). VI: general studies and handbooks (Greek Tragedy; Euripides) A Brown, A New Companion to Greek Tragedy (London, 1983) (a 'dictionary'). P. Burian (ed.), New Directions in Euripidean Criticism (Durham, U.S.A., 1985). A.P. Burnett, Catastrophe Survived: Euripides' plays o f mixed reversal (Oxford, 1971). Cambridge History o f Classical Literature, Vdume I: Greek Literature ed. P.E. Easterling, B.M.W. Knox, (Cambridge, 1985), 258 -3 4 5 , 758 - 7 3 (chapters by leading scholars). C. Collard, Euripides, 'Greece and Rome' New Surveys in the Classics No. 14 (Oxford, 1981) (brief survey with bibliographical emphasis). D. J. Conacher, Euripidean Drama: Myth, Theme and Structure (Toronto, 1967) (best general introduction of its kind). A.M. Dale, Cdlected Papers (Cambridge, 1969) (on many aspects of drama). K. J. Dover (ed.). Ancient Greek Literature (Oxford, 1980), 53—73 (Ch. 4, 'Tragedy', by K.J. Dover). G.F. Else, Aristotle's Poetics: the Argument (Harvard, 1957). 23

H.Erbse, Studien zum Prolog der euripideischen Tragödie (Berlin 1984): analyses complete plays. Entretiens sur l'Antiquité Classique, VI: Euripide (Vandoeuvres—Genève, 1960) (seven papers, and transcribed discussion, by leading scholars). H.P.Foley Ritual Irony. Poetry and Sacrifice in Euripides (Cornell 1985) S. Goldhill, Reading Greek Tragedy (Cambridge, 1986). L. H.G. Greenwood, Aspects o f Euripidean Drama (Cambridge, 1953). G. M. Grube, The Drama o f Euripides (London, 1961 2) (handbook). S. Halliwell, Aristotle's Poetics (London, 1986). M. Heath, The Poetics o f Greek Tragedy (London, 1986). J . Jones, On Aristotle and Greek Tragedy (London, 1962). H. D.F. Kitto, Greek Tragedy: a Literary Study (London, 19613). B.M.W. Knox, Word and Action (Baltimore, 1979) (collected papers on drama). W. Kranz, Stasimon (Berlin, 1933) (fundamental work on the Chorus). R. Lattimore, The Poetry o f Greek Tragedy (Oxford, 1958). — Story Patterns in Greek Tragedy (London, 1964). A. Lesky, Greek Tragedy, trans. H. Frankfort (London, 1967) (basic text—book). — Greek Tragic Poetry, trans. M. Dillon (New Haven, 1983) (scholar's handbook). D. W. Lucas, Aristotle: Poetics (Oxford, 1968) (commentary). A.N. Michelini, Euripides and the Tragic Tradition (Wisconsin, 1987). G. Murray, Euripides and his Age (London, 19462) (an 'evergreen'). A.W. Pickard—Cambridge, Dithyramb, Tragedy and Comedy, 2, ed. by T.B.L. Webster (Oxford, 1962). A. Rivier, Essai sur le tragique d'Euripide (Paris, 19752). L. Séchan, Etudes sur la tragédie grecque dans ses rapports avec la céramique (Paris, 1926). E. Segal (ed.). Oxford Readings in Greek Tragedy (Oxford, 1984) (important essays by leading scholars reprinted). W.B. Stanford, Greek Tragedy and the Emotions (London, 1983). O Taplin, The Stagecraft o f Aeschylus (Oxford, 1977) (important for all Tragedy). — Greek Tragedy in Action (London, 1978) (vigorous introduction). A. D. Trendall, T.B.L. Webster, Illustrations o f Greek Drama (London, 1971) (vase-paintings and plays). P. Vellacott, Ironic Drama: a Study o f Euripides' Method and Meaning (Cambridge, 1976) (the plays as veiled social criticism). J.P. Vernant, P. Vidal-Naquet, Tragedy and Myth in Ancient Greece, English trans. (Brighton, 1981). B. Vickers, Towards Greek Tragedy: Drama, Myth, Society (London, 1973). P. Walcot, Greek Drama in its Theatrical and Social Context (Cardiff, 1976).

T.B.L. Webster, The Tragedies o f Euripides (London, 1967) (a profile of the dramatic and poetic career as it developed). Yale Classical Studies 25 (1977): Greek Tragedy (papers invited from prominent scholars).



VII: Euripides and contemporary events and ideas R.G. Buxton, Persuasion in Greek Tragedy: a Study o f 'Peitho' (Cambridge, 1982). K. Reinhardt, Tradition und Geist (Göttingen, 1960) 223 —56 ('Die Sinneskrise bei Euripides': classic discussion of Euripides' intellectualism and its reflection in his dramaturgy). P.T. Stevens, 'Euripides and the Athenians', JHS 76 (1976), 76—84 (contemporary reception). R.P. Winnington—Ingram, 'Euripides: Poietes Sophos', Arethusa 2(1969), 127 —42 (need for balanced interpretation of Euripides' cleverness). G. Zuntz, The Political Plays o f Euripides (Manchester, 19632). Cf. esp. Lesky (1983), Murray, Vellacott, Vemant, Vickers and Walcot from Section VI above. Vm: theatre and production P.D. Arnott, Introduction to the Greek Theatre (London, 1959). Greek Scenic Conventions in the F ifth Century B.C. (Oxford, 1962). H. C. Baldry, The Greek Tragic Theatre (London, 1971). M. Bieber, The History o f the Greek and Roman Theatre (Princeton, 19612) (copious illustrations). R.C. Flickinger, The Greek Theater and its Drama (Chicago. 1936*) A.W. Pickard—Cambridge, The Theatre o f Dionysus in Athens (Oxford, 1946). — The Dramatic Festivals o f Athens, 2. ed. by J. Gould, D.M. Lewis (Oxford, 1968). E. Simon, The Ancient Theatre, trans. C.E. Vafopoulo—Richardson (London, 1982). T.B.L. Webster, Greek Theatre Production (London, 19702). Cf. esp. Dale, Taplin (1978), Trendall and Walcot in Section VI above; Bain, Halleran, Hourmouziades, Jens and Mastronarde in Section IX below. IX: dramatic form and theatrical technique D. Bain, Actors and Audience: a study o f asides and related conventions in Greek drama (Oxford, 1977). M. R. Halleran, Stagecraft in Euripides (London, 1985). N. C. Hourmouziades, Production and Imagination in Euripides (Athens, 1965). W. Jens (ed.), Die Bauformen der griechischen Tragödie (München, 1971).

D .J. Mastronarde, Contact and Discontinuity: Some Conventions o f Speech and Action on the Greek Tragic Stage (Berkeley, 1979). W. Schadewaldt, Monolog und Selbstgespräch (Berlin, 1926). W. Steidle, Studien zum antiken Drama unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Bühnenspiels (München, 1968). H. Strohm, Euripides: Interpretationen zur dramatischen Form (München, 1957). Cf. esp. Burnett, Kranz, Lesky (1983) and Taplin (1977) from Section VI above. X: language and style S.A. Barlow, The Imagery o f Euripides (London, 1971) (widest appreciative study). W. Breitenbach, Untersuchungen zur Sprache der euripideischen Lyrik (Stuttgart, 1934) (Index Locorum by K.H. Lee, Amsterdam, 1979). P.T. Stevens, Colloquial Expressions in Euripides (Wiesbaden, 1977). Cf. Section IV above; Lattimore (1958), Lesky (1983) and Stanford from Section VT above; Buxton from Section VH above. XI: verse and metre A.M. Dale, The Lyric Metres o f Greek Drama (Cambridge, 19682). — Metrical Analyses o f Tragic Choruses, BICS Supplement 21.1 (1971); 21.2 (1981); 21.3 (1983) (index of Choruses in 21.3). D.S. Raven, Greek Metre (London, 1962) (analyses many complete odes). M.L. West, Greek Metre (Oxford, 1982) (standard handbook). — Introduction to Greek Metre (Oxford, 1987) (abridged and slightly simplified version of Greek Metre). U. von Wilamowitz—Moellendorff, Griechische Verskunst (Berlin, 1921) (analyses and interprets many complete odes).


SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY TO ALCESTIS I: Editions and Translations Arrowsmith, William, Euripides, Alcestis. Translation with Notes and Glossary (New York & London, 1974). Dale, A. M., Euripides, Alcestis, edited with Introduction and Commentary (Oxford, 1954). Hadley, W. S., Euripides, The Alcestis (Cambridge, 1896). Hayley, H. W., The Alcestis o f Euripides, edited with Introduction and Notes (Boston, 1898). Lucas, D. W., The Alcestis o f Euripides, translated with Introduction and Notes (London, 1951). Méridier, Louis, Euripide I. (Collection Budé, Paris, 1923). Van Lennep, D. F. W., Euripides, Selected Plays with Introduction, Metrical Synopsis and Commentary. Part I. The Alkestis (Leiden, 1949). Weber, L., Euripides, Alkestis (edition with Introduction and Notes in German) (Leipzig and Berlin, 1930). Weil H., Euripide, Alceste (Paris, 1891). Wilamowitz—Moellendorff, U. von. Griechische Tragoedien ΠΙ. Alkestis (Berlin, 1906) (edition with German translation and Introduction). Π. Monographs, Articles and Chapters in Books Beye, C. R., "Alcestis and her Critics", GRBS 2 (1959), 111—27. Burnett, Anne, "The Virtues of Admetus", CP 60 (1965) 240—55. Collard, C., "Formal Debates in Euripidean Drama", G and R 22 (1975), 58-71. Conacher, D. J ., Euripidean Drama: Myth, Theme and Structure (Toronto, 1967). Chapter 19. -------, "Rhetoric and Relevance in Euripidean Drama", AJP 102 (1981) 3 -2 5 . -------, "Structural Aspects of Euripides' Alcestis", Greek Poetry and Philosophy, Studies in Honour o f Leonard Woodbury (Chico, CaUfomia, 1985), 73 -8 1 . Ebeling, Hermann L., "The Admetus of Euripides", TAPA 29 (1898) 65 -8 5 . von Fritz, Kurt, Antike und moderne Tragödie (Berlin, 1962) 312 ff. Jones, D. M., "Euripides' Alcestis”, CR 62 (1948) 50-55. Lesky, Albin, Alkestis, der Mythos und das Drama (Wien and Leipzig, 1925). Rivier, A., "En marge d'Alceste et de quelques interpretations récentes", Mus.Helv. 29 (1972) 124 -4 0 . 27

Rosenmeyer, T. G ., The Masks o f Greek Tragedy (Austin, 1963) "Alcestis' Character and Death", 199—248. Séchan, L.. "Le Dévouement d'AIcéste", Revue des cours et conférences 28 I (Feb. 1927), 490 -5 1 4 ; Π (May 1927), 329 -5 3 . Smith, W., "The Ironie Structure in Alcestis", Phoenix 14 (1960) 126—45. Wilson, J. R. (ed.), Twentieth Century Interpretations o f Euripides' "Alcestis" (Englewood Cliffs, 1968).

INTRODUCTION TO ALCESTIS I. Ancient information Our information concerning the date and other features of the production of the Alcestis is drawn from the second "Hypothesis" to our play (below page 62). A "Hypothesis", in this context, refers to a notice, dating back to the time of the Alexandrian editing of Greek tragedies (and, possibly, sometimes earlier), which was prefixed in our MSS to most of the extant plays, and provided what was to be understood as the basis of the play concerned. Some Hypotheses, such as the first one (attributed to Dicaearchus) to the Alcestis, give only a bare outline either of the plot of the play or of the legend on which it is based; others, such as the second Hypothesis (attributed to Aristophanes of Byzantium) to the Alcestis, contain as well information drawn from the original didascaliae (or production records) including names of tetralogies and their authors, dates, and victories in the Athenian tragic festivals. We learn from this second Hypothesis that the Alcestis was produced in 438 B.C. as the fourth play in a tetralogy of which the first three plays (now lost) were The Cretan Women, Alcmaeon in Psophis, and Telephus, and that this entry was placed second to Sophocles' entry (names of the Sophoclean plays are not supplied) in the competition. Enough is known of the mythical material on which these lost plays of the Euripidean tetralogy were based to relieve us of any attempt to find a common thread between them, or between them and the Alcestis. (Not even the element of novelty, of exploitation of legends outside the usual canon of tragic myth, by which Wilamowitz has characterized many of Euripides' earlier plays,1 is shared by all the plays of this tetralogy; while this description applies to The Cretan Women and to some degree to the Alcestis, despite Phrynichus’ prior treatment of the legend, the legends concerning Alcmaeon and Telephus are both mentioned by Aristotle as among the few on which the best tragedies have been founded).2 We are also told, in this same Hypothesis, that the Alcestis, which, at 438 B.C., is the earliest extant play of Euripides, was "the seventeenth" play composed by him. The anomaly involved in this information (for the tragic entries were presented in tetralogies and the Alcestis was said to be fourth in its tetralogy) is best explained as a failure, on the part of the author of the Hypothesis, to take into account three plays (possible satyr—plays) which had been lost by the time that this Notice was composed.3 The interesting information in this Hypothesis that the Alcestis, though



not, as we know, a satyr—play, was performed in the usual position of the satyr—play is rendered the more significant by the description in the same Hypothesis of the play's ending as kômikôteran ("tending toward the comic") and (in what may be a later addition to the same Hypothesis) of the whole play as saturikôteron ("rather like a satyr—play") because, unlike Tragedy, the change of fortune is to joy and pleasure. All this has led many critics (rightly or wrongly) to regard the Alcestis as, uniquely among extant tragedies, "pro—satyric", i.e., as not only standing in place of a satyr—play but also retaining at least some of its characteristics. Just what is involved, in critics' minds, in this description and to what degree the description is justified by the tone and structure of the Alcestis will be considered later in this Introduction. Π. The myth and its adaptation

folk—tale, carrying off the King's wife who is, in turn, rescued by a sort of superman, Heracles. The only connection which Apollo has with the action of the play itself is that he first arranges the "privilege" of the substitute death; after a brief attempt to put off Death, Apollo leaves the scene for good, and the final overcoming of death is effected in a manner quite alien to the mythical world which Apollo inhabits. This initial impression of cleavage increases greatly when we look at the mythological tradition relevant to the play. There is evidence of early accounts of Apollo's bondage to Admetus (e.g., a passing reference in Homer, signs of a fuller account in the Hesiodic catalogue)4 but no actual mention, before tragedy, of Alcestis' self-sacrifice. This does not, of course, mean that the Alcestis legend did not exist before then, but it may indicate that it was not always attached to the Apollo—Admetus story and that, consequently, it was not always a part of the main mythical tradition. The only known treatment of the Alcestis theme itself before Euripides is that of Phrynichus' Alcestis5 of which we have only one actual quotation:

In an attempt to judge the nature and purpose of Euripides' treatment of the myths of Admetus and Alcestis, let us set down the bare events as Euripides gives them, together with what we know of this material from other sources. Apollo tells us in the prologue of the Alcestis that he had enabled King Admetus to postpone his impending death by persuading the Fates to let Admetus off if he could find someone willing to die in his place; this sacrifice Alcestis, wife of Admetus, has accepted after both his parents had refused it, and now the appointed day for Alcestis' death is at hand. Apollo explains as follows his own involvement with Admetus: furious at the death of his son Asclepius, slain by Zeus' thunderbolt, Apollo had in turn slain the Cyclopes (makers of thunderbolts) and for punishment had been enslaved for a period to the mortal Admetus; it was during this sojourn that the threat to Admetus' life occurred and Apollo intervened, in gratitude for his human master's piety towards him. After this monologue. Death appears, to begin his fell office. After further unsuccessful attempts to dissuade him, Apollo prophesies that Heracles (identified by description rather than by name) will wrest Alcestis by force from Death. In the course of the play, Alcestis dies, but not before her husband has promised her, in gratitude, a life of celibacy for himself and of cheerless mourning for himself and his house. During the funeral arrangements, Heracles visits Admetus' palace and, unaware of the situation, is hospitably entertained by Admetus. When he learns of his host's dissimulation, he rewards it by overcoming Death in an off-stage wrestling match and restoring Alcestis to Admetus. Even at first glance, a certain cleavage, a certain basic lack of congruity, appears between different elements in this myth. On the one hand, we have an Olympian, Apollo, and his relations with a human hero, King Admetus; on the other hand, we have Death, a creature of

This fragment is usually taken, though with no certainty, to refer to the wrestling match between Heracles and Death. It is possible that Aeschylus' reference (Eumenides, 723—28) to Apollo's persuasion of the Moirai, by drink, to spare men's lives, and the Euripidean Apollo's oasual reference to his tricking of the Fates (Alcestis, 12), may be allusions to Phrynichus' treatment of the theme. (If so, one is tempted to think Phrynichus' Alcestis must have been a satyr—play.) Apart from this, all we know of the lost play is that Death appeared in it carrying a sword for the ritual cutting of Alcestis' hair (frg. 3). The Hesiodic account seems to have been concerned entirely with the background of Apollo's bondage to Admetus: Apollo's jealous vengeance, with Artemis' help, on his beloved and unfaithful Coronis; his saving of Asclepius, his son by Coronis; Zeus' blasting of Asclepius for raising men from the dead; Apollo's reprisals against the Cyclopes (the makers of Zeus' thunderbolts) and his subsequent enslavement to Admetus in punishment. Only the last of these details is factually relevant to Euripides' plot, though there is a certain thematic overlap in the roles of Asclepius and Heracles. Among the post—Classical accounts of the Apollo—Admetus—Alcestis myths, that of Apollodorus is of the greatest interest. Here it is worth noting that the myth ending with Apollo's enslavement to Admetus is told separately from the Admetus-Alcestis legend.6 The former follows very closely the main lines of the early ("Hesiodic") version, while the Admetus—Alcestis legend differs in several respects from Euripides' version. The latter account runs as follows:



He constrains the fearless, limb—driven [?] (limb—mastered [?]) body. (frg. 2)

Here the most interesting differences from the Euripidean version are: the role of Artemis and the alternative explanations of the restoration of Alcestis. The anger of Artemis perhaps explains the "imminent death" mentioned as threatening Admetus in Euripides' versions {Ale. 13), though there seems to be an interesting hint of a non sequitur in Apollodorus between the "appeasing of Artemis" and the favour obtained from the Fates. The peaceful version of Alcestis' return to life is, of course, the one more favourable to the gods of mythology (one should note, by the way, that Hades has been substituted for Death even in the other version) and it is this version too which Plato follows (Symposium 179b 3 ff.), when he tells us that the gods returned Alcestis of their own accord in admiration of her deed. Robert suggests that Plato himself may have invented this milder version; however this may be, we may accept his view that the more violent version is the older one. 7 It seems clear from all that ' has been said that the myth leading to the enslavement of Apollo to Admetus and the myth involving Alcestis' "substitute" death for Admetus were originally of quite separate and indeed fundamentally different origins. The former belongs to the anthropomorphic and essentially literary tradition of Olympian mythology; the latter, with its bargains and struggles with the monster Death, that pathetically simple incarnation of human fears, suggests the primitivè, superstitious and infinitely more urgent preoccupations of folk—tale - until, of course, it becomes softened by late and artificial mythologizing. Indeed it is not until Hyginus (Fab. 49 and 51), in the second century A.D., and Zenobius (1. 18) that we find a continuous narrative starting from the myths of Apollo and Asclepius and ending with the death and restoration of Alcestis. Despite all contrary indications, Wilamowitz, followed by Ebeling, Séchan, Méridier and others, argues that the consecutive treatment found in the late writers goes back to the "canonical" formulation of the Hesiodic

catalogue, which he also claims to be the source of the two accounts in Apollodorus; this view has been rightly rejected by Professor A. Lesky and Miss A. M. Dale.8 In default of evidence establishing the literary ancestry of the Alcestis theme prior to Greek tragedy, let us turn to the "arguments from probability" by which Robert, Lesky and others assert that the core of our story belongs to popular folk—tale rather than to literary tradition. The most ambitious attempt to establish the actual folk—tale kernel of the Alcestis myth has been made by Lesky who, after discussing the relation of popular to literary mythology in general, outlines three European folk tales, preserved in German, Greek and Armenian folk songs, which contain elements of the basic situation in the Alcestis.9 Stripping these songs of their individual developments and variations, Lesky reduces the story to what he considers to be its simplest and oldest form: On the wedding day of a King, Death comes for the bridegroom;' Death is willing to accept a substitute, but both the King's parents refuse the sacrifice; finally, the young bride intervenes and follows Death to save the life of her beloved.10 Lesky lists several variations and developments: husband dies for doomed bride (manly German version as opposed to eastern expressions of female inferiority!); a physical struggle with Death as well as (originally instead of?) a substitute death, and so on. Whenever the physical struggle with Death is introduced, the husband himself is the challenger, and when, fo r one reason or another, he fails, his life is saved only by the self-sacrifice o f his bride. It is interesting to contrast the way in which this duplication of methods for dealing with Death is handled in Euripides' play. Here, one device is used to save the husband, the other, his self-sacrificing wife. Moreover, in our Alcestis, the dramatist further separates the two devices (and so uses them to better effect) by attaching one of them to the mythical, "divine" prologue (where Apollo tells of persuading the Fates to accept Alcestis as a substitute), while reserving the other for the "folk-tale" denouement, where a hero struggles with the primitive figure of Death. Finally, in Euripides' version, the hero who struggles with Death is an outside agent, not, as in the folk songs, the husband himself. Thus, while both ways of foiling Death are presented, the husband engages in neither while gaining from both. Already we catch a glimpse of a whole new dimension, fraught with ironic possibilities, in the tragic adaptation of the legend. How did such a folk tale come to be attached to the end of a myth dealing with the enslavement of Apollo? Nobody knows, of course, but there have been some interesting guesses. Carl Robert points to Euripides' own words at Alcestis 445 ff. (where the Chorus prophesies that the Queen's fame will be celebrated in song at Sparta at the time of the Carnean festival, as well as at Athens) and suggests that it was at the



When Admetus reigned over Pherae, Apollo served him as his thrall, while Admetus wooed Alcestis, daughter of Pelias. Now Pelias had promised to give his daughter to him who should yoke a lion and a boar to a car, and Apollo yoked them and gave them to Admetus, who brought them to Pelias and so obtained Alcestis. But in offering a sacrifice at his marriage, he forgot to sacrifice to Artemis; therefore when he opened the marriage chamber, he found it full of coiled snakes. Apollo bade him appease the goddess and obtained as a favour of the Fates that, when Admetus should be about to die, he might be released from death if someone should choose voluntarily to die for him. And when the day of his death came neither his father nor his mother would die for him, but Alcestis died in his stead. But the Maiden [Persephone] sent her up again, or, as some say, Hercules fought with Hades [and brought her up to him]. [The last clause is omitted in the MSS.]

Carnea, which honoured Apollo, and at similar popular celebrations of Apollo at Athens, that the simple folk song got its poetic development.11 However, this still does not explain why it became attached to the Apollo myth in the first place. Thessaly, a region much given to chthonian cults, was surely a congenial place for such a folk tale to be developed, ahd Admetus, to whom Apollo was enslaved, was a Thessalian king. Other scholars go farther in this matter and point to connections between Admetus and Haidès adamastos ("Hades the unconquerable”) and between "Admetus the hospitable" and Haidès pciudegmôn, Haidès poluxenosl12 There are other possible links between die Apollo myth and the Alcestis story; Asclepius, Apollo's son, is the hero who, foreshadowing Heracies' role in our play, raised men from the dead, and Apollo himself is of course the Olympian opponent par excellence of the chthonic powers. In this connection, Aeschylus' reference (Eumenides, 723 ff.) to Apollo's cheating of the Fates in Admetus' interest is most suggestive, for it is in the Eumeni des that we have the greatest literary expression of this aspect of Apollo. In Euripides' Alcestis, we have two interventions from "outside", one by Apollo before the action of the play begins, and one by Heracles at its conclusion. Obviously, no one like Heracles was needed in the original folk tale: as we have seen, any Death—wrestling that was to be ‘done was done by the husband himself. Nor does Heracles have any part in the Apollo myth. When did he come into the picture? The possibility that Euripides himself Erst introduced the role of Heracles into the Alcestis myth has been raised by one or two scholars, most notably Ebeling, though his approach is very different from the one which we have been following.13 It is true that this suggestion contradicts the view (rather unaertainly based on Phrynichus, fr. 1) that Euripides followed Phrynichus' Alcestis in this matter. Ebeling's argument that Phrynichus’ play could hardly have extended from Apollo's outwitting of the Fates (see Aeschylus, Euménides 723—28) to the rescue of Alcestis by Heracles, seems weak. Euripides himself "covers" this much, if we include what Apollo tells us in the prologue — and not much more than this would be needed to explain the (quite hypothetical) reference to Phrynichus* play in Aeschylus' Eumenides. It sees preferable to point out that no opinion concerning the content of Phrynichus' Alcestis can really be based on a tiny fragment in which text, meaning, reference, and context are all uncertain.14 Ebeling's suggestion that the role of Heracles is Euripides' invention fits weli with what he, in common with several recent critics, feels to be an important aspect of Euripides' treatment: the new kind of emphasis on the role of Admetus.15 It has not, perhaps, been generally recognized that this emphasis depends in large part on Heracles, for without the intrusion of that hero it would not have been easy to present the "restoration" of Alcestis as in some way related to the character and actions of Admetus.

Indeed, without Heracles, very little in the way of decisive action would have been left for Admetus at all. In the folk tale, no one ever wins the wrestling match with Death; nor would the somewhat sentimental "moral" ending which Plato chose have suited the sinister figure of Death in Euripides' piece. To achieve a happy ending within the chosen ethos of this play, a typically Euripidean rescuer must be imported — and in a pro—satyric play, what figure could be more suitable than Heracles? Throughout Euripides' work, we find him the most inventive of the dramatists, and the more remote his material, the more daring his innovations. The present device, the appearance of an unexpected rescuer from outside the immediate context of the legendary situation or (sometimes) of the poet's own plot, occurs in one form or another in the Medea, the Heracles, and the Andromache, and in at least two of these instances, the "intrusion" appears to have been a Euripidean innovation in the legend concerned. But whether Euripides was responsible for the actual introduction of Heracles into the Alcestis legend, or whether (as most critics believe) he adapted it from Phrynichus' play or from some earlier version, it seems likely that the particular motivation which Heracles' role is given in this play is Euripides' own development.1e ΙΠ. The play and its problems (i) Genre and tone The Alcestis is the only non—satyric play which we actually know (from the ancient hypothesis to which we have already referred)1 7 to have been produced as the fourth play in its tetralogy. The lengthy arguments among scholars whether, while lacking a satyr—chorus, it still preserved some features of the satyr—play, go back, as we have seen, to the author(s) of the same hypothesis. The point is not entirely academic, since, if some affinity can be found between the Alcestis and satyr—plays, the elements which seem to set the Alcestis off from the serious tragedies of Euripides need not induce us to place it, as Kitto has placed it (not very happily, in my opinion), among his so-called tragicomedies and melodramas. Moreover, if the term "pro—satyric" can be used of the Alcestis in a fairly significant sense, then it seems possible that Euripides wrote more plays of this kind. We have the names of only three complete tetralogies of Euripides (including that to which the Alcestis belongs), and a total of only eight of his plays (of which only the Cyclops is extant) are described anywhere in ancient sources as "satyric". This is much less than a quarter of the total number of titles (probably seventy-five) which can be safely attributed to Euripides, and so it is a reasonable inference that several plays nowhere described as satyric (and of which we know little beyond their titles) may also have stood fourth in their tetralogies and been "pro—satyric" in one sense or another.18 35

Miss A. M. Dale, in her edition of the play, has given perhaps the fairest of recent assessments of the pro—satyric elements in the Alcestis. She speaks of the happy ending combined with "a curiously tart, almost bitter flavour" - which is just right for the Alcestis·, of the presentation of Heracles as "discreetly reminiscent of the traditional burlesque of Heracles, the coarse glutton and drunkard who rouses himself to perform feats of strength against the local monster or bully"; of "the discomfiture of Death . . who is not the majestic king throned in the underworld but the ogreish creature of popular fancy". To these reminders of the satyr—play, we might add the barracking between Apollo and Death, the darkly comic irony, touched with ribaldry, of the concluding scene between Heracles, Admetus and the veiled Alcestis, and the element of theft and restoration, of death and resurrection, in the untimely visit and ultimate defeat of Death. And yet, in the end. Miss Dale plays it all down: the episode with Death is "passed over very lightly"; "the theme is satyric but not its treatment here; this is the adaptation of a satyric theme to tragedy", and so on. Though she has herself given us most of the arguments for regarding the Alcestis as essentially pro—satyric (as opposed, say, to tragic and to romantic drama), she refuses us the conclusion. It is her insistence on taking the play seriously throughout its action which prevents Miss Dale from regarding it as essentially different from tragedy.1 9 It is at this point that Professor Kitto's observation concerning the nature of the Alcestis* plot provides a salutary correction: because the Alcestis is based on an impossibility, its action as a whole is deprived of tragic, or universal, reality, and so of serious tragic meaning.20 A healthy young woman is "taken” by Death (himself featured as an ogre, a primitive projection of folk—tale imagination),because she chooses to substitute herself for her husband, who is actually due to die: a play which begins with a miracle can also end with one (as this play in fact does); in any case we cannot feel involved, in the way that tragedy requires, with Admetus' and Alcestis' sufferings, for their experiences, the very conditions under which they live, are not drawn from the stuff of life as we know it or can even imagine it to be. However, while the Alcestis cannot, for the reasons which Kitto suggests, be regarded as a serious tragedy, it nevertheless deals with both human sufferings (death and bereavement) and ethical themes (hospitality and loyalty) of the kind which serious tragedy does so often treat. One critic has aptly suggested that in parallel with the "melodramatic" plot of the play, in which Admetus' hospitality to Heracles is rewarded by the happy ending of Alcestis' restoration, there is an "ironic" plot in which Admetus, in the very fulfillment of that hospitality which wins her back, actually betrays his ownpromises to the wife to whom he owes so much.21 "Concurrently", this critic tells us, "the ironic plot offers an analysis and criticism of the attitudes and beliefs implied by the

melodramatic plot and by the myth itself". This is, I believe, a suggestion which we shall find very helpful in our analysis of the play.



(ii) Themes and structure The virtue of hospitality, and the closely related idea of charis, "favour" (which always expects reciprocal favour), may be said to provide the ethical theme of our play. However, it is not only "hospitality" and "charis” which are treated with the ambiguous irony mentioned above. Admetus gains his life only by means of Alcestis' death: as we shall see, neither Hfe nor death is ever mentioned in this play without some suggestion of its opposite. Finally, in addition to the "life/death" ambiguity, we find a similar ambiguity attending the ideas of "profit and loss" which the substitute death of a philos, or "loved one", must inevitably entail. Admetus gains his life at the expense of Alcestis' loss of life; yet from the beginning of the play we shall And Admetus' "gain” questioned (by the Servant, for example) and before the play is over we find Admetus questioning it himself. Even, indeed especially, before the happy ending, Admetus finds reason to believe that Alcestis, by bnr death, has gained more than he has by his avoidance of death. The counterpoint between hospitality and charis (both as "favour received" and "favour owed") and the ambiguous treatments of "life" and "death", "profit" and "loss", reappear, with varying emphases, in every episode and nearly every choral ode of this most complex little play. Detailed discussion of these recurrences will be found at appropriate points in the Notes to the text but a preliminary survey may serve to indicate how their deployment informs the structure of the whole. The first structural feature which we notice in the Alcestis is that the supernatural events occur at the beginning and end of the play, while the happenings within this frame, and the reactions of various characters to these happenings, are presented (for the most part) in fairly naturalistic, human terms.22 In the first (or Prologue) section of this frame, "the hospitality theme", with its related theme of "charis" or "favour for favour”, is introduced in Apollo's opening speech: it is in gratitude for his pious treatment during his enforced stay at -Admetus' domain that the god has made his deal with the Fates to postpone Admetus' imminent death. However, the greater part of the Prologue is concerned with Apollo's unsuccessful attempt to save the self-sacrificing Alcestis from death, here literally represented by the grim figure of Death. But just as Asclepius, Apollo's son, has been blasted by Zeus for resurrecting men from the dead, so too Apollo is powerless against Death. Apollo's withdrawal and prophecy about a hero who will accomplish what he, Olympian Apollo, cannot do, signals in advance that the play's resolution is to come from outside the world of traditional mythology. (This point is to be reinforced by various reminders from the Chorus that neither Zeus nor Anankê [Necessity] countenances resurrections from the dead.)23

The first part of our play (after the Prologue) is concerned with the other side of Apollo's favour, the death of Alcestis, treated first in anticipation (by the Chorus and the Servant) and then (by Admetus and Alcestis herself) in actuality (77—434). (It is typical of the formal pattern of this play that each theme and motif is treated both in song, or occasionally in anapaestic chant, and in dramatic form [iambic verses, spoken by actors] though not always in the same order.) The Chorus, in the first half of the Parados, wonder whether Alcestis is still alive or already dead;in the second half, 'they remind us (in contradictionto Apollo's prophecy in the Prologue) that death is irremediable, since Zeus has outlawed all possible resurrections by blasting Asclepius.24 The same ambiguity regarding Life and Death is briefly touched on in the fîrst Episode: "You may speak of her as both living and dead", is the Serving Woman's enigmatic answer to the Chorus' query. However, the main burden of the Serving—Woman's major speech (w. 152—98) is the celebration of Alcestis as "the best of wives". Her conclusion, "In escaping death he [Admetus] has earned so great a woe that some day he'll remember it all too well!" expresses the fîrst of many doubts to be cast on Admetus' "gain" from the favour of Apollo. In the scenes devoted to Alcestis' actual death, Alcestis "dies" fîrst in song (in which she expresses the intensely private experience of being carried off in Charon's bark, 244 ff., 252 ff., etc.), and then in dramatic dialogue with Admetus, in which she again bids an expiring farewell to her family (371—91). In between these two passages, she delivers a brisk and well-considered speech to her husband and receives his equally long and more emotional reply. This conventional lack of realism would not have puzzled an ancient Greek audience as it does us, though Euripides sometimes exploits such formal conventions for his own particular purposes.25 Thus, in the presentinstance, the play's ambiguous treatment of "life" and "death" is well served by this "sandwiching" between two presentations of a dying Alcestis an Alcestis who is very much alive. However, the main focus of the "death of Alcestis" scene is on the revival of the theme of charis: Admetus owes his life not only to Apollo's requital of the favour the King hat done him but also to Alcestis' considerably greater favour in dying in his place. For this Alcestis, in turn, demands requital from Admetus — "never an equal favour (for there is nothing of more worth than life itself) but still a just one": namely the promise that Admetus shall never marry a new wife to be step-mother over their children. To this promise the King adds, in an anguish of grief and of "obligation", the furtherpromises that there shall be no more entertainment in his oncehospitable halls and that hewill take a statue of Alcestis, "a chill delight”, to his widawea marriage—bed. The second — and pivotal — movement in our play is marked by the entry of Heracles, the traditional "hearty guest" par excellence, a figure whose very presence embodies that conviviality which Admetus (as part of

the charis due to Alcestis) has promised to forego. Once again, and with theatrical éclat, "the hospitality theme” is introduced, and with it a new sequence of obligation, both fruitful and destructive in its effect, which is to last until the final verse of the play has been uttered. Once again, also, these major themes of Hospitality and Charis are accompanied by the recurrent ambiguous motifs on which we have already commented. To persuade Heracles to enter his palace, despite the clear evidence of a bereavement, Admetus has to disguise Alcestis' death. "She both exists and no longer exists”, he replies, somewhat absurdly (521),2 6 to Heracles' direct question on the matter and then seeks to explain this contradiction by saying that one who is doomed to die is as good as dead already (527). Bluff Heracles will have none of this nonsense. "Being alive and not being alive", he in&ists (anticipating his later homily on "life and death”) 27 "are two quite different things”. When he still hesitates to enter a house of mourning (even though reassured that the deceased is othneios, "outside the family"), Admetus ends the argument with the (in the circumstances) rather startling assertion, "The dead are dead! so enter now my halls". (541). So, too, in answer to toe Chorus—Leader's shocked expostulation, Admetus explains his behavior by a quick calculation of "profit and loss": 'If I refused this guest, my doubles would not be less ... and I would add another evil, the repute of an inhospitable house” (see 551—58). So much for his promise to Alcestis and the charis due to her. Ironically, the Chorus (now convinced) concludes this part of our play (569—605) by celebrating Admetus' hospitality to Apollo In such a way as to remind us of the rewards which that virtue has already brought him. For now, though in the present instance Admetus' "noble nature is carried to an extreme of guest-reverence" (600—1), the Chorus are confident that "the god-fearing man will, in the end, fare well".28 That Admetus' pious hospitality to Apollo has indeed "paid off”, the King's avoidance ef his fated death would seem, at fîrst, to indicate. However, with the arrival of Pheres we are given our first inkling that even this reckoning in Admetus' favour may prove inaccurate. Pheres has come to pay his respects at Alcestis' funeral and to congratulate his son (somewhat sardonically perhaps) on his escape from death. The resulting bitter confrontation (in which Admetus reviles his father for letting Alcestis make the sacrifîce instead of himself — and is then answered in kind) will be considered later, in our discussion of the character of Admetus. In the present context, it is of interest mainly for a crucial point which Pheres makes in angry rebuttal of his son's contumely: If you revile us [i.e., for not dying for you] you too will hear many revilements — and just ones — heaped upon yourself (704 —05). To this, Pheres adds a parting shot as he leaves: I'll go then. As for you, go and bury the one whose murderer you are. To her kinsmen you have still to pay the penalty. (730—31)



It is significant that Admetus says nothing to refute these prophecies.29 When he says to Pheres, "At least you'll die dishonoured!" (725), is he beginning to realize that this could also be his fate? Thus, "the Pheres soene" introduces the first (and potentially tragic) resolution of the "profit or loss?" issue — a resolution which (as we shall see) is to Involve a new recognition by Admetus of his true situation. Early in the play, we have heard the Serving—Woman remind us (152—98) that, in losing "the best of wives", Admetus' self—saving bargain may not prove to be a profitable one. Now, from Pheres' tart warnings, Admetus is made aware that the opprobrium of society might be added to that bereavement which the Chorus, taking their cue from the Serving—Woman, have called "worthy of suicide". (228). Both aspeets of Admetus' survival (and of his awareness of them) are to be developed in the scene immediately preceding the final sombre choral ode. But sandwiched between these ' darker episodes (the "Pheres scene" and the return of Admetus to his lonely home) comes an almost slapstick, "pro—satyric" scene which is, in turn, to prepare us for the happy ending. Just as the grimmer resolution of the "profit or loss?" motif begins in "the Pheres Scene", so too the (happy) resolution of "the hospitality theme" begins in this second episode with Heracles. In this scene, the boisterous hero, tipsy from Admetus' hospitality, delivers a drunken homily to the scowling and mournful Servant on the meaning of life, its closeness to death, and on the~necessity, for that reason, of being as alive and jolly as possible — for as long as one: is alive (see w . 773—802). The appropriateness of this last of- the plays on the "life/death ambiguity" before the resurrection scene is, of course, lost on Heracles; nevertheless, it is this speech which, indirectly, triggers that exciting event. The grieving Servant, finally goaded beyond endurance, reveals to Heracles the enormity of his behaviour in a house that has lost its mistress. Heracles is shattered but will make amends. In gratitude for his host's long-suffering hospitality, he will wrestle with Death and restore Alcestis to her husband. With the return of Admetus and the Chorus after the funeral of Alcestis, we reach the first, or "realistic", climax of the play, the bitter resolution of the question "profit or loss?" which Admetus' escape from fate has repeatedly arouséd. Consistently with the "alternations" we have noticed in this play, this new turn in the action is expressed first in song (or rather, in this instance, in a combination of chanting and song) and then in spoken verse, as Admetus sadly verifies both the expectations of the Serving—Woman and the grimmer prophecies of Pheres. Oh bitter return! Oh bitter sight of my bereaved halls! ... I envy the dead; I yearn for them ... No longer do I rejoice to see the sun's rays, nor to walk upon the earth! (861-69, in part) What greater evil can befall a man than to lose a faithful wife? (879-80) Friends, I think my wife's fate happier than my own ... With fair 40

renown she has put an end to many woes. But / , who ought not to be living, who have escaped what was fated, will live a grievous life. At last, too late, I understand! (935 —40) The expression arti manthand ("Too late, I understand!”) suggests for a moment the pathel mathos ("learning through suffering”) of tragic realization. However, the poet skilfully (in view of the finale which we know is to come) has Admetus veer away from the tragic tone and emphasize,rather, the hedonistic calculation in which he has come off second best. Indeed, Admetus' view of his prospects at home ("dirty floors and wailing children", 947—48) has a faintly sordid (if pathetic), rather than a tragic note. So, too, outside the home, the King fears the very taunts of cowardice (954 —60) which Pheres has prophesied for him (705). "How, then”, he concludes, "is it more profitable for me to live, both faring evilly and hearing evil of myself?" (960—61) The conclusion to this potentially tragic theme of the Alcestis is expressed in the final choral ode. In the parados, we will remember, the Chorus have lamented that Death cannot be turned aside by prayers; now (in a sort of extended "ring composition”) they remind us that there is nothing stronger than Anankê (Necessity) who, alone among the gods, receives no sacrificial offerings, hi the second strophe, these sad thoughts are applied to Alcestis and again there is a mournful reference to Asclepius (this time a veiled one, 989—90) who (we learned in the parados) was slain for bringing men back from the dead. In the last antistrophe, however, Alcestis is offered a kind of immortality, one which is possible in the "real world", as governed by Zeus and Necessity (the world with which true Tragedy deals). Her tomb is not to be considered like that of the other dead, since her fame and honour, like that of the gods, will live forever in song and story. This is a consolation in which Admetus cannot share. With the third entry of Heracles, this time leading the veiled figure of Alcestis whom he has wrestled from the clutches of Death, we return to "the impossible world" of folk—tale — and to the happy fulfilment of "the hospitality theme", as pious Admetus, true to the Chorus' expectations at w. 604—05, receives his "just rewards". Indeed, Heracles' persuasion of Admetus to shelter the veiled woman (whom he pretends to have won as a prize in an athletic contest) provides a sort of doublet of the first scene between these two, except that this time the hidden truth is that Alcestis is alive, not dead, and that it is Heracles the guest who knows the truth, while Admetus the host remains in Ignorance. Once again Admetus is tempted, in the interests of his hospitable reputation, to do a favour for a guest at the expense of a favour which he has promised Alcestis, for it soon becomes clear (see w . 1087 ff., cf. w . 1056 - 60) that what Heracles is really offering Admetus is a substitute for, and a successor to, his "dead" wife. (Minor ironic echoes of the earlier scene appear also In 41

various details in this final episode. Heracles' reference to Admetus' loss, as he had first misapprehended it, as thuraios ["outside the family", 1014] reminds us of Admetus' willingness to speak of his dead wife as othneios [S33], which bears a very similar literal sense; Heracles' present argument [1091] that Admetus' refusal to marry again will not help his dead wife reminds us of Admetus' own somewhat heartless declaration, "The dead are dead" [541], in his earlier persuasion of Heracles to enter his bereaved home.) Finally and inevitably (though not with the inevitablility of Tragedy) Admetus succumbs to his fatal virtue of hospitality and reluctantly accepts the veiled woman just as Heracles seems prepared to accept defeat (see w . 1105 -0 8 ). Once the issue is decided, comedy (or perhaps the pro—satyric tone) is allowed to take over. Heracles insists that Admetus himself, despite his reluctance, lead the woman into his halls. The King does so, with face averted "as if cutting off the Gorgon's head” (1118). And so, in the very act of betraying her again, Admetus gets his wife back. "Hospitable Admetus” has again been rewarded — as Heracles reminds him just before the moment of recognition: Keep her now — and you will say the son of Zeus is ever a noble guest! (1119—20) It was the virtue of hospitality, and Apollo's recognition of claims of charis, which saved Admetus' life for him — but at the expense of Alcestis' life. It was, once again, the virtue of hospitality which caused Admetus to entertain Heracles — but at the expense of one of his grateful (or "charis—induced") promises to his dying wife. It is the gratitude of Heracles for Admetus' hospitality which, in turn, causes Alcestis to be saved from Death. And, finally, it is Admetus' hospitality which causes him to betray another "favour" promised to Alcestis, and, all unawares, to restore her to her home. This paradoxical treatment of the themes of charts and hospitality is surely too sharply edged with irony for us to accept the "naive" interpretation of the Alcestis as a simple morality play on "the reward of virtue". And even apart from the sardonic effect caused by the cancellation of one piety through the fulfilment of another, it is hard to escape the poet's implication that only in the world of folk—tale, romance and fantasy can we expect such happy solutions to the grim realities of life.30 It would, perhaps, be going too far to suggest that in the Alcestis Euripides is deriding the traditional virtues of gratitude and hospitality; he may however, be suggesting that the value of these traditional "virtues" is not absolute but depends on the circumstances of their fulfilment. Other plays of the poet have, to be sure, emphasized and in some cases demonstrated the relativity of ethical values traditionally thought by the Greeks to be absolute. One thinks, for example, of Phaedra's celebrated

statement about the two kinds of aidos (that sense of shame, awe, reverence regarded as the most irreproachable of Greek attitudes to life,) "the one, not bad; the other, the bane of houses",{Hippolytus 385—87).31 More to the point, in connection with the Alcestis, perhaps, are the treatments of the "virtue” of charts in the Helen and in the Hecuba. In the former play, Helen begs the priestess Theonoe not, from any misguided sense of loyalty, to reveal the presence of the shipwrecked Menelaus to her brother, the jealous Egyptian King. To do so, she insists, would be to purchase "base and unjust favours (charit as, 902)" in return. Yet later in the play, Helen herself, the virtuous wife bent on securing her own and her husband's escape, unjustly acquires favours from the Egyptian King in return for promised favours (her own person in marriage) which she has no intention of fulfilling. This almost virtuoso treatment of charis in the Helen32 is comic in tone but there are also treatments of charis in the Hecuba which recall, this time in tragic contexts, both the Alcestis, with its fulfillment of one favour owed at the expense of another, and the Helen, with its exploitation of false or base charis for an ulterior motive. Hecuba, seeking to save her daughter Polyxena from being sacrificed at Achilles' tomb, claims this favour from Odysseus, since she had once saved Ms life; wily Odysseus parries her claim by pleading Achilles' greater claim on Greek gratitude and the "long lasting favour" (charis) bestowed by tomb sacrifices (Hec. 309—20). Later in the play, Hecuba herself is reduced, by tragic circumstances, to exploiting base charis by seeking Agamemnon's help in return for the sexual favours of her daughter Cassandra (Hec. 824 —32). One would not wish to overload the paradoxical treatment of the Alcestis* pieties nor to dull thereby the ironic bite, which is perhaps the chief impression left by the play. Nevertheless, the questions which the Alcestis raises seem too persistent, too close (for all its folk-tale escapism) to the realities, the basic loyalties of life, for us to dismiss them simply as witty exercises in sophistic cleverness. (lii) The treatment o f Admetus If one is right in rinding some suggestion of a serious ethical theme at least hinted at in the Alcestis, to what extent is its central character involved in it? To what degree is Admetus "characterized" in this play? In what sense, if any, are we justified in speaking of a near—tragedy, or a potential tragedy, of Admetus? Miss Dale has described the central theme of the Alcestis as residing in "the too—late—knowledge" of Admetus: It [the central theme] might be summed up in his [Admetus'] words άρτι μανθάνω: "now — now, when it is too late — I understand".3 3 This critic also speaks, with similar perceptiveness, of the play being "permeated by a sort of grave irony . . . the irony of human intentions 43

measured against their outcome".34 By "human intentions" Dale means (as her subsequent sentences indicate) the intentions of Alcestis both to save her husband's life and to safeguard her children by having Admetus promise not to marry again; by "their outcome", she means the "desert" of a life to which Alcestis has inadvertently condemned him due to the loneliness of his widowhood and the obloquy which will fall on him due to her self-sacrifice. (From this it will be clear that for Miss Dale neither the ironie theme nor its ethical overtones are nearly as extensive as we have suggested in the foregoing analysis of the play.) In all of this, as well as in other aspects of the play's development, Miss Dale allows very little significance to attach to the sort of person Admetus is presented as being; indeed, apart from his hospitable nature, she argues that the poet is not interested in presenting the king as any particular sort of poison at all: Of the characters in this play, Alcestis, Herakles and Pheros stand out in much more definite outline than Admetus . . . . they have to be the sort of people they are or the action would not work. But for Admetus, this applies only to his regal hospitality, which affects only a small area of his part in the action. For the rest, . . . he is a person to whom things happen. . . . I do not believe that apart from the ό σ ιό τη ς [piety] (10) Euripides had any particular interest io the sort of person Admetus was.35 Now insofar as the Alcestis is primarily concerned with situations rather than with character, and with ironic reversals unexpected and unintended by the characters in the play, we may agree that the moral qualities of Admetus are not central to its theme. Nevertheless, the ironic effects of the play as we have described them depend, at least in some degree, on two features both of which are related to the character of Admetus. One of these is the King's sacrifice of personal loyalty, of the charis which he owes Alcestis (which Alcestis points out at 229), to the more social virtue of hospitality (from which, in turn, further charts redounds to Admetus, as Heracles indicates at 842 and 1101). The other is the King's miscalculation, prophesied by the Serving—Woman and finally admitted by himself, concerning the ultimate satisfaction to be gained by saving his own life at the expense of his wife's. Both of these features seem to tell us something about the kind of person Admetus is; even if the King's moral judgment is not our primary concern, there can be little doubt that much of what happens in the play happens as a resnlt of his decisions and the priorities on which they are based — elements which, as Aristotle and Miss Dale would agree, form the very stuff of "character".36 Miss Dale, however, warns us against any such psychological inferences or value judments about Admetus — aed even against taking the speeches of Tragedy to be "primarily or consistently expressive of the natures [of

the speakers]". Instead, we are asked to ponder "two considerations, always very important to the Greek dramatists, the trend of the action and the rhetoric of the situation". Such admonitions do indeed proride a useful corrective against the excesses of "psychological criticism", which tends to treat the formally presented figures of Greek Tragedy as if they were characters in a nineteenth century novel. Nevertheless, the critic seems to carry her insistence on the poet's lack of interest in characterization (in any serious sense of the term) to an absurd degree when she claims that "the poet is as it were a kind of λογογράφος [or professional speech writer] who promises to do his best for each of his clients in torn as the situations change and succeed one another".3 7 This view fails, I think, to do justice to various touches of unconscious, self—condemning irony in some of the King's speeches which we may accept as part of the theatrical effectiveness of the play without concluding that the action as a whole is primarily concerned with such matters as Admetus' moral enlightenment. Two examples of such apparently sardonic touches on the poet's part may suffice to illustrate this point. During his scene with Alcestis (246—79) Admetus echoes his wife's lyrical descriptions of her approaching death with iambic appeals that she not betray him by dying (275) and with the (in the circumstances) paradoxical statement that, with Alcestis, dead, he would no longer truly exist (278). If we follow Miss Dale's approach, we must believe that the poet is simply providing Admetus with the lines which are conventionally appropriate for a husband grieving at the death—bed of his wife. Should we not say, rather, that Euripides is exploiting such conventional utterances with ironic effect in view of the fact that the lines are singularly inappropriate to the circumstances of, and reasons for, this particular death? So also, in the scene with Pheres, Admetus accuses his father of having caused Alcestis' death by his refusal to die instead of her. Then, disowning his own parents, he declares (666—68) that he will instead, be the gerotrophos ("the old age guardian": normally a filial role) of the one who (by dying!) saved his life. It would seem perverse to ignore, in the interest of any theory about ancient dramaturgy, the obvious but effective irony here, at Admetus' expense. If the poet is to be regarded as Admetus' "expert logographos", he has surely, in this instance, badly let him down. In the Alcestis, then, we have a brilliant jeu d ’esprit, a series of ironic variations on the themes of hospitality and charts, and on certain ambiguities which seem, in the circumstances, to surround them. We have seen, too, that the structure of the Alcestis is as tightly woven and perfectly controlled as we would expect from a play which depends so much on the precise timing of each new twist to be given to the theme. And when Admetus declares at the end, "I am indeed a happy man!", we may well agree with him, while agreeing among ourselves that at least a part of "the dry mock" (as the tone of this play might well be described) is directed at the pious King himself. 45

(hr) Some other view s

At least until recent times, the main interpretative arguments concerning the Alcestis have revolved around the "justification", or otherwise, of Admetus. Several critics of the past generation (e.g., G. M. A. Grube and D. W. Lucas)38 have tended to explain the King's acceptance of his wife's self—sacrifice by some form of the dynastic or "grand seigneur" argument earlier put forward by Wilamowitz and Séchan,38 or by reference to the relatively inferior status of women in Admetus' time. Even commentators critical of Admetus' judgment in accepting Alcestis' sacrifice often tend tn see him in an admirable light because of his celebrated hospitality. Thus the "virtue rewarded" interpretation of Admetus' final regaining of his wife through tho deed of a grateful Heracles has been, and perhaps still is, the most popular view of the action as a whole: among earlier studies, see, for example, those of H. Ebeling, and D. M. Jones.40 A variation of this view is provided by critics, such as Séchan and Gruhe, who take rather more interest in the "psychology" of Admetus than many more recent critics would allow; thus the King is thought, by these critics, to undergo a great emotional change, expressed in his lamentations after the funeral, as the action of the play proceeds. Among recent critics, Anne Burnett gives, in both her studies of the Alcestis,41 the most unqualified defence of the "virtue rewarded" view of Admetus' actions and experiences in the play. At no point does Burnett allow any hint of Admetus' infidelity to his promises to Alcestis to mar praise for his justly rewarded hospitality to Heracles; indeed she suggests that this very hospitality coincides with his promise (not readily discoverable in the text) to continue to live, fulfilling his duty as a nobleman, as if his wife were still alive.42 With regard to Admetus' acceptance of his wife's sacrifice, Burnett suggests (rather puzzlingly, in view of w . 705, 730, and especially 955 —57) that the audience is discouraged from thinking aboih this matter at all.43 In the second and more extensive of this critic's two studies, Admetus' "innocence" is expressed in more positive terms: treating the first part of the play as a form of "the sacrifice tragedy", Burnett (without irony) assigns tn Admetus the conventional role of "the one who tries to keep the sacrifice from taking place".44 Other recent critics have been less positive than Burnett about "the virtues of Admetus". Dale, as we have seen, though recognizing Admetus' hospitable piety as his only notable characteristic, plays down the "moral issues" (especially with regard to the sacrifice) in the play.45 C. R. Beye, on the other hand, emphasizes (as I have) Admetus' sacrifice of his mourning for Alcestis to his reputation for hospitality, though he reaches the somewhat surprising conclusion that the King ultimately resolves the conflict which these two powerful obligations provide.48 Indeed, the element of betrayal in Admetus' hospitality to Heraeles and in his ultimate acceptance of "the veiled woman” has been stressed by several other 46

critics, notably Kurt von Fritz and, to a lesser degree, John R. Wilson in his Introduction to an interesting collection of essays on the Alcestis.*7 Despite Admetus' alleged unworthiness and the ironies involved in the play's dénouement, Wilson tends to accept the happy ending of the play at face value, since he finds that "in Alcestis the tone is tolerant and amused", and that "Admetus is somewhat endearing in his incorrigible obtuseness".4 8 Von Fritz, on the other hand, takes Euripidee' implicit criticisms of Admetus more seriously. Like Wesley Smith whom we have quoted earlier49 he recognizes two levels of action in the play: ... just as Euripides starts out from a fairy tale, so ho returns to it at tiie end, after he has shown in all the intervening parts of the play what happens to the tale when it is transposed Into reality.50 On the other hand. Von Fritz takes the ethical implications of the play more seriously than do other critics who have questioned the simplistic "virtue rewarded” interpretation df the play. He argues that the apparently happy ending is not, in effect, happy at all, since Alcestis and Admetus would not, after all that has happened, live happily ever after — and that the audience is meant to draw this conclusion. However, such speculations exö tou dramatos, "beyond the action of the play”, are not, perhaps, justified. It seems safer to rest content with observing (as several critics have done) the ironies involved in the two levels of the action. Euripides has let us see what Admetus might, in the circumstances, have reasonably been expected to suffer for his "choice". Only in the never-never world of folk—tale can such miraculous rewards for his highly ambiguous "virtue" be expected, but then only in such a world could the original "life-saving" choice have been offered him. (v) Visual aspects o f the Alcestis While it is hazardous to try to visualize the various theatrical effects of an ancient Greek tragic production, we may perhaps venture to suggest some possibilities. Two features ef the theme whieh we have already noted in these introductory comments particularly · lend themselves to visual illustration: the ambiguous play on life and death and the emphasis on hospitality. It is the latter which makes the palace of Admetus (which provides the total scenic background), and goings and comings which revolve around the palace, so important to the stage action of the piece; so, too, it is the life/death ambiguity which makes significant the colour, or at least the degree of light and darkness, with which each of the major characters is, figuratively or literally, associated. Apollo, the god of light, dressed perhaps in gold—coloured robe with matching mask, leaves Admetus' palace (where be has been so hospitably treated) as Death, black—robed (or possibly black—winged, if we accept 47

Musgrave's emendation at v. 843), approaches and, after his altercation with Apollo, enters the palace to begin his symbolic possession of Alcestis. The Serving—Maid enters from the Palace (141), answers the Chorus' anxious inquiry ("Is the Queen alive or dead?") and withdraws again into the Palace. Her movements in this brief episode anticipate the entry of Alcestis, supported by Admetus (244), for the Death—Scene, and the exit of Admetus with the corpse of Alcestis back into the palace. The sudden, unannounced arrival of Heracles (476), (dressed, no doubt in his traditional lion—skin), jars with the pathos of the preceding Death-Scene, just as his entry into the palace at Admetus' insistence (546 ff.) jars with the mourning which Admetus has promised and just initiated. Yet it is the vigour of the hero and the hospitality whioh he receives which is, paradoxically, to redeem the catastrophe. In the next episode, Admetus, presumably robed in black, comes out again from the Palace (606) to conduct Alcestis' funeral. Almost immediately, Pheres enters (614) from the right (coming from his own palace) and after the quarrel scene with Admetus departs (733) whence he has come, while Admetus, with the Chorus, departs in the opposite direction (740) leading the funeral procession. The scene is, for the moment, deserted, an unusual situation in Greek tragic performances, marking, perhaps, the lowest ebb of Alcestis' and Admetus' fortunes and the point at which the resolution of the various motifs in the play (the hospitality theme, the life and death ambiguity) will begin. The Servant enters from the palace (747) to speak the soliloquy complaining about Heracles, the guest intruding on mourning for Alcestis. When Heracles enters from the palace (773) and the Servant's complaints and revelations trigger the beginning of the dénouement, Heracles leaves (in the same direction as Admetus and the funeral have left) to rescue Alcestis from Death (860). The stage movements (by which, in a sense, the vicissitudes of the royal fortunes can be measured) end with the return of Admetus in despair to his empty palace (861) followed by the triumphant return of Heracles (possibly wreathed as a victor in the Games which he has allegedly won) with the veiled figure of Alcestis (1008). The final revelation and Admetus' announcement (1154—6) of celebrations (balancing his earlier proclamation [425 ff.] of state—wide mourning) provide a komos—like ending to this pro—satyrio play.

the same original, are derived ultimately from the same source. However, differences between these MSS vary from play to play and are of such a kind as to prevent any clear statement of the relations between them, let alone the creation of an archetype. Of these four, only B (Parisinus 2713) and V (Vaticanus 209) contain the Alcestis. O (Laurentianus 31. 10) and D (Laurentianus 31. 15), manuscripts of the late twelfth and of the fourteenth century, respectively, also contain the Alcestis. O, derived from the same source as B, is regularly reported in Diggle's apparatus (reproduced in abbreviated form in the present edition); D, a mere copy of B, has for that reason been passed over. The second family of manuscripts is derived from a Byzantine copy of not only the ten "select" plays but also of nine additional plays accidentally preserved from an ancient‘alphabetical collection of the total Euripidean corpus. Of the two MSS here concerned, L (Laurentianus 32.1) is more valuable than P (Palatinus gr. 287). It is generally agreed that the latter is derived from L; however, for this play (as for several others) P also provides readings from other sources and so is independently cited in the With regard to any question of preference between the two manuscript traditions, one is inclined to agree with Dale's general conclusion that for the Alcestis neither class of MSS, BV or LP, is clearly superior to the other and that consequently each case where a difference appears or a doubt arises must be decided on its own merits.52 In addition to the manuscripts already mentioned, the late XVth or early XVIth MS, Q (= Harleianus 5743), which has preserved w . 1029—1163 of the Alcestis, has also been used in the preparation of Diggle's text. As in the case of many Greek Tragedies, further assistance in the establishment of the text has been provided by the scholia (which often cite ancient variants differing from the readings of their own MSS) and from passages (normally called "Testimonia") excerpted from the play by ancient authors and anthologists. For these, see the Apparatus Criticus and, for the Testimonia, the list conveniently provided in Dale's edition.53

IV. The Text As far as the great majority of Euripidean plays is concerned, there are two main families of MSS. First, there are four annotated MSS (i.e., MSS complete with scholia) entitled MABV, representing the selection of ten plays made for use in schools about the second or third century A.D. These MSS of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, though not copies of48 48


13. Notes to Introduction to Alcestis 1.

See U. von Wilamowitz, Analecta Euripidea (Berlin 1875) 172 ff., esp. p. 177. Cf. also H. E. Mierow, "Euripides' Artistic Development", AJP 52 (1931) 339—50, which includes criticism of Wilamowitz's theory of evolution of Euripides' art. 2. See Aristotle, Poetics 1453 a 17—22. (On Phrynichus' Alcestis, see below, p.31). 3. See Dale, Intro., v and xxxix. 4. There seems to be an oblique reference to Apollo's bondage to Admetus, son of Pheres, at IL 2. 763 —66; Homer's only reference to Alcestis with Admetus occurs in his naming of the parents of Eumelus at II. 2. 713—15. For the Hesiodic references, see Hesiod, fragments 122-27 (Rzach = 59, 60, 42, 51, 54b, 54c Merkelbach and "West) from the Ehoiai, or Catalogue o f Famous Women. A scholium to Euripides, Ale. 1 (Hes. frg. 127 = 54c M and W) assures us that in the parts of the myth concerning Apollo's enslavement to Admetos, Euripides is following the common tale as told by Hesiod and Asclepiades. (The scholiast also adds several other ancient sources, including writers as early as Stesichorus and Pherecydes, for this part of the myth.) 5. See Nauck, TGF, p. 720. 6. See Apollodorus, Bibl. 3. 10. 3—4 and 1. 9. 15 respectively. The translation of the latter passage, quoted below, is that of Sir James Frazer, in the Loeb edition (London 1921). 7. Carl Robert, Thanatos (Berlin, 1879), 29 -3 0 . 8. See U. von Wilamowitz, Isyllos von Epidauros, Philol. Untersuchungen 9 (Berlin, 1886) 68 ff. and (on the alleged origins find significance of such popular religious poetry attributed to Hesiod) Griechische Tragoedien, ΠΙ (Berlin, 1906) 7 ff., in Wilamowitz's introduction to Alkestis. Cf. also Méridier, 46—47 and (by way of contrast). Dale, ix. (Detailed references to the other critics mentioned will be made later in this Introduction.) 9. Lesky (1925). The German, Greek and Armenian folk-songs are outlined and discussed at pp. 20 ff., 27 ff., and 30 ff., respectively. Cf. also Christ—Schmid, Geschichte der griechischen Literatur (Munich, 1912) I, 355—56, n. 1, where the folk—tale aspects of Euripides' Alcestis are also stressed. 10. This is a paraphrase of the summary in Lesky (1925), 4 1 -4 2 ; cf. ibid., 36-41. 11. Robert, op. cit., 29. 12. For a sympathetic summary of such views see Séchan (1927), I, 50

14. 15. 16.

17. 18.


490-514, especially 493 —98 and references to Wilamowitz and Bloch there given. See Ebeling, 6 5 -8 5 , especially 74-77. Cf. also Th. Bergk, Griechische Literaturgeschichte (Berlin 1889) m , 498, who believes that in Phrynichus' Alcestis, Alcestis' return was the gift of the gods of the Underworld. On this fragment of Phrynichus, cf. Dale, xiii—xiv, and references there given. See Ebeling, 65 —66, 76 —77. The suggestion that Euripides introduced Heracles into the Alcestis story is, of course, highly conjectural. There is, however, no evidence in painting or sculpture to contradict the view that die theme of Alcestis' self-sacrifice made a relatively late entry into the main tradition of Greek mythology. According to J. A. Paton, "The Story of Alcestis in Ancient Literature and Myth", A3 A 4 (1900), 150—51, "The myth was not popular in early art and no unquestioned representations of it have survived." J. D. Beazley, Etruscan Vase Paintings (Oxford 1947), 134, refers to but one uncertain representation of Alcestis on an Attic neck amphora (Louvre F60). The fourth century Etruscan representations of the Alcestis story do not include the figure of Heracles. See above, pp. 29 —30. For the view that other extant Euripidean plays besides the Alcestis (notably Helen and Iphigenia among the Taurians) may also have been pro—satyric, see Dana F. Sutton, The Greek Satyr Play, (Meisenheim am Gian 1980) 184 ff. Sutton makes the point that the two plays mentioned provide the elements of comic relief and of tragic subversion which he feels should be present in the pro—satyric Alcestis but which are, in his opinion, missing from it. However, on the basis of length alone, Helen and I.T . seem unlikely to have been 'pro—satyric' drama, if such a category can be thought to have existed. See Dale, xviii—xxii, for the points cited in the above paragraph from her discussion. Not all critics have agreed concerning the success of the mingling of the comic (presumably "pro—satyric") and serious elements in Alcestis. Among the older critics, Th. Bergk, Griechische Literaturgeschichte ΙΠ (Berlin 1884) 498, praised the introduction of Heracles (which he regarded as a Euripidean innovation) as providing a hearty "Zwischenspiel" ("interlude") with which to relieve the moving and pathetic element of the play. Méridier 50—51, while averring that Heracles supplies the only reminiscence of the satyr—play in Alcestis, finds that character stripped of his rowdier qualities in order to fit the play's tragic tone. Grube, 145 —46, finds the mixture of the tragic and the comic unsuccessful in the Alcestis in that the two elements are kept too far apart ("There is nothing comic 51





about either Admetus or Alcestis, there is nothing tragic about Heracles") for them to operate together. See Kitto, 315—16. For a more recent and perhaps subtler view of the Alcestis' comic elements than those considered above, see now B. Seidensticker, Palintonos Harmonia, Studien zu komischen Elementen in der griechischen Tragödie (Göttingen 1982) 130 ff. Seidensticker insists that the meaning and the aesthetic charm of Alcestis lie precisely in the fact that the same tale is treated as tragedy and comedy at the same time. Thus he finds that combination in no way synthetic but expressive of the ambiguous simultaneity of Tragi—Comedy and rejects the views (held by Kitto and to a degree by Wesley Smith [below, note 21]) that moments of tragic effect and intense emotional sympathy are rendered impossible by the folk—tale quality which, he finds, supplies its non—tragic elements (see especially pp. 135-35). For Seidensticker, the later comedies of Shakespeare supply the closest literary parallel to Alcestis and he suggests (p. 136) that Northrop Frye's definition of romantic comedy or "romance" in this connection is applicable, to a remarkable degree, to Alcestis (see Northrop Frye, Anatomy o f Criticism [Princeton 1957] 186 ff.). We may, I think, accept Seidensticker's account of the inseparability of the comic and tragic effects of our play without rejecting, as Seidensticker does, Kitto's insistence that the blend renders impossible, even at the more moving moments of the action, the kind of emotional response we reserve for tragedy. See Wesley Smith, "The Ironic Structure in Alcestis", Phoenix 14 (1960) 127 —45; the quotation which follows in the text is from p. 127. On the ethical ideas involved in this and comparable Euripidean themes, see S. E. Scully, Philia and Charis in Euripidean Tragedy (Ph.D. thesis. University of Toronto, 1973), esp. Chap. ΠΙ, "Alcestis". (Cf. also the summary in Dissertation Abstracts XXXVI, 1484 a —b.) See my article, "Structural Aspects of Euripides' Alcestis", in Greek Poetry and Philosophy, Studies in Honour o f Leonard Woodbury (Chico, California, 1985), 73 —81 (the present quotation is from p. 74) which also diseosses other examples of Euripides' use of this "framing device." (Parts of the following discussion of Alcestis' structure are adaptations and expansions of suggestions made in this article.) Cf. also Kurt von Fritz, Antike und moderne Tragödie (Berlin 1962) 312 ff., whose view of Euripides' use of this device in Alcestis is briefly discussed below (p. 35—6). Rivier, 130—31, has remarked that Apollo's prophecy of a "happy ending" early in the play indicates the poet's concern (in keeping with the pro—satyric position of the play) not to yield, or have his audience yield, too much to the natural gravity and gloom of the situation. R. Hamilton, in "Prologue, Prophecy and Plot in Four Plays of 52



26. 27. 28. 29.

Euripides", AJP 99 (1978) 277 —302, views Apollo's prophecy in a somewhat different light. He argues that, in Ion, Iphigenia in Tauris, Helen, and Alcestis, "the prediction [in the prologue] is altered, qualified, questioned or contradicted in the course of the play;” the resultant tension between the audience's expectations from the prologue and from the action, respectively, helps, it is alleged, "to articulate and unify the whole". Hamilton's argument is interesting and ingenious but works less well for Alcestis than for nts other examples in that the audience is never in this play led into serious doubt, despite the views expressed by the Chorus, concerning Apollo's "prologue prophecy". Rosenmeyer, 217 ff., has described the Chorus to this play as "the instrument which Euripides employs to dramatize man's reliance on the conventions" by which the ordinary human being oan protect himself "against too keen an awareness of the weight of necessity." This is a fair comment on many of the Chorus' more banal utterances (e.g., at 416 ff., which Rosenmeyer includes in his illustrations) but one which hardly does justice tn passages such as the present one (at w . 112 ff.) which help the poet's distinction between the real, or at least the traditional, world of tragic myth and the "impossibilities” indicated in the prologue and the exodos of the play. This convention of employing first lyric and then dramatic expression to present two distinct aspects of a character's experience (or, sometimes, personality) has been discussed by several commentators in connection with this passage. See, for example, Rosenmeyer, 225; Rivier, 135, and his references to W. Schadewaldt, Monolog und Selbstgespräch (Berlin 1926) and W. Kranz, Stasimon (Berlin 1933). I have discussed Euripides' exploitation of this convention in this and other passages (e.g., at Med. I l l ff. and 214 ff., at Hipp. 199 ff. and 373 ff.) in Maia 24 (1972) 199-207. See Note ad loc. Cf. Heracles' speech at w . 779—802. See w . 600 —05 and Notes ad loc. Cf. also the Note on the ode as a whole. Pheres’ prophecies in these two passages, about what may be said about Admetus (and, in his referonce to Aicestis' kinsmen, about what may be done to him), together with Admetus' own later expressions of concern (954—60) about what may be said of him, tend rather to refute the view held in one form or another by several scholars that in accordance with the attitudes of antiquity it would be quite acceptable, even expected, that the King should accept the sacrifice even of his wife for his life. Cf., for example, Séchan, 340—42, Grube 129-30, Lucas, 4. (Méridier, 52 also rebutted such "historical justifications" of Admetus' position by reference to these passages, i.e., to "le blame public" mentioned by Pheres and feared by 53




33. 34. 35.


Admetus.) Wilamowitz (1906) 88 —93, earlier had also explained Admetus' attitude (and that of the Chorus) as being in accordance with the King's "Grandseigneur'' view of his position. However Wilamowitz does make it clear that the Pheres scene shows Admetus for the first time that the matter may not always be seen from this point of view. (It should be noted also that Alcestis' own view of her situation at 284—6 [where she says that instead of dying for Admetus she might well, as his widow, have married another Thessalian prince] further rebuts the idea that the Queen is making a sacrifice expected of her). A similar inference can, perhaps, be drawn from Euripides' treatment of Helen in his Helen. Only in a romantic fantasy can we accept a Helen who is a chaste and faithful "Penelope figure", waiting patiently for Menelaus id Egypt where (in the dramatist's exploitation of Stesichorus' palinode) die has been spirited away by Hermes until the siege of Troy has been accomplished. Elsewhere, in more "credible" Euripidean plays (most notably by Hecuba in The Trojan Women), she is presented as quite the opposite of the faithful wife, pining for her husband. For various views of whatPhaedra (and Euripides) meant by "the other" aidos, see Barrett's note ad loc.; E. R. Dodds, "The Aidos of Phaedra and the Meaning of the Hippolytus", CR 39 (1925) 102-04, and F. Solmsen, "Bad Shame and related Problems (Eur. Hipp. 380-88)", Hermes 101 (1973) 420-25. The word charis occurs ten times in the scenes between Theoclymenus, Helen, and Menelaus in the Helen. In the context mentioned above, see especially w . 1234 ff., 1411 and 1420; cf. also my Euripidean Drama, 298—99 and Note 15. Dale, xxii. Ibid., XXV. Ibid., xxvii. Though we shall venture some qualifications of this view there is no question that Miss Dale's treatment of characterization in the Alcestis, as well as of the thème of the play as a whole, provides a valuable corrective to the extreme psychological and moralistic treatments to which ithas often been subjected in the past. (An egregious example of the latter approach may be found in the Introduction to Van Lennep's edition.) For a view of the presentation of Admetus which differs from Dale's and yet avoids the excesses of psychological interpretation, see Arrowsmith,Introduction,Part III. Arrowsmith speaks (p. 11) of the "complete modal ignorance and innocence" of Admetus as a man "untamed" (a—damatos) or unbroken by Necessity who will eventually be "forcibly subjected” to it, when he comes to realize what Alcestis' self-sacrifice for his life is to mean to him. See Aristotle, Poetics 1449 b 36 - 54 1450 a 2. Cf. also Dale, 54

37. 38. 39. 40.

41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53.

"Character and Thought in Aristotle's Poetics", Collected Papers, 45 ff. (Even apart from Admetus' presumed decision to accept Alcestis' sacrifice, which a purist might argue is outside the actual dramatic action, the King clearly expresses decisions in his speeches both with regard to his promises to Alcestis and with regard to his hospitality to Heracles and later to Heracles' "veiled woman".) See Dale, xxviii. See Grube, 129—30; Lucas 4. See above, note 29, for references to the views of Wilamowitz, Séchan, Grube, and Lucas on this point. Ebeling, 7 6 -8 1 ; D. M. Jones, 50-55. (Gilbert Murray [1913] 71-72, is one of the few among the past generation of critics to stress that Euripides clearly shows us the weakness in Admetus' character in accepting his wife's sacrifice.) Anne Burnett, "The Virtues of Admetus", CP 60 (1965) 240—55 and Catastrophe Survived, (Oxford 1971) Chap. Π, 22—46. Burnett (1971), 39. Burnett (1965), 240-41. Burnett (1971), 27. See Dale, Iahro. iv; cf. also the preceding section of the present Introduction. Beye, 118 ff. Kurt von Fritz, Antike und Moderne Tragödie, 312 ff; Wilson, 4—5, 7—9. (Von Fritz's discussion of the Alcestis is translated in Wilson's collection, pp. 20 ff.) Wilson, 9. Cf. supra, p. 36 and Note 21. Von Fritz, as translated in Wilson, 82. See Diggle I (1984) xii—xiii; cf. Dale, xxx. Dale, xxxi. Ibid., xxxvi—xxxviii.


CODICES B Parisinus gr. 2713 O Laurentianus 31. 10 V Vaticanus gr. 90g L Laurentianus 32. 2 P Palatinus gr. 287 Q, Harleianus 5743 (uu. 1029-1163) raro memorantur Va Palatinus gr. 98 (cod. V apographum) Hn Hauniensis 417 (cod. Va apographum) D

memoratur etiam in scholiis Laurentianus 31.15 (cod. B apographum)

sacc. xi c. 1175 c. 1250-80 xivin. xivin. xv ex. uel xvi in. xiv c. 1475 xiv

GNOM OLOGIA gV Vatopedianus 36 gB Vaticanus Barberini gr. 4 gE Escorialensis gr. X. 1. 13

xii c. 1300 xiv in.

SIGLA (codicem A exempli causa adhibui) Ac AlC A1 A8 Auv A? (A) [A]

Am Ar Agl Aw

A post correctionem incertum qua manu factam A post correctionem a prima manu factam codicis A manus secunda (siue in textu siue supra lineam) in A supra scriptum a prima manu A ut uidetur A non certo legitur A a lectione memorata pusillum discrepat A non legibilis uel deest lectio in A non legibilis ex indicio nescioquo colligi potest A in margine codicis A rubricator glossema in A uaria lectio in A cum nota γρ(άφ* ται) uel sim.


Demetrius Triclinius codicis L emendator


scholiasta, scholia lectio quam disertim testatur scholiasta codicis A lemma scholiastae codicis A lectio quam in textu inuenisse scholiastam codicis A ex eius interpretatione colligitur uaria lectio in Σ * cum nota γρ(μφ€ται) uel sim.

*ΣΛ υ?Σ λ

~ *


lectio cum ceteris codicibus consentit contra lectionem uel coniecturam modo memoratam littera erasa uel obliterata



Apollo D eath Chorus of citizens o f Pherae Serving—M aid Alcestis, wife of King Admetus Adm etus, King of P herae, a kingdom of Thessaly Boy, son of Alcestis and Admetus H eracles Pheres, father of Admetus Servant ALCESTIS Scene: T h e play takes place before the palace of Admetus in Pherae, Thessaly.


W ith prose translation

Y n O e E C J C A A K H C T I A O C / ώ Dindorf: παπαΐ ώ fere BOV: παί καί καί c^ài ßapeiai αιμφοράι πΐπΧηγμχθα.




AD. Unhappy fate of m ine, of what a wife do you deprive me! AL. Now indeed darkness is settling down on my eyes. AD. I am lost if you leave m e, wife! AL. You might speak of me now as no longer living. AD. Lift up your face! D o n 't leave your children! AL. Not at all willingly do I do so. But farewell, dear children! AD. Look a t us! O h, only look a t us! AL. I am alive no longer! AD. W hat are you doing? Are you abandoning us? AL. Farewell! AD. I am ruined utterly! CHOR. She has gone! T he wife of Admetus is no longer. BOY (singing) Alas for my unhappy fortune! Mama has gone down to the world below. No longer, dear father, does she live beneath the rays of the sun, but in abandoning me has condemned me to a life of orphanhood! tLook, oh, look upon her e y es,t upon her hands, loosely hanging by her side. H ear, O hear m e, m other, I beseech you! It's m e, m other, your little o n e .t who is calling on you and falling on y o u rt lips with kisses! AD. You call upon her but she neither hears nor sees. And so both I and you two children have been struck by cruel disaster.

393n et 406n. Ilaïc Murray: εϋμτίλοο codd. 398. numeri incerti sunt 402 —3 et 414—15. numeri incerti sunt 404. την < y ’> Hermann





vioc έγώ, πάτtp, λ(ίπομαι φίλαΐ povôcToXôc τε ματρόί' & οχέτλιa Sif παθών έγώ έργ', S cù ή γ κ α ώ μοι cwIrAac κούρα. < y ώ πάτ«ρ, άνόνατ’ άνόνατ* €ννμφ€ΐκαχ o 4 îi γηροκ ißac tîA oc cùv τά ιδ ’· έφθιτο γάρ n&poc' οίχο/iévac Si cov, |iârc/>, όλωλεν ohcoc. Alo.


Ά Β μ η τ', ανάγκη racSe cvpuftopàc φ έρ α ν où yâp r t irpwToc ούδΙ Xoicâioc βροτών γυναικόί icSXrfc ημπλακ€ΐ· γίγνω Vainly, vainly did you marry, father! You did not reach old age together with this wife of yours, for she has died too soon! And with yo u gone, dear m other, our house is utterly destroyed! CHOR. Admetus, you must bear this blow, for you are by no means the first of mortals nor, indeed, will you be the last, to have lost a noble wife. Realize, then, th at it is fated for all of us to die. AD. Indeed, I know this and not unexpectedly has the present woe alighted on us: long before this have I been oppressed with the knowledge of it. Stay now, for I will arrange the carrying—out of the body; while you wait, sing antiphonally a paean without libation to the god below. I bid all the Thessalians whom I rule to share in mourning for this woman with shorn hair and black—robed garb. All you who chariot—teams or single steeds possess, take swords and sheer the horses' manes. And let there be no sound of flute or lyre throughout the city for the wax and wane of twelve completed moons. F or never will I bury the corpse of any other one m ore dear, m ore loyal to me than this one. W orthy in my eyes is she of honour, since she alone has died in place of me. {A d m e tu s a n d th e c h ild r e n g o in to th e p a la c e , a tte n d a n ts c a r r y in g th e c o r p s e o f A lc e s tis )

406. πάτερ λείπομαι LP: λ — π — BOV 409—10. ë p y ', â ci) cOyKaci μοι συνέτλοκ: κούρα Willink (μοι hoc loco iam Hermann): ëpya cù τε μοι cbyicaci κ— cov— fere codd. ( τ ' έμοί LP) · 420. το ι Nauck: χε BOV (cf. 38): yc LP 424. ûcnovôov 'Σ*5: άοπόνδω(ι) codd. et Σ A. Ch. 151 426. λέγω VLP: θέλω BO 427. μ ε λαμπέπλω(ι) LP et Β4: μελανχίμοιο πέπλοι c O(V) 428. θ ' o t BOV: τε LP 433. xnc 6 ' Monk 434. τιμήο LP: τιμ ά ν BOV 96


f o llo w e d






ώ Πελίου θύγατίρ, χαίροικά μοι «V Ά ίδα δόμοιαν τον άνάλιον οΐκον οικετενοκ. fcrtu δ' 'i4(8ac ο μελαγχαίrac θΐο c ôc τ' «πί κώπαι ττηδαλίωι τε γέρων νεκροπομπδε ΐζει πολύ δή πολύ δή γυναΐκ' àpicrav λίμναν Άχεροντίαν πορενcac ελάται δικώπωι.

[erp. a 436


πολλά cc μουεοπόλοι μελφονα καθ' ίτττάτονόν τ ' ορείαν χελνν εν τ ' άλύροte κλεοντεε ΰμνοιε, G rip rai κυκλάε άνίκα Καρνείου περινίεεται ώρα μηνόε, άειρομεναε παννύχου εελάναε, λιπαραϊεί τ ' εν ολβίαιε Άθάναιε. τοίαν ελιπεε θανοΰεα μολπάν μ*λεων άοιδοϊε.

[άντ. ο

»At €7Τ » » €μοι » t μέν t €ΐη, » €iu δυναίμαν δε εε πεμφαι φάοε εξ Ά ίδ α τ(ράμνων και Κωκυτοίο ρείθρων ποταμίαι νερτεραι τ€ κώπαι.

[cTp. β



CHOR. (singing) O daughter of Pelias, may you fare well, dwelling in your sunless home in H ades' realm. And let Hades, the black—haired god, and also that ancient ferryman of the dead, who sits a t his rudder—oar, know that a woman by far the best of all is being carried in the tw o—oared bark across the Acherontian mere. O ften indeed will minstrels celebrate you in song, extolling your glory both on the seven—toned mountain lyre and in hymns of praise for the voice alone, when in due course a t Sparta the season of the Carnean month comes around, lit by the splendour of the a ll-n ig h t m oon, and at rich and prosperous Athens as well: such a them e of songs, Alcestis, have you in dying left to bards in days to come. If only I had the power by rowing you over the infernal flood to bring you from Hades' chambers, from the streams of Cocytus, into the light of day. For you.


435. Πελία Monk 448. κυκλάο Scaliger: κύκλοο fere codd. ( —o*c B, —o c ’ Ο) 449. ώρα BOP et Tr: ώρ* L: äpqt V: üpac Hesych. 458. κωκυχοϊο L:' —x o ic P: ποΟ χε BOV ρεέθρων BVP: ρείθρων L: Ρέθρων Ο ΚωκυχοΟ χε ρεέθρων Matthiae, Κωκυχοϊό χε (Ρείθρων Hayley u. del. Hermann, Bothe (nepiccoc TrS)





c i γάρ, ώ μάνα ω φίλα γυναικών, cv τον avrâc érXac ir6civ άντί côc άμίΐφαι φυχάc (ζ Ά ιΒ α. κουφά cot χθων bravade nécoi, γΰναι. et 8é τι καινόν ίλοιτο 7rocic Χίχοο, ή μάλ' αν ίμ ο ιγ' αν eΐη ; grey—haired though both are, they had not the heart to save their own son, the wretches! But you, in your springtime of life, went to your death, a young wife dying for a young husband. I wish that I could come upon such a union with a loving wife! A rare possession in life is this. T hen surely indeed she would be with me all her life long without causing m e pain.


cv d cv ήραι véai vcoi» προθανοûca φαττοο οϊχηι. TOtaùrac eiij μοι Kvpcat cvvSv&Boc ÿiAtac άλόχοιτ rô yàp èv βιότωι cnâviov pépoc ή yàp àv

ίμ ο ιγ’ âXimoc Si* aiâivoc àv ζυνΐίη.

(Enter Heracles) HERACLES Strangers, dwellers in this land of Pherae, will I find Admetus a t home? 475

HPAKAHC (évot, 0epaiac rijcSe κωμηται χθονόο, Ά δ μ η το ν èv δόμοιαν âpa κιγχάνω; 461. < έτλαο> Murray 464. n ô c ic λέχοο LP: λ - π — BOV 469. ante h.u. lac. indie. Canter δ ' ούκ BOV: ούκ L: κούκ P βύεεθαι BOV: Ρύοαοθαι LP 471. νέα νέου LP: νέο Dobree: om. codd. et gVgBgE: < δ έ > Erfurdt, < τ ι > Elmsley ξ έν ove LP: ξέν ο ι c gB: φ ίλ ο ιο BV et gVgE: φίλουε O ceterum παρ’ άγκλαί ovci Da we, oic^pöv φ ίλ ο ιc κ λ α ίο υ ο ι, θοινάοθαι πάρα Tate 546. τύδε Β: χώνδε OVLP 548. εύ England: έν codd. 551. xocaöxnc LP: χοιαύχηο BOV προεκειμένηο Wakefield: π ρ ο κ - codd.


CHOR. Admetus, what are you doing? With so great a disaster confronting you, can you endure entertaining guests? How can you be so insensitive? AD. But if I had sent him away from the house and from the city, when he eame as a guest, would you have praised me more? Surely not, for my misfortune would have been in no way less and I would have been




Χο. Αδ.


καί irpoc κακοί«? άλλο rovr' à? ή? κακόν, δόμοικ καλΐχθαι rove έμοικ έχθροξένουΐ. avroc 8 ’ άρίΐτου τοΰδί τυγχάνω ξίνου, όταν ποτ' "Αργούe διψίαν έλθω χθόνα. π ο χ ούν (κ ρ υ π τίΐ τον παρόντα δαίμονα, φίλου μολόντοο âvSpôc ο χ αύτό c Xéyttc; ούκ αν ποτ' ijô&ijce? tictXdfîv δόμοικ, fi των (μών τ ι πημάτων hyvotpicfv. καί τώι μέ?, οΐμαι, δρων τάδ' ού φρονΰν δοκώ οΰδ’ aivtcfi μ ί· τάμα δ* ούκ έπ χτα τα ι μίλαθρ' άπωθΐΐν ούδ' ατίμαζαν £cvovc. & πολύξΐακχ καί έλίυθέρου άνδροc à ti ποτ' oXkoc, ce τοι καί 6 Πύθιοο fvXvpac 'Απόλλων ■ηξίοκί vaiftv, ίτλα δί coi« μηλovόμac cv νομοίc yevicBax, δοχμιάν διά κλατνων βοατημαα coîci ΐυρίζων



[erp. a $γο


m ip tr a c vpvaw vc.

cw δ* ίποιμαίνοντο χαρά* μολέων βαλιαί κ XiryKfc, fßa δλ Xinoùc' "Odpooc νάπαν λίόντων ά δαφοινο€ ϊλα* χό ρα κί δ ' άμφι càv κιθάραν, Φοϊβί, ποικιλόθριξ vtßpoc ύφικόμων πέραν ßaivooc' έλατά? ΐφυρωι κούφωι, χοίρουe’ ΐύφρονι μολπάι.

[άντ. a 58ο

inhospitable as well. T hen this would have been a further evil, in addition to my present woes, that my house should be called hostile to guests. Besides, I find this lord the best of hosts whenever at any time I go to thirsty Argos. CHOU. How then did you come to hide your present misfortune, when a m an who is a friend, as you yourself say, has arrived? AD. He would never have been willing to enter my house, if he had known anything of my troubles. To one m an or another, I realize, I'll seem to be acting without good sense, and such a m an w on't praise me for it. But these halls of m ine simply do not know how to reject or to dishonour guests. CHOR. (singing) O house always so hospitable, like its liberal master! W ithin your doors even Pythian Apollo, famed singer to the lyre, once deigned to dwell and to serve as shepherd in your fields, playing pastoral m ating—songs to the flocks along your gentle slopes. Enchanted by your songs, Apollo, the spotted lynxer joined you in the fields. Then, leaving Mount O thrys' glades, there next arrived a troop of tawny mountain lions. The dappled fawn as well, delighting in your cheerful song, came dancing to the music of your lyre, tripping on dainty foot beyond the pine—wood'.c leafy foliage.


558. έχθροζέvoue LP: κακοζένουο BOV et gVgE 560. ποτ ' BOV: περ LP 568—9. πολυζείνσ υ Purgold (- gE) ελευθέρου Purgold: έλεύθεροο codd. et gE 574. νομοίο Pierson: δόμοιε BOLP: δόμοι c i V 583. χόρευοε Monk: έ χ — codd.: χόρευε Wecklein






ro ty à p πολυμηλοτάταν écria»' οίκεΐ παρά καλλίναον Βοιβίαν λίμναν. άράτοιε 8é γνάν

και πεδίων δαπεδοιε άρον άμφι μεν άελιου κνεφαίαν ίππόετααν f αιθέρα T avf Μολοεcôjv ( ) τίθεται, πόντιον δ' Αίγαίον επ ' άκτάν άλίμενον Πηλιου κρατύνει. καί νΰν δόμον άμπετάεαε

δεζατο ζεΐνον νοτερωι βλεφάρωι. τάε φίλ ac κλαίων άλόχου νεκνν εν δόιμαειν άρτιθανη- τό γάρ εύγενεε εκφερεται προε αιδώ. εν τοΐε άγαθοιει δε πάντ' ενεετιν- εοφίαε άγομαι, πράε 8’ εμ&ι φυχαι θράεοε ήεται θεοεεβή φώτα κ ίδνά πράξειν. Λδ.


άνδρών Φεραίων εύμενηε παρουεια, νεκυν μεν ηδη ιτάντ' εχοντα πρόεπολοι φερουειν άρδην πράε τάφον τε καί πυράνΰμεΐε δε την θανοΰεαν, ôte νομίζεται, προεείπατ' εζιονεαν υετάτην δδ&ν. καί μην δρω εόν πατέρα γηραιώι πόδι ετείχοντ', όπαδούε τ ' εν χεροΐν δάμαρτι εηι κόεμον φερονταε, νερτερων αγάλματα.

[cTp. β 590


[άντ. β


With his flocks thus made most fertile our King inhabits his dom ain by the sweet—flowing Bolbian stream. To the west, toward the cloudy stables of the sun—god's steeds, he sets tth e skyt over the Molossians < ...> as boundary for his ploughed fields and the broad acreage of his plains, while to the east he rules as far as the harsh Aegaean coast around M ount Pelion. And now, throwing open his doors, he receives a guest into his hom e, even as he weeps mourning the corpse of his dear wife, but newly perished in his hom e. For his noble nature is carried to an extrem e of guest—reverence. Among good m en, all things are possible: I admire their wisdom. Then in my heart sits confidence that all will go well for a g o d -fe a rin g man.


{A d m e tu s e n te r s , le a d in g A lc e s tis ’ f u n e r a l p ro c e ssio n )



AD. Loyal assemblage of Pheraean gentlemen, the corpse has now received all the necessary preparations and the attendants have raised it high to carry it to its last resting place. Do you, then, as is customary, address the dead woman, now departing on her final journey. CHOR. But look I see your father approaching, walking like the old m an that he is. And I see his servants, too, carrying in their hands raim ent for your wife, adornm ent for the dead. {E n te r P h e r e s , w ith a tte n d a n ts c a r r y in g f u n e r a l g i f t s )

589. fccxiocv OVLP et Σh : ο ικ ία ν Β 592. κνεφαΐον Zb (cum α ιθέρ α iungens) 593. ίπ π ό εχα ο ιν BLP: im ôcxaci ν OV 594. Bauer 595. 6 ’ BOV: x ' LP et a iy a ïo v et a iy a ia v ' îP 603. ante copiac dist. Dale: post co piae codd. et Zb et (omisso δγαμαι) gV 604. Bpâcoc Barnes: θάρεοε codd. et gE 606. côyevtic Elmsley 608. npöc LP: e ic BOV et Eust. in 11. p. 707





και μητίρα

623. εύκλεέοχερον V: - τ α τ ο ν BOLP Matüae: - ξ ε ι ο LP: - ζ η ι ΒΟ: - ζ ε ι ο V alii del.









635. άποιμώξηι 636-41. alios

PHERES I have come to m ourn with you in your troubles, my son. F or, as no one will deny, you have lost a noble and a rig h t-th in k in g wife. Still, hard as it is, one must bear these things. Now, please accept this tribute of adornm ent and let it go beneath the earth with her. For it is right that this woman's body be honoured, since she died to save your life, my son, and allowed me not to go childless, nor to pine away deprived of you, in sad old age. And indeed she had made life more illustrious for all womenfolk by daring to perform this noble deed. Hail, O lady who has saved this m an, who has raised us up when we were in despair — and fare you well! May things go smoothly for you in the house of Hades! I say that such marriages are profitable for m en — o r, otherwise, it is not worthwhile to marry! AD. You have come uninvited by me to this burial and I d o n 't include your presence here with that of those I love. This woman will never wear your adornm ent, for in no need of anything from you will she be buried. W hen I was in danger of perishing, then was the time you ought to have shown your sympathy. But no! You kept out of the way and, old man though you are, let another person, a young one, do the dying. And now you'll make your lamentations over this her corpse, will you? Surely you could never really have been the father of this body of m ine, nor did the one who claims to have borne m e and who is called my m other, really bear m e. No, rather, born of slavish stock, I must have been slipped secretly beneath your wife's breast. You showed who you really were when you were put to the test, and I d o n 't believe I am your son. At any rate, you most certainly surpass everyond in cowardice, seeing that, at the age you've reached, at the very end of your life, you w eren't willing and didn't have the courage to die for your own son, but rather let this woman, no blood relation, do so. She, then, is the only one whom I would justly regard as my true father and m other





καί πατέρ' αν ένδίκωο αν ήγοίμην μόνην. καιτοι καλόν γ ' αν τόνδ* άγων' ήγωνίοω τού coû προ iraiBoc κατθανών, βραχνό Si coi πάντακ δ Aotirôc ήν βιώοιμ&ο χρόνοc. [iràyû τ ’ αν 1{ων χήδε τον λοιπόν χρόνον, κονκ αν μοναώείε Icrevov κακοίο Ιμ ολ.] καί μην Se’ άνδρα χρή παβεΐν (ύδαίμονα

ιτέπονθαο· ήβηοαο μόν έν τυραννίδι, irate δ’ ÿ* έγώ cot τώνδί διάδοχοί δόμων, euer* ούκ Ötckvoc κατίανων άλλοιε δόμον λοίψοιν εμελλεε ορφανόν διαρπάοαι. ού μην cpcîc γέ μ* ôte άτιμάζοντα côv γηραο ffavcîv προύδωκαο, oene αΐδόφρων πράε ç ή μάλιετα' κάνη τώνδί μοι χάριν τοιάνδε καί eu χη τεκούε’ ήλλαξάτην. τοιγόρ φυτούων παΐδαε ούκέτ' αν φθόνο te, οι γηροβοεκηοουα καί θανόντα ce περιετελούει καί προθηοονται νεκρόν. ου yàp e’ éytuye τήιδ’ εμήι θάψω χερί· /Λ % 1 ^ 1 * C» ν \\ %

τ€0νηκα yap οτ; τουιτι e . €ΐ ο αΛΛου τυχών carnjpoc airyàc είεορώ, κοινού λέγω καί παΐδά μ ’ εΓναι καί φίλον γηροτρόφον. μάτην άρ’ οί ykpovrec εύχονται ôaveîv, γήραο ψέγοντΐο καί μακρόν χρόνον βίου· ην δ’ èyyùc έλθηι θάνατoc, ονδείε βούλοτα ι θνηιοκαν, το γήραο δ’ ούκέτ' le τ ’ αντοΐε βαρύ.






both. And yet by dying for your son, you would have met this challenge with glory, while the time you had left to live was altogether short. [And then both I and this woman would have lived out our tim e, and I would not now be left solitary and groaning a t my sorrows.] And yet you have experienced whatever a happy man might expect to experience. You enjoyed your vigorous years in power and then you had m e, your son, as inheritor of your royal house and so you w eren't in danger of dying childless and leaving a house devoid of heirs for others to pull apart. At least you certainly c a n 't say that you abandoned m e because I dishonoured your old age, seeing that I've always shown the greatest respect towards you. And now this is the kind of grateful return the two of you have m ade me for this good treatm ent, you and that m other of mine. So you'd better not wait any longer to beget other children who'll tend you in your old age, and who will lay you out when you're dead and have your body carried out. For I'll not bury you, no, not with this hand! For I'm dead, as far as you're concerned! Since it's by finding another saviour that I'm still alive and see the light, I declare that I am that one’s son and loving nurse of her old age! Idly do the aged pray that they may die, cursing their old age and the long stretch of days. Once death comes near, no one wants to die, and old age is no longer a burden.

647. καί π α τέρ ' äv Weil: πατέρα x ' BOV: πατέρα τέ y* LP: πατέρα τ ' âv Elmsley μόνην BOLP: έμόν V 651—2. del. Lenting: cf. 295 —6 655. ή yeyûc Nauck 658 άτιμά ζοντα LP: άτιμάζων τό BOV et Σ*3 659. προύδωκαε fere LP et lP: προύδωκά c ' fere BOV 665. τή ιδ ε μη Weil 670 πολόχρονον β ίο ν (πολύν χρόνον β ίο υ coni. Meineke) Men. dist. Par. 50 Jäkel (= fr. 713 Kock) (- gVgBgE et Stob. 4. 52a. 1) 672. θνήσκειV VL(P) et gBgE et Stob.: θ α ν εϊν BO et gV






Xo. Φε.

Ttaôcacd', 5Aic γάρ ή παροΰεα ευμφορά· ώ παι, πατροε δέ μη παροξύνηιε φρεναε. & πάϊ, τίν' αύχεϊε, πάτερα /Ιυδον ή Φρυγα κακοϊε ελαύνειν αργυρώνητον εεθεν; ουκ οΐεθα θεεεαλόν με κάπό θεεεαλού πατροε γεγώ τα γνηείωε έλεύθερον; άγαν ύβρίζειε καί νεανίαε λόγουε ρίπτων èc ήμ&ε ού βαλών ουτωε άπει. εγώ δε c’ οίκων δεεπότην Ιγεινάμην κάθρεψ', οφείλω δ' ούχ ύπερθνηιεκειν εεθεν· où γάρ πατρώων τόνδ' εΒεζάμην νόμον, παίδων προθνηιεκειν πατέρα*, ούδ' *Ελληνικόν. εαυτώι γάρ είτε δοτπιχήο €?τ’ εύτυχηε é^uc* â δ’ ημών χρην ce τυγχάνειν ίχειε. πολλών μεν άρχει*, πολυπλεθρουε δε coi γύαε Λείψω· πατρο c yàp ταυτ’ εδεζάμην πάρα. τ ι δήτά c' ήδίκηκα; τού c' άποετερώ; μη θνήι*χ υπέρ τοΰδ' àvSpôc, ούδ' εγώ προ coi. χαίρειε ορών φώε· πατέρα δ' ού χαίρειν δοκεΐε; ή μην πολύν γε τον κάτω λογίζομαι χρόνον, τό δε ζην (μικρόν αλλ' άμωε γλυκό. ευ γούν άναιδώε διεμάχου τό μη θανεϊν και ζήιε πάρεΧθων την πεπρωμενην τύχην, ταύτην κατακτά*· είτ' εμην αψυχίαν λέγει*, γυναικόε, ώ κάκιεθ', ήεεημ*νοε, η του καλού εού προύθανεν νεανίου; εοφώε δ' εφηύρε* ώετε μη θανεϊν ποτέ, εϊ την παρούεαν κατθανεϊν πείεειε άει γυναΐχ' υπέρ εού· κ&ιτ' ονείδιζε* φίλοic Toîc μη θελουα δράν τάδ', αύτόε ών κακόε; είγα· νόμιζε δ', εί c i την εαυτού φιλεΐε ψυχήν, φιλεϊν άπαντα*· εϊ δ' ημά* κακά>ε έρεϊε, άκούεηι πολλά κού ψευδή κακά.








674. ώ παΐ suspectum 679. àyav ΒΟVP et gBgE: ôytxv μ ’ L: âtyav y ' gV 682. όφείλω 6 ' BOV: ίκρείλων LP 688 . xaöx‘ Purgold: xccöt' codd. 689. ήδίκηκα BOV: ήδίκηοα LP 697. ψ έγειε ed. Heruag. 2 (- gE)

CHOR. No more! For the loss we suffer now is surely woe enough! D o n 't, my son, arouse your father's tem per more! PHER. Boy! W hat bought—in Lydian or Phrygian slave of yours do you think you're assailing with these insults? Know you not that I am a Thessalian, freely and lawfully born from a Thessalian father? Your insults go too far and you'll not get away with hurling these brash taunts at m e. I sired you and I brought you up to be the lord of this house but I owe you no obligation to die for you as well! For I've received no ancestral m andate, nor any G reek law either, that fathers are to die for sons. You were born to your own fate, good or bad; as for our part, you have had your full due from us. You already rule much land, and I will leave you m any acres m ore, for I received the same from my father. How, then, have I wronged you? W hat do I deprive you of? D o n 't do my dying for me and I w on't for you! you like to look upon the light; do you think your father doesn't also? I reckon the time spent below is long enough, and short the time for living — but still, it's sweet! And what about you? To your shame you fought against dying and you now continue to live, transgressing your own fated destiny, by causing this woman who lies here to die. And then you talk about m y cowardice, when you, most base of all, were bested in courage by your wife, who died for you, the fine young husband! You’ve certainly made a clever discovery how to avoid death if you're always going to persuade your current wife to die for you! And then you blame members of your own family for not being willing to do the same as she, when you yourself are so base! No m ore from you! Only realize that, if you love your life, everyone else loves his too! And if you revile us, you will hear many revilements — and just ones, too — against yourself as well!





Χο. AS. Φ(. i48. Φ(. Αδ. Φ(. Αδ. Φ(. i4S. Φ(. Αδ. Φ(. i48. Φ(. Αδ. Φ(. Αδ. Φε. Αδ. Φ(. AS.

ττΧάω XiXacrai vùv tc καί το πρίν κακά· iravcat Sé, npccßv, πάίδα cov κακορροθών. Aéy‘, tl>c (μου Aefavroc· et 8 ’ àAyeîc κλύων τά ληθά, où χρήν e’ eîc