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47 pages 1 hour read

Euripides

Alcestis

Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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Important Quotes

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“I came to this country, tended the oxen of this host

And friend, Admetus, son of Pheres, and have kept

His house from danger until this very day.

For I, who know what’s right, have found in him

A man who knows what’s right, and so I saved him

From dying, tricking the Fates.”


(Lines 8-12)

In his opening monologue, Apollo introduces the premise of the play, explaining that he tricked the Fates into allowing Admetus to avoid his death as a reward for his earlier kindness towards him. These lines dwell on the important symbol of the house of Admetus, which represents the virtues and prosperity of Admetus, and which is diligently protected by Apollo. These lines also establish a kinship between Apollo and Admetus, both of whom Apollo proclaims are defined for their knowledge of “what’s right” though the meaning of what’s right changes throughout the play.

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“You at this house, Phoebus? Why do you haunt

The place? It is unfair to take for your own

And spoil the death-spirits’ privileges.

Was it not enough, then, that you blocked the death

Of Admetus, and overthrew the Fates

By a shabby wrestler’s trick?


(Lines 29-34)

With his first words to Apollo (“Phoebus” was one of Apollo’s titles in antiquity), Death raises important questions about whether Apollo was right to meddle in human affairs by finding a way for Admetus to postpone his death. Apollo claims that he is rewarding Admetus for his virtuous behavior, but Death views his actions as unfair nepotism, and some readers have concurred with this view.

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