47 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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Symbols & Motifs

The House of Admetus

The house of Admetus is more than the backdrop for the play’s action; as a setting and a quasi-character, the house has a strong influence on characters and events. The first words of the prologue are addressed to the house, which Apollo invokes as the place where he was forced to be a slave but also as a place where he received honor and hospitality. Other characters, including the Chorus, address the house throughout the play, giving it a personified character of its own.

The house symbolizes Admetus’s virtue, reputation, and hospitality. Apollo “kept / [Admetus’s] house from danger” (9-10) because he believes Admetus is a good man. Admetus is protective of his reputation, which is tied to his house. Admetus shows hospitality to Heracles even though he is mourning because he could not endure it “if my house is called unfriendly to its friends” (558). Throughout the play, however, Admetus’s house—not unlike his reputation—is increasingly related to Alcestis. All the household, including the numerous servants and slaves, love her and view her as a mother. When Alcestis dies, her son says that without her “the whole house is ruined” (415), and Admetus cannot bear to enter the house after he returns from burying Alcestis.