ALCESTIS CHARACTERS OF THE PLAY
ADMÊTUS, King of Pherae in Thessaly.ALCESTIS, daughter of Pelias, his wife.PHERÊS, his father, formerly King but now in retirement.TWO CHILDREN, his son and daughter.A MANSERVANT in his house.A HANDMAID.
The Hero HERACLES.The God APOLLO.THANÁTOS or DEATH.CHORUS, consisting of Elders of Pherae.
"The play was first performed when Glaukînos was Archon, in the 2nd year of the 85th Olympiad (438 B.C.). Sophocles was first, Euripides second with the Cretan Women, Alcmaeon in Psophis, Telephus and Alcestis…. The play is somewhat Satyric in character."ALCESTIS
The scene represents the ancient Castle of ADMETUS near Pherae in Thessaly. It is the dusk before dawn; APOLLO, radiant in the darkness, looks at the Castle.
APOLLO.Admetus' House! 'Twas here I bowed my headOf old, and chafed not at the bondman's bread,Though born in heaven. Aye, Zeus to death had hurledMy son, Asclepios, Healer of the World,Piercing with fire his heart; and in mine ireI slew his Cyclop churls, who forged the fire.Whereat Zeus cast me forth to bear the yokeOf service to a mortal. To this folkI came, and watched a stranger's herd for pay,And all his house I have prospered to this day.For innocent was the Lord I chanced uponAnd clean as mine own heart, King Pheres' son,Admetus. Him I rescued from the grave,Beguiling the Grey Sisters till they gaveA great oath that Admetus should go free,Would he but pay to Them Below in feeAnother living soul. Long did he proveAll that were his, and all that owed him love,But never a soul he found would yield up lifeAnd leave the sunlight for him, save his wife:Who, even now, down the long galleriesIs borne, death-wounded; for this day it isShe needs must pass out of the light and die.And, seeing the stain of death must not come nighMy radiance, I must leave this house I love. But ha! The Headsman of the Pit, aboveEarth's floor, to ravish her! Aye, long and lateHe hath watched, and cometh at the fall of fate.
Enter from the other side THANATOS; a crouching black-haired and winged figure, carrying a drawn sword. He starts in revulsion on seeing APOLLO.
THANATOS.Aha!Why here? What mak'st thou at the gate, Thou Thing of Light? Wilt overtreadThe eternal judgment, and abate And spoil the portions of the dead?'Tis not enough for thee to have blocked In other days Admetus' doomWith craft of magic wine, which mocked The three grey Sisters of the Tomb; But now once more I see thee stand at watch, and shake That arrow-armèd hand to makeThis woman thine, who swore, who swore, To die now for her husband's sake.
APOLLO.Fear not.I bring fair words and seek but what is just.
THANATOS (sneering)And if words help thee not, an arrow must?
APOLLO.'Tis ever my delight to bear this bow.
THANATOS.And aid this house unjustly? Aye, 'tis so.
APOLLO.I love this man, and grieve for his dismay.
THANATOS.And now wilt rob me of my second prey!
APOLLO.I never robbed thee, neither then nor now....