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Euripidis Index


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ALCESTIS by Euripides, Part 08

Heracles
In this task once more you remind me of my fate, which is ever
upon harsh steep ways, since I must join battle with the sons of
Ares-first with Lycaon, then with Cycnus, and now in this third
contest I am come to match myself with these steeds and their master!
LEADER
But see, the lord of this land, Admetus himself, comes from the
house!

(The central doors of the Palace have opened, and ADMETUS comes
slowly on the Stage, preceded and followed by guards and ATTENDANTs.
The King has put off all symbols of royalty, and is dressed in
black. His tong hair is clipped close to his head. ADMETUS
dissembles his grief throughout this scene, in obedience to the laws
of hospitality, which were particularly reverenced in Thessaly.)

ADMETUS
Hail Son of Zeus and of the blood of Perseus!
Heracles
And hail to you, Admetus, lord of the Thessalians
ADMETUS
May it be so! I know your friendship well.
Heracles
What means this shorn hair, this mourning robe?
ADMETUS
To-day I must bury a dead body.
Heracles
May a God avert harm from your children!
ADMETUS
The children I have begotten are alive in the house.
Heracles
Your father was ripe for death-if it is he has gone?
ADMETUS
He lives-and she who brought me forth, O Heracles.
Heracles
Your wife-Alcestis-she is not dead?
ADMETUS (evasively)
Of her I might make a double answer.
Heracles
Do you mean that she is dead or alive?
ADMETUS (ambiguously)
She is and is not-and for this I grieve.
Heracles (perplexed)
I am no wiser-you speak obscurely.
ADMETUS
Did you not know the fate which must befall her?
Heracles
I know she submitted to die for you.
ADMETUS
How then can she be alive, having consented to this?
Heracles
Ah! Do not weep for your wife till that time comes.
ADMETUS
Those who are about to die are dead, and the dead are nothing.
Heracles
Men hold that to be and not to be are different things.
ADMETUS
You hold for one, Heracles, and I for the other.
Heracles
Whom, then, do you mourn? Which of your friends is dead?
ADMETUS
A woman. We spoke of her just now.
Heracles (mistaking his meaning)
A stranger? Or one born of your kin?
ADMETUS
A stranger, but one related to this house.
Heracles
But how, then, did she chance to die in your house?
ADMETUS
When her father died she was sheltered here.
Heracles
Alas! Would I had not found you in this grief, Admetus!
ADMETUS
What plan are you weaving with those words?
Heracles
I shall go to the hearth of another friend.
ADMETUS
Not so, O King! This wrong must not be.
Heracles (hesitating)
The coming of a guest is troublesome to those who mourn.
ADMETUS (decisively)
The dead are dead. Enter my house.
Heracles
But it is shameful to feast among weeping friends.
ADMETUS
We shall put you in the guest-rooms, which are far apart.
Heracles
Let me go, and I will give you a thousand thanks.
ADMETUS
No, you shall not go to another man's hearth. (To a servant) Guide
him, and open for him the guest-rooms apart from the house.
(HERACLES enters the Palace by the guests' door; when he has gone
in, ADMETUS turns to the other servants) Close the inner door of the
courtyard; it is unseemly that guests rejoicing at table should hear
lamentations, and be saddened.
(The ATTENDANTs go into the Palace.)
LEADER
What are you about? When such a calamity has fallen upon you,
Admetus, have you the heart to entertain a guest? Are you mad?

 

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