Sophocles: The Women of Trachis
Euripides: Medea

Euripides: Alcestis

Alcestis and Admetus, ancient Roman fresco (45-79 d.C.) from the House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii, ItalyAlcestis (Greek: Ἄλκηστις) is the earliest surviving play by the Greek dramatist Euripides, having been produced at the Dionysia of 438 BC, where it won second prize. It was presented as the last part of a tetralogy, the position normally reserved for a satyr play. It has sometimes been called prosatryic because of its happy ending and comic elements.

The plot centres on Apollo's promise to Asmetus King of Pherae, that he can cheat death if he can find someone else to take his place. Only Admetus' wife Alcestis is willing to accept this fate. A burlesque element arises from Admetus' attempts to mourn her, while fulfilling his obligation of hospitality to Hercules, who is kept in ignorance of her death. When Hercules learns of the true position, he rescues Alcestis from the clutches of death and restores her to her husband, 

The play was the subject of a modern adaptation by Ted Hughes, a choice that many critics have interpreted in autobiographical terms as a reflection on his relationship with Sylvia Plath.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: Alcestis, translated by Gilbert Murray (1915). Multiple formats. 

Gutenberg: Άλκηστις, Greek text. Multiple formats.

Gutenberg: The Tragedies of Euripides, Vol I, translated by Theodore Alois Buckley (1892). Multiple formats. 

Internet Archive: The Alcestis of Euripides, translated with notes by Gilbert Murray (1920). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Alcestis of Euripides. Greek text edited by Herman Wadsworth Haley with an introd. and critical and exegetical notes (1898). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Alcestis of Euripides: Greek text with Introduction, Notes, Appendices, and Vocabulary, edited by Matthew Albert Bayfield. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Alcestis, Greek text edited by A. Sidgwick (1874). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Alcestis and Electra, translated by T.A. Buckley (1900). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Alcestis and Other Plays, translated by Robert Potter (1887). Multiple formats.

Internet Classics Archive: Alcestis, translated by Richard Aldington. HTML and TXT formats.

Loebulus: L012 - Euripides -- Euripides IV: Ion. Hippolytus. Medea. Alcestis. Greek and English parallel text. Loeb edition, PDF format. Also available at the Internet Archive.

Perseus: Greek text, with an English translation by David Kovacs. Cambridge. Harvard University Press (1994). HTML and XML formats.

Poetry in Translation: Alcestis, translated by George Theodoridis. Multiple formats.

Stoa.org: Alcestis, translated by C.A.E. Luschnig. HTML format.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Alcestis, translated by Richard Aldington. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Alcestis - Greek text and multiple translations.

Performances and reviews

King College London - 1969.

American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, Massachussets, 1986. Mel Gussow, Theater: 'Alcestis', New York Times. 21 March 1986.

Tampa Repertory Theatre. 2011. John Fleming. 'Tragedy imitates modern life in themes of Euripides' 'Alcestis'', Tampa Bay Times, 6 July 2011, via the Internet Archive.

Other Resources

Ancient-literature.com: Alcestis, synopsis and analysis.

Binghampton.edu: Euripides' Alcestis, study guide by Andrew Scholtz.

Duke University: Conflict of Obligations in Euripides' Alcestis, by Barry Goldfarb. PDF format.

Gutenberg: Euripides and His Age, by Gilbert Murray.

History of Ancient Greece: Early Euripides, podcast by Ryan Stitt.

Internet Archive: An English Commentary on the Rhesus, Medea, Hippolytus, Alcestis, Heraclidae, Supplices, and Troades of Euripides, by Charles Anthon (1877). Multiple formats.

Librivox: Alcestis, public domain audiobooks.

The Mytholmroyd Net: Alcestis, discussion of Ted Hughes' adaptation by Keith Sagar.

StageAgent: Alcestis.

Theatre Database: Alcestis, analysis excerpted from A.E. Haigh: The Tragic Drama of the Greeks (1896).

Wikipedia: Alcestis (play).

Youtube: Euripides - Alcestis, summary and analysis.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Euripides: Heracles - another play in which the demigod features as a central character.

A.E. Haigh: The Tragic Drama of the Greeks (1896).

 Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.

Bloom's Western Canon: Alcestis is listed.

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