47 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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Character Analysis


Alcestis’s character represents the ideal wife. Virtuous and brave, Alcestis alone is willing to die in the place of her husband. She meets her fate with strength and resolution, preparing herself to face her death with dignity and retaining her composure throughout her ordeal—indeed, Alcestis is more dignified in dying than Admetus is in outliving her, and in her final moments, it is Alcestis who must comfort Admetus. In the brief time Alcestis is on stage, she is the center of attention, beloved not only by Admetus, but by her children, the Chorus, and her entire household, including her slaves, who view her as a maternal figure. Of all the characters in the play, only Pheres is critical of her, saying that she was “stupid” (728) to die for Admetus.

It is important to understand Alcestis in the larger context of the ancient Greeks’ notoriously misogynistic views on women: To the ancient Greeks, women were regarded as weak, vicious, and duplicitous, a bane to men. This is the moral, for example, of Hesiod’s account of Pandora in his Theogony and Works and Days. Alcestis is conceived as an exception, a model of female and wifely virtue. Alcestis herself is clearly concerned with cultivating her reputation and legacy as such.