47 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | BCE

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The Inevitability of Death

The main theme in Alcestis is the inevitability of death and humans’ desire to avoid it. Indeed, this theme is at the heart of the play’s premise, in which Admetus’s seeks to avoid death by having his wife, Alcestis, die in his place. This premise juxtaposes two ideas: On the one hand, that death can be avoided; on the other, that all human beings must eventually die. Even Apollo cannot transgress this second idea, which is a law of nature and the gods. However, in Apollo’s conversation with Death, Apollo predicts that a guest of Admetus’s house will rescue Alcestis from Death, bringing the inevitability of death into question from the very beginning of the play.

Until the exodos, Alcestis emphasizes that humans’ attempts to avoid their deaths are ultimately futile. One important way this message is illustrated is through mythical exempla or references. The myth of Asclepius, is alluded to throughout the play, including in first lines of the prologue. Asclepius was a physician so skilled that he could resurrect the dead, a talent that transgressed the laws of nature and resulted in his execution at the hands of Zeus. Significantly, the killing of Asclepius sets the events in motion that leads Apollo to

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