This is a tragedy with a happy ending. In the dramatic competitions in Athens there was a custom: every poet represented a “trilogy”, three tragedies, sometimes even catching up on each other on topics, and after them, to discharge a gloomy mood – “satire drama,” where heroes and action were also myths, but the choir certainly consisted of cheerful satyrs, goat-legged and tailed companions of the god of wine Dionysus; accordingly, the plot for her was chosen cheerful and fabulous. But it was not possible to adapt the satire chorus to every myth; and here the poet Euripides tried to make a final drama with a fairytale story, and with a happy ending, but without any satire. This was “Alcestida”.
A fairytale story here is the struggle of Hercules with Death. The Greeks, like all peoples, once thought that Death is a monstrous demon that comes to a dying man, grabs his soul and carries him to the underworld. Seriously in such a demon for a long time already did not believe and told about it not myths, and fairy tales. For example, as a cunning Sisyphus took Death by surprise, shackled and held prisoner for a long time, so that people on the earth stopped dying, and Zeus himself had to intervene and put things in order. Or as the main hero of the Greek myths, the hard worker Hercules, once grabbed Death with hand-to-hand, mastered it and snatched from her the soul that the demon had already carried to the underworld. It was the soul of the young queen Alcestida, the wife of King Admet,
Here is how it was. God Apollo quarreled with his father, Thunderer Zeus, and was punished by them: Zeus ordered him to serve as a shepherd for a year in a mortal man – the king Admet. Admet was a kind and affectionate host, and Apollo also repaid him good. He gave drunk to the adamant Moir, goddesses of fate, measuring the time of human life, and made for Admeta a miracle: when Admet’s time comes to die, then for him, Admet, someone else may die, and he, Admet, will live his life for this other. The time has passed, Admetu has come it is time to die, and he began to search among his relatives for a man who would agree to accept death instead of him. The old father refused, the old mother refused, and only his young wife, the Queen of Alcestis, agreed. She loved him so much that she was ready to give his life for him, so that he would continue to reign with glory,
This is the beginning of the tragedy of Euripides. On the stage – the god Apollo and the demon of Death. The demon came for the soul of Alcestida; he gloats gloatingly: it’s more pleasant to kidnap a young life than the life of a mature husband. “You’re triumphing early,” Apollo tells him, “Be careful: soon a man will come here who will master you.”
The choir of local residents comes out on stage: they are alarmed, they love both the good king and the young queen, they do not know what kind of gods to pray for the death to pass. The Tsar’s maid tells them: it does not help now, the last hour has come. Alcestida prepared herself for death, washed herself, dressed in a death dress, prayed to the house gods: “Keep my husband and grant my children not a premature death, like me, but due, on the slope of the days!” She said good-bye to her marriage bed: “Oh, if another wife comes here, then she will be no better than me, but only happier!” She said good-bye to her children, her servants and her husband: Poor Admet, he remains alive, but he is tormented with anguish, as if he is dying. Now she will be taken out of the palace, so she said goodbye to the sunlight. “O grief, woe,” the choir sings, “if you can, Apollo, stop!”
From the palace they take out Alcestida, with her Admet, with them a young son and daughter. The general crying begins; Alcestida says goodbye to the earth and the sky, she can already hear the splash of the after-river. She refers to the Ad-Met: “This is my last request: do not take another wife, do not take my stepmother to our children, be the protector of your son, give a worthy husband to your daughter!” “I will not take another... wife,” Admet answers, “I’ll be mourning for you till the end of days, there will be no joy in my house, no songs, and you’ll be in my dreams and meet me in hell when I die!” , why am I not Orpheus, who begged his beloved with an underground king for song! ” Alcestida’s speeches are shorter, she is silent, she is dead. The choir sings a dead parting song and promises her eternal glory between the living.
This is where Hercules appears. He goes north, he has another forced feat: to deal with a cruel king who kills visiting guests and feeds them with the meat of his mare-lyudoedits. King Admet is his friend, he wanted to rest and refresh himself in his house; but in the house sadness, sadness, mourning – maybe it is better for him to look for another shelter? “No,” Admet says to him, “do not think about the bad, leave me my worries, and my slaves will feed you and set you up.” “What are you, Tsar,” asked the choir, “is it the proper thing to bury such a wife, accept and treat guests?” “And is it the right thing,” Admet says, “to burden friends with my grief? Good for good: the guest is always holy.” The choir sings of the generosity of the king Admet, and how good the gods are to him, and how kind he is to friends.
Alkestida is buried. In each tragedy there is a dispute – a dispute erupts over her body. To say goodbye to the dead comes the old father of Admet and tells her touching words. Here Admet loses his composure: “You did not want to die for me – it means that you are to blame for her death!” He cries, “and if it were not for her, you would be to blame for my death!” I’m no longer your son. ” “The death sentence was yours,” the father replies, “you did not want to die, so do not reproach me for not wanting to die, and be ashamed of your wife, which you did not spare.” With curses to each other, father and son diverge.
And Hercules, without knowing anything, feasting behind the scenes; the Greeks, he was always considered not only a strong man, but also a glutton. The slave complains to the audience: he wants to cry about the good queen, and he must smile with a smile to serve the stranger. “Why are you so gloomy?” Hercules asks, “Life is short, tomorrow is unknown, let’s rejoice while we are alive.” Here the slave does not stand up and tells the guest everything as is. Hercules is shocked – and the loyalty of the queen to her husband, and the nobility of the king before the other. “Where is Alkestide buried?” The servant points. “Be of good courage, my heart,” says Hercules, “I fought with the living, now I go out to death itself and get my wife out of hell for a friend.”
While there is no Hercules, there is a crying on the stage. Admet suffers no longer about the deceased – herself: “Woe to her is over, her eternal glory has begun for her, and I? That now life is for me, if everyone can say to me in person: here is a coward, he was frightened of an honest death, he preferred a shameful life! ” The chorus sadly comforts him: this is fate, but fate does not argue.
Hercules returns, followed by a silent woman under the veil. Hercules blasts Admetu: “You are my friend, and you have kept your grief on me, be ashamed, God is your judge, and I have a request to you.” Now I had a hard fight and a fist fight, I won, and the reward was this woman I go north to serve my service, and you, please, shelter her in your palace: if you want – a slave, and if you want – when your longing passes, – and a new wife. ” – “Do not say this: my longing has no end, and it’s painful for me to look at a woman: she reminds me of Alcestida’s height and article, do not take my soul!” “I’m your friend, do I really want you bad? Take her hand.” And now look! ” And Hercules pulls the veil off his companion. “This Alcestida is alive, not a ghost? You saved her! Stay, share my joy!” – “No, it’s waiting.