Euripides in Etruria: Admetus and Alcestis | Larissa Bonfante - omarcafini.info
Admetus, in Greek legend, son of Pheres, king of Pherae in Thessaly. Having sued for the hand of Alcestis, the most beautiful of the daughters of Pelias, king of Iolcos in Thessaly, Admetus was first required to harness a lion and a boar to a chariot. Alcestis, in Greek legend, the. 1),1 Alcestis and Admetus, inscribed in Etruscan, Alcsti, Atmite, are embracing. Alcestis has The three figures are involved in a complex relationship. There is. Alcestis was the mythical queen of Thessaly, wife of King Admetus, who came to personify the devoted, selfless, woman and wife in ancient.
Such an interpretation is reinforced by the fact that Thanatos appears in the play. Her hair is disheveled, with stringy locks over her neck. Her features, and the lines on her forehead and neck, indicate old age, as they do on a number of other mirrors of this period.
Lord: Deserving Each Other: Pheres and Admetus in Euripides’ Alcestis
True, she can be compared to the old woman on the 6 somewhat later urn of the Old Couple from Volterra late second or early first centurybut this figure has been shown to represent a wife and not a demon. She helped Alcestis bathe, put on her best clothes -- probably her wedding clothes and jewelry, which women wore to their graves - and no doubt perfumed her, as shown in the mirror.
The character is similar to that of a standard image from scenes of tragedy, the nurse. The attendant nurse appears on a fourth-century Greek representation of the Alcestis story on an Apulian vase in Basel, where her long sleeves are to be seen as stage costume. The wet nurse, one of the standard characters represented in the terracotta figurines of characters of the Greek theater, is always shown as fat, old and ugly, sometimes with large, pendulous breasts, like the female attendant on the mirror.
Even when she is holding a nursling in her arms she is old and ugly, because she is a slave. This interaction of the married couple contrasts with the way the story was represented in Greek art and Roman art, where Alcestis was shown with her children, among the women, or being returned home by Hermes or Herakles. On the Apulian vase in Basel,28 which is contemporary with the Etruscan examples, Alkestis is saying goodbye to her children, who cling to her, as described in the play Admetus stands nearby, but is not closely involved in the action, reflecting the separation of men and women typical of Greek culture.
The rarity of images of married couples in classical Greek art contrasts with the ubiquitous presence in Etruscan art of couples of mythological figures, whether men and women or divinities, married, lovers, or otherwise related.
An exception from Greek vase painting, an Attic black-figure pelike in the British Museum by the Acheloos Painter fig. The embrace, no matter how stately, takes place in the context of a symposium, and represents a man with a hetaira rather than a married couple.
Even so the Achelooos Painter, who is known for his humorous subjects, does not take it seriously: Boardman describes the scene as a witty antithesis of love, sacred and profane. The funerary context of the two vases is given by the story, but is one that the Etruscans cultivated in the richly furnished tombs and monuments they made in honor of their families and ancestors.
No wonder, then, that the funerary aspects of this story appealed to them, and that they emphasized these in the imagery they used to tell it. Many problems arise in the study of these Etruscan representations, including their relationship to Greek tragedy. We are frequently warned that artists are telling a story, not illustrating a text. Another indication of a possible influence of the theater are the laced shoes carried by the young man, which, as Maggiani has noted, are socci, stage dress, and may indicate a stage setting.
The question of whether, when and how dramatic performances took place in Etruria is a matter for controversy. The fact that the images on the artistic monuments were also translated, as we have seen, accounts for contrasts between the way Greek, South Italian and Etruscan artists represented theatrical scenes. The figure of the married couple, which does not appear in the Greek or Roman representations, is present in each of the three Etruscan versions.
Accompanying each of these couples are shown characters unknown in Greek art. On the two red-figure vases they are the typical fourth-century Etruscan semi-divine demons, or daimones, who escort the dead to the Underworld. Typically Etruscan, too, are the male and female grave markers, the omens of death placed next to Admetus and Alcestis on the skyphos in Boston. The Etruscans cultivated the world of the dead and the Underworld in the richly furnished tombs and monuments they made in honor of their families and ancestors.
No wonder, then, that the funerary aspects of this story appealed to them, and that they emphasized them in the imagery they used to tell it. This was particularly evident in their art from the fourth century on. Engraved Etruscan mirrors, red-figure vases, sculpture and tomb painting of this period all bear witness to the change that was taking place in Etruscan art at this time.
Regularly appearing are scenes from the Underworld, and the demons that help the deceased on their Journey to the Underworld. It used to be thought that this change was related to a transformation of their religion or morale and a pessimism brought about by fear, a loss of nerve and the impending loss of their identity. But this view is no longer tenable. As Heracles gets more and more drunk, he irritates the servants who are bitter at not being allowed to mourn their beloved queen properly more and more until, finally, one of them snaps at the guest and tells him what has really happened.
Heracles is mortified at his blunder and his bad behaviour as well as angry that Admetus could deceive a friend in such an embarrassing and cruel wayand he secretly decides to ambush and confront Death when the funerary sacrifices are made at Alcestis ' tomb, intending to battle Death and force him to give Alcestis up. Later, when Heracles returns to the palace, he brings with him a veiled woman whom he gives to Admetus as a new wife. Admetus is understandably reluctant, declaring that he cannot violate his memory of Alcestis by accepting the young woman, but eventually he submits to his friend's wishes, only to find that it is in fact Alcestis herself, back from the dead.
She cannot speak for three days after which she will be purified and fully restored to life. The play ends with the Chorus thanking Heracles for finding a solution that none had foreseen.
Euripides certainly expanded the myth of Admetus and Alcestisadding some comic and folk tale elements to suit his needs, but critics disagree about how to categorize the play.
Some have argued that, because of its mingling of tragic and comic elements, it can in fact be considered a kind of satyr play rather than a tragedy although clearly it is not in the usual mould of a satyr play, which is usually a short, slapstick piece characterized by a Chorus of satyrs - half men, half beasts - acting as a farcical backdrop to the traditional mythological heroes of tragedy.
Arguably, Heracles himself is the satyr of the play. There are also other ways in which the play can be considered problemmatic. Maybe this is the satiric part of the play. Heracles gets drunk and begins to irritate the servants, who loved their queen and are bitter at not being allowed to mourn her properly.
Finally, one of the servants snaps at the guest and tells him what has happened. Fortunately for everyone, Heracles really was a good friend. Saddened by the news, he decides to face Death and take Alcestis back. Although she cannot speak for three days, she returns to life purified and fully restored.
What do we make of this story?
First, Alcestis was lucky. Alcestis came back from death as a new person. Feminist readers Feminist readers are simply mad at this story. In the play her evanescence is her strongest quality. Her devotion to her husband is unquestioned despite Admetus breaking his word and failing to mourn her properly. When she is resuscitated, she seems happy to come back to her marriage.
The most authentic moment of her existence is in that mute figure just purified from death come back to life. According to Goldfarb, the ideal that this story embodies is philia, a word that occurs often in the play ; philia at,; ef Familiar love, intimacy, and friendship are the bonds that Alcestis decides to establish with herself, her children, and her husband. In order to be near her intimate world she has to die and hopefully come back to life again.