|King's College Greek Play 2016|
|Northern Broadsides/Hughes Alcestis|
The sting in the tale is that, even before the play is over, Admetus breaks the single promise he made to Alcestis—that he would never marry again, thus inflicting a step-parent on their children. He doesn’t realise that the attractive veiled lady Heracles offers him a blind date with is in fact Alcestis. He takes her in as a new bedmate anyway. So the play ends with a revenant wife who has a bit of a bone to pick with her morally invertebrate husband.
|T.S.Eliot's Alcestis, Vivienne|
But writers with absent wives have always taken the play more seriously. Robert Browning adapted it in Balaustion’s Adventure (1871) when trying to cope with the loss of Elizabeth Barrett. T.S. Eliot adapted it in The Cocktail Party, which he wrote in 1948, the year his estranged wife died in a mental hospital. Ted Hughes, who had buried two mothers of his children, left his version when he died, with the instructions that it should be performed by Barrie Rutter’s Northern Broadsides company.
But how can a supposedly gender-equal world restage a patriarchal story in which a woman’s greatest virtue is defined as embracing the idea that her life is worth much less than a man’s? Euripides does his best, not only by that sinister ending but by portraying Admetus as a weasel-worded slimebag who can’t stick by a principle for two minutes.
|The Ever-youthful Professor Silk|