Euripides, Alcestis 745
“I am dead to you”
τέθνηκα γὰρ δὴ τοὐπὶ σ᾿.
Euripides, Alcestis 196-198
“These are what Admetos’ sufferings are like.
If he died, he would leave; but since he’s alive
He lives with the kind of grief he will never forget.”
τοιαῦτ᾿ ἐν οἴκοις ἐστὶν Ἀδμήτου κακά.
καὶ κατθανών τἂν ᾤχετ᾿, ἐκφυγὼν δ᾿ ἔχει
τοσοῦτον ἄλγος, οὔποθ᾿ οὗ λελήσεται.
Euripides, Alcestis, 141
“You could say that she’s dead and alive.”
καὶ ζῶσαν εἰπεῖν καὶ θανοῦσαν ἔστι σοι.
The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation during our time of isolation and social distancing. As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.”
Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.
Euripides, Alcestis 71
“You can’t gain anything more by saying much.”
πόλλ᾿ ἂν σὺ λέξας οὐδὲν ἂν πλέον λάβοις·
This play is dated as one of Euripides’ earliest extant dramas, coming from around 438. It tells the story of a king in Thessaly who impressed Apollo with his reverence and whose death Apollo is trying to prevent by having his wife Alcestis take his place. The tone and content of this mythical Romance of sorts has challenged readers for some time. As a scholion introducing the play complains:
“This drama is rather like a satyr play because it mixes in joy and pleasure and and those things rejected as ill-fit to tragic poetry, which is the same thing in the Orestes and the Alkestis, they begin from misfortune and end in good fortune and ending in joy, which is more proper of comedy. [Many of this kinds of things are in tragedy]”
τὸ δὲ δρᾶμά ἐστι σατυρικώτερον ὅτι εἰς χαρὰν καὶ ἡδονὴν κατστρέφει [παρὰ τοῖς τραγικοῖς] <καὶ> ἐκβάλλεται ὡς ἀνοίκεια τῆς τραγικῆς ποιήσεως ὅ τε ᾿Ορέστης καὶ ἡ ῎Αλκηστις, ὡς ἐκ συμφορᾶς μὲν ἀρχόμενα, εἰς εὐδαιμονίαν <δὲ> καὶ χαρὰν λήξαντα, <ἅ> ἐστι μᾶλλον κωμῳδίας ἐχόμενα. <πολλὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα παρὰ τοῖς τραγικοῖς>:
Of course, this play comes before Aristotle codified what a tragedy and comedy should be! It could not have been too strange, because Euripides won second place with this play, bested again by Sophocles. In the Alkestis, again, we find Euripides challenging modern assumptions about what a tragedy should provide. But what if we ignore Aristotle for a bit, and ask what a play should do instead?
Scenes (Using this translation)
1-76: Apollo and Thanatos
238-392: Chorus, Alcestis, Admetus
509-568: Admetus, Heracles, Chorus
747-860: Servant and Heracles
1008-1158: Heracles, Admetus, Alcestis (silent)
Euripides, Alcestis 252-7
“I see the double-oared skiff
In the lake, the ferryman of the corpses
Kharon keeps his hand on the rudder
And calls to me, “Why do you put this off?
Press on, you are holding me back.”
He hurries me on, fast with these words.”
ὁρῶ δίκωπον ὁρῶ σκάφος ἐν
λίμνᾳ· νεκύων δὲ πορθμεὺς
ἔχων χέρ᾿ ἐπὶ κοντῷ Χάρων
μ᾿ ἤδη καλεῖ· Τί μέλλεις;
ἐπείγου· σὺ κατείργεις. τάδε τοί
με σπερχόμενος ταχύνει.
Special Guest: Maria Xanthou
Dramaturgical assistance: Emma Pauly
Direction: Beth Burns with production assistance by Paul O’Mahony
Posters: John Koelle
Technical, Moral, Administrative Support: Lanah Koelle, Allie Mabry, Janet Ozsolak, Helene Emeriaud, Sarah Scott, Keith DeStone
Euripides, Alcestis 780-784
“Do you understand the nature of mortal affairs?
I don’t think so. How would you? Listen to me.
Dying is the debt that all mortals owe
And no one who is mortal will know
Whether they will be alive on the coming day.”
τὰ θνητὰ πράγμαθ᾿ ἥντιν᾿ οἶσθ᾿ ἔχει φύσιν;
οἶμαι μὲν οὔ· πόθεν γάρ; ἀλλ᾿ ἄκουέ μου.
βροτοῖς ἅπασι κατθανεῖν ὀφείλεται,
κοὐκ ἔστι θνητῶν ὅστις ἐξεπίσταται
τὴν αὔριον μέλλουσαν εἰ βιώσεται·
Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)
The Chorus, July 29th [Special 10 AM time]
Sophocles, Antigone August 5
Sophocles, Electra, August 12
Euripides, Alcestis 349-355
“A statue of you shaped by the wise hand
Of craftsmen will be laid out in our bed.
I will cast myself into her arms while embracing
Call our your name, believing that I have
My dear wife in my arms, even though I don’t.
I believe this is a cold pleasure, but still
It will balance the weight in my soul…”
σοφῇ δὲ χειρὶ τεκτόνων δέμας τὸ σὸν
εἰκασθὲν ἐν λέκτροισιν ἐκταθήσεται,
ᾧ προσπεσοῦμαι καὶ περιπτύσσων χέρας
ὄνομα καλῶν σὸν τὴν φίλην ἐν ἀγκάλαις
δόξω γυναῖκα καίπερ οὐκ ἔχων ἔχειν·
ψυχρὰν μέν, οἶμαι, τέρψιν, ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως βάρος
ψυχῆς ἀπαντλοίην ἄν.
Euripides, Ion, June 17th
Euripides, Hecuba June 24th
Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound June 30th
Aristophanes, Clouds July 15th
Euripides, Alcestis 689-774
“How have I wronged you? What have I taken from you?
Don’t die for this man and I won’t for you.
You delight seeing the light. Don’t you imagine your father does too?
Really, I reckon that the time below stretches out
And that living is short but still sweet.
But you have shamefully fought not to die
And you live, passing the fate allotted to you
By killing her…”
“τί δῆτά σ᾿ ἠδίκηκα; τοῦ σ᾿ ἀποστερῶ;
μὴ θνῇσχ᾿ ὑπὲρ τοῦδ᾿ ἀνδρός, οὐδ᾿ ἐγὼ πρὸ σοῦ.
χαίρεις ὁρῶν φῶς· πατέρα δ᾿ οὐ χαίρειν δοκεῖς;
ἦ μὴν πολύν γε τόν κάτω λογίζομαι
χρόνον, τὸ δὲ ζῆν σμικρὸν ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως γλυκύ.
σὺ γοῦν ἀναιδῶς διεμάχου τὸ μὴ θανεῖν
καὶ ζῇς παρελθὼν τὴν πεπρωμένην τύχην,