Page:Euripides the Rationalist.djvu/70

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subject, the self-contradiction is stronger still, rises almost to the grotesque, and like much else in the play is distinguished from sheer comedy only by painfulness. His wife (be it remembered) has been dead something less than five minutes.

You have to stay, you friends,
Because the next need is to carry forth
The corpse here: you must stay and do your part,
Chant proper paean to the God below;
Drink-sacrifice he likes not. I decree
That all Thessalians over whom I rule
Hold grief in common with me; let them shear
Their locks, and be the peplos black they show!. . .
And through my city, nor of flute nor lyre
Be there a sound till twelve full moons succeed.
For I shall never bury any corpse
Dearer than this to me, nor better friend:
One worthy of all honour from me, since
Me she has died for, she and she alone.

With what feelings would this proclamation have been received by the people of Pherae and the neighbourhood, when it reached them together with the intelligence that the beloved queen was not only dead but already entombed, buried within an hour of her death, and with a ceremony which, excepting a few private friends who 'happened' to present themselves, no single person, far or near, had been asked or allowed to attend? It seems to me that in the resurrection of Alcestis Admetus was not so much 'supremely blest'—that way of putting it is Balaustion's—but rather, in all the simplicity of Euripides, 'fortunate'.[1] It seems to me that, if she had not come back, he would have run some risk of being pelted out of his palace.

But if in the earlier scenes of the play, up to and including the death of the victim, the considerate speed of the plans for her burying is a feature not to be overlooked, it is made more prominent still by the scene which next follows, and brings us now back again to our previous topic, the arrival and reception of Heracles. What, we have asked, was the king's real motive for an act, which he himself, whether he boasts of it as he does at first, or excuses it as he does at last, is alike and always unwilling or unable to explain? Why, instead of frankly

  1. v. 1158, οὐ γὰρ εὐτυχῶν ἀρνήσομαι