Alcestis is the earliest surviving play by Euripides. It was produced in 438 BCE as the final drama of a tetralogy (the other three plays, Cretan Women, Alcmaeon in Psophis, and Telephus are now lost except for a few fragments), which came second to a production by Sophocles (his plays are unknown). The story follows a folk-tale motif (Lesky 1925; see Parker 2007, xi-xv and esp. Iakov 2012, vol. 1, 25 n. 1 and 61 n. 68, for recent bibliography). Alcestis is allowed by the Fates to die instead of her husband, Admetus, and Heracles wrests her from Thanatos (Death). Alcestis is among the most controversial plays by Euripides (Gounaridou 1998, ch. 1; Parker 2007, xxxvi-lvi). …

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Citation:
Papadopoulou, Thalia. "Alcestis". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 September 2012
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=13371, accessed 25 November 2014.]