Abailart's Reviews > Alcestis

Alcestis by Euripides
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May 27, 10

bookshelves: drama
Read from May 21 to 22, 2010

Death:

I know.
I know what I'm up against.
You and your bright ideas, for one.
You will find the minds of human beings
With lunatic illusions,
A general anaesthesia,
A fuzzy euphoria,
A universal addiction
To the drug of their games,
Chasing a ball or power or money,
Or torturing each other,
Or cheating each other -
All that drama!
You know it.
But I cannot understand why you do it.
As far as I am concerned, their birth-cry
Is the first cry of the fatally injured.
The rest is you - and your morphine.
That is wht they call you the god of healing.
Life is your hospital and you call it a funfair.
Your silly sickroom screen of giggling faces,
Your quiverful of hypodermic syringes
That you call arrows of inspiration.


Thus Death to Apollo. The Gleaner has come for Alcestis who has offered her life in place of her husband's. This is a thoroughly modern translation as the extract above demonstrates. The whole reads beautifully, and I could imagine seeing the play staged. I had imagined Brian Blessed playing Death but later Heracles comes to visit, and in a drunken egofest proclaims the glory of his achievements:

The dung spilled like fermenting glaciers
Down the valleys.
The Aegean stables
Were a quiet volcano
Of slow, steaming excrement.
A solid, static, itching eruption of ordure.


The best things in life are chanced, like this wonderful play coming my way in a secondhand shop. Backwards to the Greeks, to tragedy, and a reminder to get my collected poems of Robinson Jeffers back.

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