Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Admetus’s palace

Admetus’s palace. Pherae, Thessaly, Greece. All of the action of the play takes place in front of this palace. The house itself connects Admetus with the other characters in the play. For his wife Alcestis, this palace, and especially her marriage bed, provide the motivation for her decision to die for Admetus. While Admetus’s father Pheres has given the palace and its authority over to his son, Pheres is not prepared also to die on his son’s behalf.

The palace also creates a bond of guest-friendship between Admetus and Apollo. Because Admetus has earlier hosted Apollo during the latter’s earthly servitude, Apollo grants him a means of avoiding his fated early death. The palace also unites Admetus with Hercules. According to the Greek custom of xenia or guest-friendship, a guest-friend deserves particular honor in the house. For this reason Admetus does not tell his friend about his wife’s death and Hercules only hears of the event from servants upset by his inappropriate behavior in a house of mourning. Hercules responds by bringing to the house of his grieving friend a woman he claims to have wrested from the hands of death. Hercules relies upon his rights as a guest in Admetus’s house to persuade his friend to marry this woman.