Gender Roles In Euripides's Alcestis

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Alcestis was the wife of King Admetus, a man who was allowed to live past the time of his death so long as he found someone to take his place. When the time came for the king to die, Alcestis agrees to sacrifice herself to spare her children from going fatherless. Euripides’s work begins just as Alcestis is about to die. In a heartfelt monologue before her passing, Alcestis only asks that her husband honor her memory by not taking another wife and bringing a stepmother into their children’s lives, after which she passes into the afterlife. At the end of this passage, she states, “Goodbye, be happy, both of you. And you , my husband,/ can boast the bride you took made you the bravest wife, and you children, can say, too, that your mother was …show more content…
In one vase in particular (Figure 1), we see both depicted. As those around her morn her imminent passing, Alcestis bares her breasts while her children cling to her. In both Euripides text and this vase, her role as a mother is highlighted. In this case, we see a woman who upholds the gender roles placed on her by society. Those around her, even the gods, mourn her death because she was such a wonderful example of a wife and mother, everything a woman should be. This consistent representation across art forms tells us that Alcestis was truly seen as fulfilling her duty as a …show more content…
Instead, these images focus on her adherence with gender roles. A Paestan neck-amphora depicting her first meeting with her long-lost brother shows her sitting at the base of her father’s grave looking forlorn (Figure 4). This is the Electra vase painters prefer to paint: docile and submissive, she completes the role expected of her as a daughter with no indication that she might have larger goals for revenge. While both Greek Tragedy and drama show Electra adhering to gender norms, text versions of her tale have the potential to bring her motivation into question, while vases simply show her fulfilling the roles expected of her. Neither suggest she completely challenges the norm, but drama allows for her character to be further

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