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Publication Date


First Advisor

Thalia Pandiri

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Classical Languages and Literatures


Classics, Greek, Queer theory, Tragedy, Literary theory, Pederasty, Patriline, Familial relations, Feminist theory, Euripedes, Alcestis, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Athens, Herakles, Apollo


This paper analyzes the manifold transgressions present in Euripides’ Alcestis, both in plot and form, and uses them to present a new reading of the play. The Alcestis uses three major character transgressions to further the idea of emotional turmoil and conflict and, ultimately, to substantiate its tragic status. The death of Alcestis queers the marriage between her and Admetus, and overshadows each action of the play. Indebted to her matchless gift of kharis, Admetus becomes the eromenos in this performance of pederasty, heightening tensions between his individual emotions and the pressures he faces as a Greek man. That tension builds until the confrontation with his father, where Admetus disavows Pheres. In doing so, he disrupts the patriline and seeks to rebuild social systems around his now-fundamentally queer existence and need to deny his own guilt. The introduction of Herakles not only provides a new model of masculinity to influence Admetus, but also catalyzes a performance of xenia that underpins the true extent of Admetus’ moral decline in the wake of Alcestis’ death.The Alcestis is definitively a tragedy, one that deals in an interior emotional landscape fundamentally at odds with traditional perceptions of tragedy. That play’s focus on individual feeling and experience is framed in an overarching space of unreality, allowing for Euripides’ deep exploration of his characters as well as his unconventional employment of genre.


©2021 Faith Julianna Marie Wykle. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




79 pages : 1 illustration. Includes bibliographical references (pages 74-79)