Alcestis A Play

Euripedes; Translated and Adapted by Ted Hughes

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

112 Pages



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In the years before his death in 1998, Hughes translated several classical works with great energy and ingenuity. His Tales from Ovid was called "one of the great works of our century" (Michael Hofmann, The Times, London), his Oresteia of Aeschylus is considered the difinitive version, and his Phèdre was acclaimed on stage in New York as well as London. Hughes's version of Euripides's Alcestis, the last of his translations, has all the brio and sharpness of these other works, and is, moreover, a powerful and moving conclusion to the great final phase of Hughes's career.

Euripides was, with Aeschylus and Sophocles, one of the greatest of Greek dramatists. Alcestis tells the story of a king's grief for his wife, Alcestis, who has given her young life so that he may live. As translated by Hughes, the story displays a distinctly modern sensibility while retaining the spirit of antiquity. It is a profound meditation on human mortality.


Praise for Alcestis

"Hughes's poetic style if fully of beauty and pathos. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"[Hughes uses] the same technique of adaptation he deployed so well in Tales from Ovid, paring Classical polysyllables to the minimum, and finding the grain of mythic significance . . . His portrayal of the surviving and self-chastising Admetos is acute. Whatever shades of autobiography may writhe through these lines, they belong to a drama that works."—Nigel Spivey, The Daily Telegraph

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Euripedes; Translated and Adapted by Ted Hughes

  • The British poet, translator, author, and critic Ted Hughes, born in 1930, wrote more than forty books, including, in the last decade of his life, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being; Tales from Ovid; verse adaptations of Aeschylus's Oresteia, Racine's Phèdre, and Euripedes' Alcestis; and the bestselling Birthday Letters. Hughes served as Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II from 1984 until his death in 1998.