Jul 4, 2014
Alcestis: A God and his Boyfriend in Ancient Greece
Of course, the professor tried his best to eliminate all traces of same-sex desire, presenting the ancient Greeks as rampaging heterosexuals.
He wasn't successful with Alcestis (438 BCE) by Euripides.
The plot synopsis makes it seem entirely heterosexist: Apollo offers to let King Admentus live past his allotted life span, if he can find someone to die in his place. His devoted wife Alcestis offers to go.
But what actually happens is: Apollo offers Admentus immortality because he likes him. A lot.
Admentus has a human admirer in Hercules, who arrives without realizing that Alcestis is about to die. Admentus is supposed to be in mourning, but he's so happy to see his friend that they spend the night carousing.
In the morning, apprised of the situation, Hercules rushes off and wrestles with Thanatos in order to bring Alcestis back to life (this is a rather a buffed Alcestis).
So it's not about hetero-romance spanning life and death after all. It's about a man turning over Heaven and Hell to help his friend.
Here the Ted Hughes version is performed at Bates College in 2009.
There's also an opera version, Alceste, by Gluck (1767).
See also: Greek Mythology.