defends himself against objections is that, if Heracles had gone elsewhere, his own character for hospitality would have suffered;
So adding to my ills this other ill
That mine were styled a house inhospitable.
From whom under the circumstances this reproach was to be apprehended, and why any one should take a view of the case so different from that of Heracles himself and of the protesting Chorus, Admetus does not explain; but we will assume for the moment that the apprehension is real and not groundless. In that case the conduct of Admetus, though not in the least noble or even disinterested, is prudent and so far justifiable; he protects himself against possible censure, which any man has a right to do, provided that he can do it without wronging another.
But how can Admetus be brought within the limits of this proviso? And does then Heracles sustain no wrong? What of the deceit which is practised upon his confidence in Admetus' loyalty? What of the false position in which he is thus led to place himself, what of the mortification and self-reproach which he thereby incurs? The deceit in itself would have been sufficiently offensive, even if it had led to no worse consequence than the unpleasantness of recollection, when sooner or later he made the inevitable discovery. When one friend demands and another renders a trivial service of little intrinsic value, the pledge of friendship is not in the thing bestowed, as in this case the victuals and drink, but in the mutual confidence and goodwill, which makes it seem natural to each that he should thus ask or be asked. Common free consent is the essence of the matter, and the only estimable part of it. But if there is on one side no consent, or if, which is the same thing, the consent of one party is only secured by the fraud of the other, so that he asks and accepts on a misrepresentation what, not needing it, he would not ask or accept if he knew the truth, the substance of friendship is sacrificed to the mere appearance and form of it. The friendship of Admetus and Heracles is so strong that Admetus cannot possibly allow Heracles to take a meal in another house instead of in his own; and yet this same friendship is so slight, that Heracles has no claim to share the sorrow