Page:Euripides the Rationalist.djvu/57

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If Heracles did indeed say this, we should be driven to suppose that, in spite of all the contrary evidence, Euripides meant us somehow to conclude in favour of the hospitality which Admetus has just exhibited. But in fact he says nothing of the sort. In Browning's version the words good and true thou art are a mistranslation, while the words good, true remain thou, and the still more important words the old way, are additions for which the original has nothing at all. The error is not originally Browning's, but has crept into commentaries because of the very prejudice which it serves to sustain. The true English is: "Now lead her in; and as thou art bound, henceforth, Admetus, behave duly to guests". That Admetus, after his present experience and the generosity of Heracles, is under a particular obligation to observe the duties of friendship and hospitality in future, is true; and so he is plainly told: but so far from commending his recent conduct for an example, Heracles would seem rather, by this very injunction, to regard it as a warning, and in the light of his previous reproof, he cannot be otherwise understood. And so Admetus does understand him; for his final declaration is not that he will persevere in his virtue, but that "from this time forward his life is transformed for the better", a transformation which among other things would include, it is to be hoped, a better theory and practice in the way of dealing with persons who accept his friendship.

Before quitting the subject of Admetus' 'hospitality', we may observe that this unanimity of condemnation among the dramatis personae must determine our opinion, so far at least as concerns the play, not only with regard to the act in itself, but also as to the pretext for it which is pleaded by Admetus. When he says—and it is all that he has to say—that if Heracles had gone away from his door it would have affected injuriously the reputation of his house, we must understand that this excuse is not only (as it is) irrelevant, for reasons which, if not apparent before, become so at any rate after the rebuke of Heracles, but is also untrue. We must view this "excess of susceptibility" with the wonder, and something more than the wonder, which it excites at the moment in the indulgent minds of the Chorus. If Euripides had thought it possible that any one in Pherae or in Athens should seriously maintain the opinion of social obligation