Page:Euripides the Rationalist.djvu/91

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ALCESTIS.

75

Lazarus was really conveyed to the tomb within an hour of his death, and was restored in the course of the day. Or read the fourth chapter of the Second Book of Kings; and then suppose a version of the story, in which Gehazi, on reaching the home of the Shunnamite, found that the child had revived immediately after the mother's departure, and Elisha, instead of actually restoring him in the way described, merely announced his intention to do so, an intention forestalled by the recovery. Then go back to the Alcestis, and consider whether, if the characters are ill-matched with the miraculous hypothesis ostensibly propounded in the conclusion, the facts of the story are not equally ill-devised to sustain this hypothesis; and whether it is not fair, reasonable, and necessary to suppose the author aware of this; and then whether—seeing that everything in the drama from the 77th verse to the 1135th, characters and facts alike, is repugnant to the theological interpretation given ostensibly in the prologue and conclusion, so that, to save the author's reputation for sense, we must suppose him not serious either with the mass of his work or with the fringes—whether we ought not to set 1059 verses above 104, and look for serious meaning in the 1059, and for signs of a presumable mockery in the 104.

'The resurrection of Alcestis' is represented by Euripides as it could be only by a man who did not believe that it was a resurrection, and wished to convey this to others. Suppose that, when Admetus asks 'How did you bring her from below to this light?', Heracles instead of meeting the question, as Euripides makes him do, with a reply which is no reply, evasive and unintelligible, had answered frankly 'How did I do it? I went to the monument, and after waiting a fair while till my head was cool, I went in. As soon as I saw your wife I was sure she was alive, and I had not been there long before she came to. When she felt fit to move, I cloaked her (for I thought you deserved a trick) and we walked back. There is no mystery about it. What I cannot understand is why she was carried there with such haste as it seems she was, and how you could fancy that she was dead.' If Heracles had so replied, who, unless it were Admetus, could have felt any astonishment, and how could Admetus himself have disputed the simplicity of the explanation? The facts, as given by Euripides, are these. The