Alcestis is near death and King Admetus is grieving. The audience knows only that the King of Thessaly had been saved by Apollo while the latter was serving penance for slaying the Cyclopes. The audience knows only that Apollo was able to convince the Fates to give Admetus a chance to switch any willing person for himself in death. His wife being the only person willing to do so, the situation appears rather bleak.
The catch-22 that Admetus finds himself in is humorous right off the bat. All of the characters in the play tell Admetus he has the greatest wife of all time, but the only evidence to support this claim that the play offers is the fact that she will die for him. Therefore, he is relegated to choosing between death and the perfect wife, who is perfect because shell die for him, effectively making the perfect wife impossible to obtain.
While Euripides uses a language that appeals in a very direct way to the audiences emotion, these same lines, after the plays happy resolution, come across as rather up-played, seemingly to the point of satire. He depicts Alcestis weeping at Deaths approach: And when she was fulfilled of many tears, drooping she rose from her bed and made as if to go, and many times she turned to go and many times turned back, and flung herself once more upon the bed.
However, she does not weep for herself, but for the separation from her husband she must soon endure. Of course, as Semonides Poem 7 tells us, no woman is so loyal or loving. The satirical use of highly dramatic language is what makes Alcestis laughable.
The Lord Servant says, at one point, We must accept the gifts of the Gods, which is highly reflective of ancient Greek thought”if turning away a friend even during a time of such mourning would have shamed Admetus, then certainly to turn away Apollos assistance from the beginning would have been folly. While at first one might think, like his father, that Admetus has gotten himself into this mess by not accepting his own death when it came, Admetus really has no choice in the situation.
He cannot refuse Apollos help, nor can he refuse the help of demi-god Herakles; the situation is created and resolved by gods, and the only thing the mortals can do is grieve or rejoice. Given the choice, why not rejoice? After all, there is an old saying that goes, God is just a comedian playing to an audience thats too afraid to laugh.