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‘Aspettando Ercole’
Universalismo mitico e primitivismo romantico in «Le mystère d’Alceste» di M. Yourcenar

digital ‘Aspettando Ercole’<br/>Universalismo mitico e primitivismo romantico in «Le mystère d’Alceste» di M. Yourcenar
Article
journal COMUNICAZIONI SOCIALI
issue COMUNICAZIONI SOCIALI - 2004 - 3. Sacrifici al femminile. Alcesti in scena da Euripide a Raboni
title ‘Aspettando Ercole’
Universalismo mitico e primitivismo romantico in «Le mystère d’Alceste» di M. Yourcenar
author
publisher Vita e Pensiero
format Article | Pdf
online since 2004
issn 03928667 (print) | 18277969 (digital)
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In Le mystère d’Alceste by M. Yourcenar the sacrifice of Alcestis represents the tragic and inevitable conclu- sion of an unhappy marriage relationship, which since its very outset has compelled the heroine to ‘offer her- self in sacrifice’ when faced with the various expressions of narcisistic retreat that an Admetus entirely ded- icated to the cult of Apollo has adopted as the one and only horizon of his own existence. The death of Alcestis, far from embodying the altruistic response to a mysterious and cruel decision by the ‘envious gods’, thus appears, in the Yourcenarian pièce, as the literalisation of an entirely psychological sacrifice; conse- quently, the figure of Admetus cannot but be burdened, at least until the moment of the final redemption, with the weight of a verdict of condemnation. The new thematic-ideological structure that shapes the tragic mythos is noticeably influenced by the writer’s narrative production of this period, and, symmetrically, the various ‘modern’stories that lie at the centre of this universe – which displays many similarities with a genuine novel – have their unifying mythological parallel in the issues surrounding Admetus and Alcestis. In assigning the ‘brute’ Heracles the protagonist role of a positive antithesis of Apollo (as well as of Admetus) Yourcenar proves to have comprehended and exploited the primitivist reading of the symbolic relations between the fig- ures of Apollo and Heracles given in the mid-nineteenth century by the romantic historian Jules Michelet. Heracles is raised to the position of supreme representative of a Greece endowed with a ‘pure heart’, alien to all forms of Apollinean intellectualism and striving exclusively towards the arduous exercise of ‘virtue’. The exalted moral issue of which Heracles resolves to be the bearer decrees his christologic assimilation and yields its beneficial effects in the finale: looking at her own ‘sacrifice’ through the eyes of Heracles, Alcestis can rediscover her husband and be reunited with him.

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