Alcestis is the story of a king, Admetus, who escapes death when his wife, Alcestis, volunteers to die in his place. Ted Hughes's version goes beyond translation to an inspired rethinking of the story in terms of his own vision of human suffering.
Although he started working on this piece in 1993, he did not finish it until a few months before his death in 1998. It is the culmination of an extraordinarily productive period of work, which saw the publication of Tales from Ovid (1997), Birthday Letters (1998) - winners, consecutively, of the Whitbread Book of the Year - and The Oresteia (1999).
In the judgement of posterity Hughes's versions of Greek and Latin classics may turn out to be among his greatest achievements. Alcestis is Euripides's drama of the king doomed to an early death whose wife volunteers to take his place. Hughes recreates the work in a style that is highly contemporary ('I killed the electro-technocrats, those Titans, Who made the thunderbolt', boasts Apollo) but appropriately dignified and magisterial. This inspired retelling of the play offers Hughes's own perspective on human suffering and was completed just before he died. (Kirkus UK)