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ANDROMACHE by Euripides, Part 10

NURSE
My child, I can as little praise thy previous sinful excesses,
committed against the Trojan captive, as thy present exaggerated
terror. Thy husband will never listen to a barbarian's weak pleading
and reject his marriage with thee for this. For thou wast no captive
from Troy whom he wedded, but the daughter of a gallant sire, with a
rich dower, from a city too of no mean prosperity. Nor will thy father
forsake thee, as thou dreadest, and allow thee to be cast out from
this house. Nay, enter now, nor show thyself before the palace, lest
the sight of thee there bring reproach upon thee, my daughter.

(The NURSE departs as ORESTES and his ATTENDANTs enter.)

LEADER
Lo! a stranger of foreign appearance from some other land comes
hurrying towards us.
ORESTES
Women of this foreign land! is this the home, the palace of
Achilles' son?
LEADER
Thou hast it; but who art thou to ask such a question?
ORESTES
The son of AGAMEMNON and CLYTEMNESTRA, by name ORESTES , on ply way
to the oracle of Zeus at Dodona. But now that I am come to Phthia, I
am resolved to inquire about my kinswoman, Hermione of Sparta; is
she alive and well? for though she dwells in a land far from my own, I
love her none the less.
HERMIONE
Son of AGAMEMNON, thy appearing is as a haven from the storm to
sailors; by thy knees I pray, have pity on me in my distress, on me of
whose fortunes thou art inquiring. About thy knees I twine my arms
with all the force of sacred fillets.
ORESTES
Ha! what is this? Am I mistaken or do I really see before me the
queen of this palace, the daughter of Menelaus?
HERMIONE
The same, that only child whom Helen, daughter of Tyndareus,
bore my father in his halls; never doubt that.
ORESTES
O saviour Phoebus, grant us respite from our woe! But what is
the matter? art thou afflicted by gods or men?
HERMIONE
Partly by myself, partly by the man who wedded me, and partly by
some god. On every side I see ruin.
ORESTES
Why, what misfortune could happen to a woman as yet childless,
unless her honour is concerned?
HERMIONE
My very ill! Thou hast hit my case exactly.
ORESTES
On whom has thy husband set his affections in thy stead?
HERMIONE
On his captive, Hector's wife.
ORESTES
An evil case indeed, for a man to have two wives!
HERMIONE
'Tis even thus. So I resented it.
ORESTES
Didst thou with woman's craft devise a plot against thy rival?
HERMIONE
Yes, to slay her and her bastard child.
ORESTES
And didst thou slay them, or did something happen to rescue them
from thee?
HERMIONE
It was old Peleus, who showed regard to the weaker side.
ORESTES
Hadst thou any accomplice in this attempted murder?
HERMIONE
My father came from Sparta for this very purpose.
ORESTES
And was he after all defeated by that old man's prowess?
HERMIONE
Oh no! but by shame; and he hath gone and left me all alone.
ORESTES
I understand; thou art afraid of thy husband for what thou hast
done.
HERMIONE
Thou hast guessed it; for he will have a right to slay me. What
can say for myself? Yet I beseech thee by Zeus the god of our
family, send me to a land as far as possible from this, or to my
father's house; for these very walls seem to cry out "Begone!" and all
the land of Phthia hates me. But if my lord return ere that from the
oracle of Phoebus, he will put me to death on a shameful charge, or
enslave me to his mistress, whom ruled before. Maybe some one will
say, "How was it thou didst go thus astray?" I was ruined by evil
women who came to me and puffed me up with words like these: "Wait!
wilt thou suffer that vile captive, a mere bondmaid, to dwell within
thy house and share thy wedded rights? By Heaven's queen! if it were
my house she should not live to reap my marriage-harvest!" And I
listened to the words of these Sirens, the cunning, knavish, subtle
praters, and was filled with silly thoughts. What need had I to care
about my lord? I had all I wanted, wealth in plenty, a house in
which I was mistress, and as for children, mine would be born in
wedlock, while hers would be bastards, half-slaves to mine. Oh! never,
never,-this truth will I repeat,-should men of sense, who have
wives, allow women-folk to visit them in their homes, for they teach
them evil; one, to gain some private end, helps to corrupt their
honour; another, having made a slip herself, wants a companion in
misfortune, while many are wantons; and hence it is men's houses are
tainted. Wherefore keep strict guard upon the portals of your houses
with bolts and bars; for these visits of strange women lead to no good
result, but a world of ill.

 

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