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ELECTRA by Euripides, Part 13

CLYTEMNESTRA
See, my servants are here; trouble not on my account.
ELECTRA
Why, thou didst make me thy prisoner by robbing me of my home;
like these I became a captive when my home was taken, an orphan all
forlorn.
CLYTEMNESTRA
True; but thy father plotted so wickedly against those of his
own kin whom least of all he should have treated so. Speak I must;
albeit, when woman gets an evil reputation, there is a feeling of
bitterness against all she says; unfairly indeed in my case, for it
were only fair to hate after learning the circumstances, and seeing if
the object deserves it; otherwise, why hate at all? Now Tyndareus
bestowed me on thy father not that I or any children I might bear
should be slain. Yet he went and took my daughter from our house to
the fleet at Aulis, persuading me that Achilles was to wed her; and
there he held her o'er the pyre, and cut Iphigenia's snowy throat. Had
he slain her to save his city from capture, or to benefit his house,
or to preserve his other children, a sacrifice of one for many,
could have pardoned him. But, as it was, his reasons for murdering
my child were these: the wantonness of Helen and her husband's folly
in not punishing the traitress. Still, wronged as I was, my rage had
not burst forth for this, nor would I have slain my lord, had he not
returned to me with that frenzied maiden and made her his mistress,
keeping at once two brides beneath the same roof. Women maybe are
given to folly, I do not deny it; this granted, when a husband goes
astray and sets aside his own true wife, she fain will follow his
example and find another love; and then in our case hot abuse is
heard, while the men, who are to blame for this, escape without a
word. Again, suppose Menelaus had been secretly snatched from his
home, should I have had to kill ORESTES to save Menelaus, my
sister's husband? How would thy father have endured this? Was he
then to escape death for slaying what was mine, while I was to
suffer at his hands? I slew him, turning, as my only course, to his
enemies. For which of all thy father's friends would have joined me in
his murder? Speak all that is in thy heart, and prove against me
with all free speech, that thy father's death was not deserved.
ELECTRA
Justly urged! but thy justice is not free from shame; for in all
things should every woman of sense yield to her husband. Whoso
thinketh otherwise comes not within the scope of what I say. Remember,
mother, those last words of thine, allowing me free utterance before
thee.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Daughter, far from refusing it, I grant it again.
ELECTRA
Thou wilt not, when thou hearest, wreak thy vengeance on me?
CLYTEMNESTRA
No, indeed; I shall welcome thy opinion.
ELECTRA
Then will I speak, and this shall be the prelude of my speech: Ah,
mother mine! would thou hadst had a better heart; for though thy
beauty and Helen's win you praises well deserved, yet are ye akin in
nature, pair of wantons, unworthy of Castor. She was carried off, 'tis
true, but her fall was voluntary: and thou hast slain the bravest soul
in Hellas, excusing thyself on the ground that thou didst kill a
husband to avenge a daughter; the world does not know thee so well
as I do, thou who before ever thy daughter's death was decided, yea,
soon as thy lord had started from his home, wert combing thy golden
tresses at thy mirror. That wife who, when her lord is gone from home,
sets to beautifying herself, strike off from virtue's list; for she
has no need to carry her beauty abroad, save she is seeking some
mischief. Of all the wives in Hellas thou wert the only one I know who
wert overjoyed when Troy's star was in the ascendant, while, if it
set, thy brow was clouded, since thou hadst no wish that AGAMEMNON
should return from Troy. And yet thou couldst have played a virtuous
part to thy own glory. The husband thou hadst was no whit inferior
to AEGISTHUS, for he it was whom Hellas chose to be her captain. And
when thy sister Helen wrought that deed of shame, thou couldst have
won thyself great glory, for vice is a warning and calls attention
to virtue. If, as thou allegest, my father slew thy daughter, what
is the wrong I and my brother have done thee? How was it thou didst
not bestow on us our father's halls after thy husband's death, instead
of bartering them to buy a paramour? Again, thy husband is not
exiled for thy son's sake, nor is he slain to avenge my death,
although by him this life is quenched twice as much as e'er my
sister's was; so if murder is to succeed murder in requital, I and thy
son ORESTES must slay thee to avenge our father; if that was just, why
so is this. Whoso fixes his gaze on wealth or noble birth and weds a
wicked woman, is a fool; better is a humble partner in his home, if
she be virtuous, than a proud one.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Chance rules the marriages of women; some I see turn out well,
others ill amongst mankind.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Daughter, 'twas ever thy nature to love thy father. This too one
finds; some sons cling to their father, others have a deeper affection
for their mother. I will forgive thee, for myself am not so
exceeding glad at the deed that I have done, my child. But thou,-why
thus unwashed and clad in foul attire, now that the days of thy
lying-in are accomplished? Ah me, for my sorry schemes! I have
goaded my husband into anger more than e'er I should have done.
ELECTRA
Thy sorrow comes too late; the hour of remedy has gone from
thee; my father is dead. Yet why not recall that exile, thy own
wandering son?
CLYTEMNESTRA
I am afraid; 'tis my interest, not his that I regard. For they say
he is wroth for his father's murder.

 

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