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Sophocles Index


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ELECTRA by Sophocles, Part 14


CHORUS
Cease; for I see Aegisthus full in view.

ELECTRA
Rash boys, back, back!

ORESTES
Where see ye the man?

ELECTRA
Yonder, at our mercy, be advances from the suburb, full of joy.

CHORUS
Make with all speed for the vestibule; that, as your first task prospered. so this again may prosper now.

ORESTES
Fear not,- we will perform it.

ELECTRA
Haste, then, whither thou wouldst.

ORESTES
See, I am gone.

ELECTRA
I will look to matters here.
ORESTES and PYLADES go back into the palace.

CHORUS
'Twere well to soothe his ear with some few words of seeming gentleness, that he may rush blindly upon the struggle with his doom.
AEGISTHUS enters.

AEGISTHUS
Which of you can tell me, where are those Phocian strangers, who, 'tis said, have brought us tidings of Orestes slain in the wreck of his chariot? Thee, thee I ask, yes, thee, in former days so bold,- for methinks it touches thee most nearly; thou best must know, and best canst tell.

ELECTRA
I know assuredly; else were I a stranger to the fortune of my nearest kinsfolk.

AEGISTHUS
Where then may be the strangers? Tell me.

ELECTRA
Within; they have found a way to the heart of their hostess.

AEGISTHUS
Have they in truth reported him dead?

ELECTRA
Nay, not reported only; they have shown him.

AEGISTHUS
Can I, then, see the corpse with mine own eyes?

ELECTRA
Thou canst, indeed; and 'tis no enviable sight.

AEGISTHUS
Indeed, thou hast given me a joyful greeting, beyond thy wont.

ELECTRA
Joy be thine, if in these things thou findest joy.

AEGISTHUS
Silence, I say, and throw wide the gates, for all Mycenaeans and Argives to behold; that, if any of them were once buoyed on empty hopes from this man, now, seeing him dead, they may receive my curb, instead of waiting till my chastisement make them wise perforce!

ELECTRA
No loyalty is lacking on my part; time hath taught me the prudence of concord with the stronger.
The central doors of the palace are thrown open and a shrouded corpse is disclosed. ORESTES and PYLADES stand near it.

AEGISTHUS
O Zeus, I behold that which hath not fallen save by the doom of jealous Heaven; but, if Nemesis attend that word, be it unsaid!

Take all the covering from the face, that kinship, at least, may receive the tribute of lament from me also.

ORESTES
Lift the veil thyself; not my part this, but thine, to look upon these relics, and to greet them kindly.

AEGISTHUS
'Tis good counsel, and I will follow it.-
To ELECTRA
But thou-call me Clytemnestra, if she is within.

ORESTES
Lo, she is near thee: turn not thine eyes elsewhere.
AEGISTHUS removes the face-cloth from the corpse.

AEGISTHUS
O, what sight is this!

ORESTES
Why so scared? Is the face so strange?

AEGISTHUS
Who are the men into whose mid toils I have fallen, hapless that I am?

ORESTES
Nay, hast thou not discovered ere now that the dead, as thou miscallest them, are living?

AEGISTHUS
Alas, I read the riddle: this can be none but Orestes who speaks to me!

ORESTES
And, though so good a prophet, thou wast deceived so long?

AEGISTHUS
Oh lost, undone! Yet suffer me to say one word...

ELECTRA
In heaven's name, my brother, suffer him not to speak further, or to plead at length! When mortals are in the meshes of fate, how can such respite avail one who is to die? No,- slay him forthwith, and cast his corpse to the creatures from whom such as he should have burial, far from our sight! To me, nothing but this can make amends for the woes of the past.

ORESTES to AEGISTHUS
Go in, and quickly; the issue here is not of words, but of thy life.

AEGISTHUS
Why take me into the house? If this deed be fair, what need of darkness? Why is thy hand not prompt to strike?

ORESTES
Dictate not, but go where thou didst slay my father, that in the same place thou mayest die.

AEGISTHUS
Is this dwelling doomed to see all woes of Pelops' line, now, and in time to come?

ORESTES
Thine, at least; trust my prophetic skill so far.

AEGISTHUS
The skill thou vauntest belonged not to thy sire.

ORESTES
Thou bandiest words, and our going is delayed. Move forward!

AEGISTHUS
Lead thou.

ORESTES
Thou must go first.

AEGISTHUS
Lest I escape thee?

ORESTES
No, but that thou mayest not choose how to die; I must not spare thee any bitterness of death. And well it were if this judgment came straight-way upon all who dealt in lawless deeds, even the judgment of the sword: so should not wickedness abound.
ORESTES and PYLADES drive AEGISTHUS into the palace.

CHORUS singing
O house of Atreus, through how many sufferings hast thou come forth at last in freedom, crowned with good by this day's enterprise!


THE END

 

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