ELECTRA ‘Tis her husband, not her children that a woman loves, sir
ELECTRA His design in giving me to such a husband was to weaken my
ORESTES To prevent thee bearing sons, I suppose, who should punish
ELECTRA Canst thou ask? Shame on thee for that! Is not this the time
ELECTRA By boldly meting out the same fate that his father had meted
out to him by his foes.
ELECTRA Once I have shed my mother’s blood o’er his, then welcome
ORESTES The man maybe who is said to have snatched him away from
ELECTRA Yes, the old servant who tended my father’s childhood long
ELECTRA Such burial as it was, after his body had been flung forth
from the palace.
ORESTES O God! how awful is thy story! Yes, there is a feeling, arising
even from another’s distress, that wrings the human heart. Say on,
that when know the loveless tale, which yet I needs must hear, I may
carry it to thy brother. For pity, though it has no place in ignorant
natures, is inborn in the wise; still it may cause trouble to find
excessive cleverness amongst the wise.
LEADER I too am stirred by the same desire as the stranger. For dwelling
so far from the city I know nothing of its ills, and I should like
to hear about them now myself.
ELECTRA I will tell you, if I may; and surely I may tell a friend
about my own and my father’s grievous misfortunes. Now since thou
movest me to speak, I entreat thee, sir, tell Orestes of our sorrows;
first, describe the dress I wear, the load of squalor that oppresses
me, the hovel I inhabit after my royal home; tell him how hard I have
to work at weaving clothes myself or else go barely clad and do without;
how I carry home on my head water from the brook; no part have I in
holy festival, no place amid the dance; a maiden still I turn from
married dames and from Castor too, to whom they betrothed me before
he joined the heavenly host, for I was his kinswoman. Meantime my
mother, ‘mid the spoils of Troy, is seated on her throne, and at her
foot-stool slaves from Asia stand and wait, captives of my father’s
spear, whose Trojan robes are fastened with brooches of gold. And
there on the wall my father’s blood still leaves a deep dark stain,
while his murderer mounts the dead man’s car and fareth forth, proudly
grasping in his blood-stained hands the sceptre with which Agamemnon
would marshal the sons of Hellas. Dishonoured lies his grave; naught
as yet hath it received of drink outpoured or myrtle-spray, but bare
of ornament his tomb is left. Yea, and ’tis said that noble hero who
is wedded to my mother, in his drunken fits, doth leap upon the grave,
and pelt with stones my father’s monument, boldly gibing at us on
this wise, “Where is thy son Orestes? Is he ever coming in his glory
to defend thy tomb?” Thus is Orestes flouted behind his back. Oh!
tell him this, kind sir, I pray thee. And there be many calling him
to come,-I am but their mouthpiece,-these suppliant hands, this tongue,
my broken heart, my shaven head, and his own father too. For ’tis
shameful that the sire should have destroyed Troy’s race and the son
yet prove too weak to pit himself against one foe unto the death,
albeit he has youth and better blood as well.
PEASANT (entering and catching sight of strangers talking to ELECTRA)
Ha! who are these strangers I see at my door? And why are they come
hither to my rustic gate? can they want my help? for ’tis unseemly
for a woman to stand talking with young men.
ELECTRA Dear husband, be not suspicious of me. For thou shalt hear
the truth; these strangers have come to bring me news of Orestes.
Good sirs, pardon him those words.
PEASANT What say they? is that hero yet alive and in the light of
PEASANT Well, they only see a part of it, though maybe thou art telling
them the rest.
PEASANT Long ere this then shouldst thou have thrown open our doors
to them. Enter, sirs; for in return for your good tidings, shall ye
find such cheer as my house affords. Ho! servants, take their baggage
within; make no excuses, for ye are friends sent by one I love; and
poor though I am, yet will I never show meanness in my habits.
ORESTES ‘Fore heaven! is this the man who is helping thee to frustrate
thy marriage, because he will not shame Orestes?