MESSENGER All hail! ye victors, maidens of Mycenae, to all Orestes’
friends his triumph I announce; Aegisthus, the murderer of Agamemnon,
lies weltering where he fell; return thanks to heaven.

ELECTRA Who art thou? What proof dost thou give of this?
MESSENGER Look at me, dost thou not recognize thy brother’s servant?

ELECTRA O best of friends! ’twas fear that prevented me from recognizing
thee; now I know thee well. What sayst thou? Is my father’s hateful
murderer slain?

MESSENGER He is; I repeat it since it is thy wish.

LEADER Ye gods, and justice, whose eye is on all, at last art thou

ELECTRA I fain would learn the way and means my brother took to slay
Thyestes’ son.

MESSENGER After we had set out from this house, we struck into the
broad highroad, and came to the place where was the far-famed King
of Mycenae. Now he was walking in a garden well-watered, culling a
wreath of tender myrtle-sprays for his head, and when he saw us, he
called out, “All hail! strangers; who are ye? whence come ye? from
what country?” To him Orestes answered, “We are from Thessaly, on
our way to Alpheus’ banks to sacrifice to Olympian Zeus.” When Aegisthus
heard that, he said, “Ye must be my guests to-day, and share the feast,
for I am even now sacrificing to the Nymphs; and by rising with tomorrow’s
light ye will be just as far upon your journey; now let us go within.”
Therewith he caught us by the hand and led us by the way; refuse we
could not; and when we were come to the house, he gave command: “Bring
water for my guests to wash forthwith, that they may stand around
the altar near the laver.” But Orestes answered, “‘Twas but now we
purified ourselves and washed us clean in water from the river. So
if we strangers are to join your citizens in sacrifice, we are ready,
King Aegisthus, and will not refuse.” So ended they their private
conference. Meantime the servants, that composed their master’s bodyguard,
laid aside their weapons, and one and all were busied at their tasks.
Some brought the bowl to catch the blood, others took up baskets,
while others kindled fire and set cauldrons round about the altars,
and the whole house rang. Then did thy mother’s husband take the barley
for sprinkling, and began casting it upon the hearth with these words,
“Ye Nymphs, who dwell among the rocks, grant that I may often sacrifice
with my wife, the daughter of Tyndareus, within my halls, as happily
as now, and ruin seize my foes!” (whereby he meant Orestes and thyself)
. But my master, lowering his voice, offered a different prayer,
that he might regain his father’s house. Next Aegisthus took from
basket a long straight knife, and cutting off some of the calf’s hair,
laid it with his right hand on the sacred fire, and then cut its throat
when the servants had lifted it upon their shoulders, and thus addressed
thy brother; “Men declare that amongst the Thessalians this is counted
honourable, to cut up a bull neatly and to manage steeds. So take
the knife, sir stranger, and show us if rumour speaks true about the
Thessalians.” Thereon Orestes seized the Dorian knife of tempered
steel and cast from his shoulders his graceful buckled robe; then
choosing Pylades to help him in his task, he made the servants withdraw,
and catching the calf by the hoof, proceeded to lay bare its white
flesh, with arm outstretched, and he flayed the hide quicker than
a runner ever finishes the two laps of the horses’ race-course; next
he laid the belly open, and Aegisthus took the entrails in his hands
and carefully examined them. Now the liver had no lobe, while the
portal vein leading to the gall-bladder portended dangerous attack
on him who was observing it. Dark grows Aegisthus’ brow, but my master
asks, “Why so despondent, good sir?” Said he, “I fear treachery from
a stranger. Agamemnon’s son of all men most I hate, and he hates my
house.” But Orestes cried, “What! fear treachery from an exile! thou
the ruler of the city? Ho! take this Dorian knife away and bring me
a Thessalian cleaver, that we by sacrificial feast may learn the will
of heaven; let me cleave the breast-bone.” And he took the axe and
cut it through. Now Aegisthus was examining the entrails, separating
them in his hands, and as he was bending down, thy brother rose on
tiptoe and smote him on the spine, severing the bones of his back;
and his body gave one convulsive shudder from head to foot and writhed
in the death-agony. No sooner did his servants see it, than they rushed
to arms, a host to fight with two; yet did Pylades and Orestes of
their valiancy meet them with brandished spears. Then cried Orestes,
“I am no foe that come against this city and my own servants, but
I have avenged me on the murderer of my sire, I, ill-starred Orestes.
Slay me not, my father’s former thralls!” They, when they heard him
speak, restrained their spears, and an old man, who had been in the
family many a long year, recognized him. Forthwith they crown thy
brother with a wreath, and utter shouts of joy. And lo! he is coming
to show thee the head, not the Gorgon’s, but the head of thy hated
foe Aegisthus; his death today has paid in blood a bitter debt of

CHORUS (singing) Dear mistress, now with step as light as fawn join
in the dance; lift high the nimble foot and be glad. Victory crowns
thy brother; he hath won a fairer wreath than ever victor gained beside
the streams of Alpheus; so raise a fair hymn to victory, the while
I dance.

ELECTRA O light of day! O bright careering sun! O earth! and night
erewhile my only day; now may I open my eyes in freedom, for Aegisthus
is dead, my father’s murderer. Come friends, let me bring out whate’er
my house contains to deck his head and wreath with crowns my conquering
brother’s brow.

CHORUS (singing) Bring forth thy garlands for his head, and we will
lead the dance the Muses love. Now shall the royal line, dear to us
in days gone by, resume its sway o’er the realm, having laid low the
usurper as he deserves. So let the shout go up, whose notes are those
of joy. (ORESTES and PYLADES enter, followed by attendants who are
bearing the body of Aegisthus.)

ELECTRA Hail! glorious victor, Orestes, son of a sire who won the
day ‘neath Ilium’s walls, accept this wreath to bind about the tresses
of thy hair. Not in vain hast thou run thy course unto the goal and
reached thy home again; no! but thou hast slain thy foe, Aegisthus,
the murderer of our father. Thou too, O Pylades, trusty squire, whose
training shows thy father’s sterling worth, receive a garland from
my hand, for thou no less than he hast a share in this emprise; and
so I pray, good luck be thine for ever!

ORESTES First recognize the gods, Electra, as being the authors of
our fortune, and then praise me their minister and fate’s. Yea, I
come from having slain Aegisthus in very deed, no mere pretence; and
to make thee the more certain of this, I am bringing thee his corpse,
which, if thou wilt, expose for beasts to rend, or set it upon a stake
for birds, the children of the air, to prey upon; for now is he thy
slave, once called thy lord and master.

ELECTRA I am ashamed to utter my wishes.

ORESTES What is it? speak out, for thou art through the gates of

ELECTRA I am ashamed to flout the dead, for fear some spite assail

ORESTES No one would blame thee for this.
ELECTRA Our folk are hard to please, and love to blame.

ORESTES Speak all thy mind, sister; for we entered on this feud with
him on terms admitting not of truce.

ELECTRA Enough! (Turning to the corpse of Aegisthus) With which
of thy iniquities shall I begin my recital? With which shall I end
it? To which allot a middle place? And yet I never ceased, as each
day dawned, to rehearse the story I would tell thee to thy face, if
ever I were freed from my old terrors; and now I am; so I will pay
thee back with the abuse I fain had uttered to thee when alive. Thou
wert my ruin, making me and my brother orphans, though we had never
injured thee, and thou didst make a shameful marriage with my mother,
having slain her lord who led the host of Hellas, though thyself didst
never go to Troy. Such was thy folly, thou didst never dream that
my mother would prove thy curse when thou didst marry her, though
thou wert wronging my father’s honour. Know this; whoso defiles his
neighbour’s wife, and afterward is forced to take her to himself,
is a wretched wight, if he supposes she will be chaste as his wife,
though she sinned against her former lord. Thine was a life most miserable,
though thou didst pretend ’twas otherwise; well thou knewest how guilty
thy marriage was, and my mother knew she had a villain for husband.
Sinners both ye took each other’s lot, she thy fortune, thou her curse.
While everywhere in Argos thou-wouldst hear such phrases as, “that
woman’s husband,” never “that man’s wife.” Yet ’tis shameful for the
wife and not the man to rule the house; wherefore I loathe those children,
who are called in the city not the sons of the man, their father,
but of their mother. For if a man makes a great match above his rank,
there is no talk of the husband but only of the wife. Herein lay thy
grievous error, due to ignorance; thou thoughtest thyself some one,
relying on thy wealth, but this is naught save to stay with us a space.
‘Tis nature that stands fast, not wealth. For it, if it abide unchanged,
exalts man’s horn; but riches dishonestly acquired and in the hands
of fools, soon take their flight, their blossom quickly shed. As for
thy sins with women, I pass them by, ’tis not for maiden’s lips to
mention them, but I will shrewdly hint thereat. And then thy arrogance!
because forsooth thou hadst a palace and some looks to boast. May
I never have a husband with a girl’s face, but one that bears him
like a man! For the children of these latter cling to a life of arms,
while those, who are so fair to see, do only serve to grace the dance.
Away from me! (Spurning the corpse with her foot) Time has shown
thy villainy, little as thou reckest of the forfeit thou hast paid
for it. Let none suppose, though he have run the first stage of his
course with joy, that he will get the better of justice, till he have
reached the goal and ended his career.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS Terrible alike his crime and your revenge; for
mighty is the power of justice.

ORESTES ‘Tis well. Carry his body within the house and hide it, sirrahs,
that when my mother comes, she may not see his corpse before she is
smitten herself. (PYLADES and the attendants take the body into the

ELECTRA Hold! let us strike out another scheme.
ORESTES How now? Are those allies from Mycenae whom I see?
ELECTRA No, ’tis my mother, that bare me.
ORESTES Full into the net she is rushing, oh, bravely!
ELECTRA See how proudly she rides in her chariot and fine robes!
ORESTES What must we do to our mother? Slay her?
Electra by Euripides