ELECTRA What! has pity seized thee at sight of her?
ORESTES O God! how can I slay her that bare and suckled me?
ELECTRA Slay her as she slew thy father and mine.
ORESTES O Phoebus, how foolish was thy oracle-
ELECTRA Where Apollo errs, who shall be wise?
ORESTES In bidding me commit this crime-my mother’s murder!
ELECTRA How canst thou be hurt by avenging thy father?

ORESTES Though pure before, I now shall carry into exile the stain
of a mother’s blood.

ELECTRA Still, if thou avenge not thy father, thou wilt fail in thy

ORESTES And if I slay my mother, I must pay the penalty to her.

ELECTRA And so must thou to him, if thou resign the avenging of our

ORESTES Surely it was a fiend in the likeness of the god that ordered

ELECTRA Seated on the holy tripod? I think not so.
ORESTES I cannot believe this oracle was meant.
ELECTRA Turn not coward! Cast not thy manliness away!
ORESTES Am I to devise the same crafty scheme for her?
ELECTRA The self-same death thou didst mete out to her lord Aegisthus.

ORESTES I will go in; ’tis an awful task I undertake; an awful deed
I have to do; still if it is Heaven’s will, be it so; I loathe and
yet I love the enterprise. (As ORESTES withdraws into the hut, CLYTEMNESTRA
enters in a chariot. Her attendants are hand-maidens attired in gorgeous

CHORUS (singing) Hail! Queen of Argos, daughter of Tyndareus, sister
of those two noble sons of Zeus, who dwell in the flame-lit firmament
amid the stars, whose guerdon high it is to save the sailor tossing
on the sea. All hail! because of thy wealth and high prosperity, I
do thee homage as I do the blessed gods. Now is the time, great queen,
for us to pay our court unto thy fortunes.

CLYTEMNESTRA Alight from the car, ye Trojan maids, and take my hand
that I may step down from the chariot. With Trojan spoils the temples
of the gods are decked, but I have obtained these maidens as a special
gift from Troy, in return for my lost daughter, a trifling boon no
doubt, but still an ornament to my house.

ELECTRA And may not I, mother, take that highly-favoured hand of
thine? I am a slave like them, an exile from my father’s halls in
this miserable abode.

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

CLYTEMNESTRA Daughter, far from refusing it, I grant it again.

ELECTRA Thou wilt not, when thou hearest, wreak thy vengeance on

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

Electra by Euripides