CLYTEMNESTRA I am afraid; ’tis my interest, not his that I regard.
For they say he is wroth for his father’s murder.
ELECTRA Why, then, dost thou encourage thy husband’s bitterness against
CLYTEMNESTRA Now there! ’tis thou that art fanning the quarrel into
CLYTEMNESTRA Peace! Enough of this. Why didst thou summon me, my
ELECTRA Thou hast heard, I suppose, of my confinement; for this I
pray thee, since I know not how, offer the customary sacrifice on
the tenth day after birth, for I am a novice herein, never having
had a child before.
CLYTEMNESTRA This is work for another, even for her who delivered
CLYTEMNESTRA Well, I will go to offer to the gods a sacrifice for
the child’s completion of the days; and when I have done thee this
service, I will seek the field where my husband is sacrificing to
the Nymphs. Take this chariot hence, my servants, and tie the horses
to the stalls; and when ye think that I have finished my offering
to the gods, attend me, for I must likewise pleasure my lord. (She
goes into the hut.)
ELECTRA Enter our humble cottage; but, prithee, take care that my
smoke grimed walls soil not thy robes; now wilt thou offer to the
gods a fitting sacrifice. There stands the basket ready, and the knife
is sharpened, the same that slew the bull, by whose side thou soon
wilt lie a corpse; and thou shalt be his bride in Hades’ halls whose
wife thou wast on earth. This is the boon I will grant thee, while
thou shalt pay me for my father’s blood. (ELECTRA follows her into
Misery is changing sides; the breeze veers round, and now blows fair
upon my house. The day is past when my chief fell murdered in his
bath, and the roof and the very stones of the walls rang with this
his cry: “O cruel wife, why art thou murdering me on my return to
my dear country after ten long years?”
The tide is turning, and justice that pursues the faithless wife
is drawing within its grasp the murderess, who slew her hapless lord,
when he came home at last to these towering Cyclopean walls,-aye,
with her own hand she smote him with the sharpened steel, herself
the axe uplifting. Unhappy husband! whate’er the curse that possessed
that wretched woman. Like a lioness of the hills that rangeth through
the woodland for her prey, she wrought the deed.
CLYTEMNESTRA (within) O my children, by Heaven I pray ye spare your
CHORUS (chanting) I too bewail thee, dying by thy children’s hands.
God deals out His justice in His good time. A cruel fate is thine,
unhappy one; yet didst thou sin in murdering thy lord. (ORESTES and
ELECTRA come out of the hut, followed by attendants who are carrying
the two corpses. The following lines between ELECTRA, ORESTES and
the CHORUS are chanted.) But lo! from the house they come, dabbled
in their mother’s fresh-spilt gore, their triumph proving the piteous
butchery. There is not nor ever has been a race more wretched than
the line of Tantalus.
ORESTES O Earth, and Zeus whose eye is over all! behold this foul
deed of blood, these two corpses lying here that I have slain in vengeance
for my sufferings.
ELECTRA Tears are all too weak for this, brother; and I am the guilty
cause. Ah, woe is me! How hot my fury burned against the mother that
ORESTES Alas! for thy lot, O mother mine! A piteous, piteous doom,
aye, worse than that, hast thou incurred at children’s hands! Yet
justly hast thou paid forfeit for our father’s blood. Ah, Phoebus!
thine was the voice that praised this vengeance; thou it is that hast
brought these hideous scenes to light, and caused this deed of blood.
To what city can I go henceforth? what friend, what man of any piety
will bear the sight of a mother’s murderer like me?
ELECTRA Ah me! alas! and whither can I go? What share have I henceforth
in dance or marriage rite? What husband will accept me as his bride?
ORESTES Again thy fancy changes with the wind; for now thou thinkest
aright, though not so formerly; an awful deed didst thou urge thy
brother against his will to commit, dear sister. Oh! didst thou see
how the poor victim threw open her robe and showed her bosom as smote
her, sinking on her knees, poor wretch? And her hair I-
ELECTRA Full well I know the agony through which thou didst pass
at hearing thy own mother’s bitter cry.
ORESTES Ah yes! she laid her band upon my chin, and cried aloud,
“My child, I entreat thee!” and she clung about my neck, so that I
let fall the sword.
ELECTRA O my poor mother! How didst thou endure to see her breathe
her last before thy eyes?
ORESTES I threw my mantle o’er them and began the sacrifice by plunging
the sword into my mother’s throat.
ELECTRA Yet ’twas I that urged thee on, yea, and likewise grasped
the steel. Oh! I have done an awful deed.