May Hermes, noble son of Maia,
go with you on your return, Aegeus.
I hope you’ll get what your heart’s so set on,
for in my eyes you’re a worthy man.
Oh Zeus, and Justice, child of Zeus,
and flaming Helios—now, my friends,
we’ll triumph over all my enemies.
The plans I’ve made have been set in motion.
I’m confident my enemies will pay,
they’ll get their punishment. For at the point
when I was most in trouble, this man came
and helped me plan safe harbour for myself.
I’ll lash my ship’s cable to Aegeus,
once I’ve made it to Athena’s city.
Now I’ll tell you all the things I’m planning—
though you’ll get little pleasure from my words.
I’m going to send one of my household slaves
to ask Jason to come and visit me.
Once he’s here, my words will reassure him.
I’ll tell him I agree with what he’s doing,
that leaving me for this royal alliance
is a fine idea—he’s acted properly
and made the right decisions. Then I’ll ask
if my children can remain. My purpose
is not to leave them in a hostile land
surrounded by insulting enemies,
but a trick to kill the daughter of the king.
For I’ll send the children to her with gifts.
They’ll carry presents for the bride, as if
requesting to be spared their banishment—
a finely woven robe and a tiara
of twisted gold. If she accepts those presents
and puts them on, she’ll die—and painfully.
And so will anyone touching the girl.
I’ve smeared strong poisons on those gifts.
So much for that. I’ll say no more about her.
But the next thing I’ll do fills me with pain—
I’m going to kill my children. There’s no one
can save them now. And when I’ve done this,
wiped out Jason’s house completely, I’ll leave,
evading the punishment I’d receive
for murdering my darling children,
a sacrilegious crime. You see, my friends,
I won’t accept my enemies’ contempt.
So be it. What good does life hold for me now?
I have no father, no home, no refuge.
I was wrong to leave my father’s house,
won over by the words of that Greek man,
who now, with the gods’ help, will pay the price.
He’ll never see his children alive again,
the ones I bore him, nor have more children
with his new bride, for she’s been marked to die
an agonizing death, poisoned by my drugs.
Let no one think that I’m a trivial woman,
a feeble one who sits there passively.
No, I’m a different sort—dangerous
to enemies, but well disposed to friends.
Lives like mine achieve the greatest glory.
Since you’ve shared your plans with me, I urge you
not to do this. I want to help you,
holding to the standards of human law.
In this matter there’s no choice. I forgive
what you just said, because, unlike me,
you don’t have to bear this suffering.
But, lady, can you stand to kill your children?
Yes. It will be a mortal blow to Jason.
But as a woman it will devastate you.
That’s beside the point. Until that time
it’s useless to continue talking.
. . . go now and fetch Jason here.
When I need to trust someone, I choose you.
Tell him nothing of what I mean to do,
if you like your mistress and are a woman.
Since ancient times, Erechtheus’ sons
have been especially blessed,
children of the sacred gods,
from a holy country never conquered,
never ransacked by its enemies.
Fed on glorious fruits of wisdom,
they stride lithely through the sunlit air,
where, so the story goes, the Muses,
nine maidens of Pieria, gave birth
to golden-haired Hermione.
And people celebrate how Aphrodite,
while drawing water from the stream,
the flowing river of the lovely Cephissus,
breathes down upon the land
sweet, temperate winds,
while she binds within her hair
garlands of sweet-smelling roses,
sending Love to sit at Wisdom’s side,
to foster all fine things.
How will this city of sacred streams,
this land of strolling lovers,
welcome you—a killer,
who slaughtered her own children,
an unholy woman—among its people?
Consider this—the killing of your children.
Consider the murder you are going to do.
By your knees we beg you,
in every way we know,
do not slaughter your own children.
Where will your hands and heart
find the strength, the courage
to dare this dreadful action?
How will you look at them,
your children, and not weep
for their murderous fate?
When they kneel before you,
and implore your mercy,
you’ll find it impossible
to steel your heart,
then soak your hands
in your own children’s blood.
I’ve come, as you requested. You hate me,
but I’m here, and I’m prepared to listen.
Woman, what it is you now want from me?
Jason, I ask you to forgive me
for what I said before. My anger
you should be able to put up with,
since we two have shared many acts of love.
I’ve been debating with myself. I realize
I’ve been in the wrong. I tell myself,
“I’m a fool. Why am I in such a rage,
resenting those who offer good advice?
Why fight against the rulers of this land,
or against my husband, whose actions serve
my own best interests with this royal marriage,
producing brothers for my children?
Why can’t I stop being angry? What’s wrong with me,
when gods are being so kind? Don’t I have children?
Don’t I know we’re going into exile,
where friends are hard to find?” With thoughts like these,
I recognized how foolish I had been,
how senseless it was to be so annoyed.
So now I agree with you. It strikes me
you’ve been acting prudently, by forging
this marriage link on our behalf. I was mad.
I should have worked with you in this design,
helped you with your plans, stood there beside you
in this marriage, rejoiced along with you
for this union with your bride. But women are,
well, I won’t say bad—we are what we are.
You shouldn’t copy the bad things we do,
repaying foolishness with foolishness.
So I give in. I admit that I was wrong.
But now I see things in a better light.
Come on out. Welcome your father here—
talk to him with me. You and your mother
will end the bad blood we’ve had in this family.
We’ve patched things up, and no one’s angry now.
Take his right hand. Oh, it’s harsh to think
of what the future hides.
Oh my children,
will you keep holding your dear arms out like this
through all the many years you have to live?
Oh dear, I’m just too tearful, too afraid!
My delicate eyes keep filling up with tears,
now I’ve stopped this quarrel with your father.
My eyes, too, begin to weep pale tears.
May this bad luck proceed no further.
Lady, I approve of what you’re saying now.
Not that I blame you for what went on before.
For it’s quite natural in the female sex
to get angry when their husbands set up
secret schemes to plan another secret marriage.
But your heart has changed now for the better.
Although it took a while, you understand
the wiser course of action. In doing so,
you’re acting like a woman of good sense.
Now, as for you, my children, your father
has not been neglectful. With the gods’ help,
I’ve made secure provision for you.
At some future date, you’ll be leaders here,
in Corinth, alongside your new brothers.
But first you must grow up. As for the rest,
your father and the god who smiles on him
will take care of that. I pray I see you
mature into fine young men, victorious
over all my enemies.
why turn away? Why weep and fill your eyes
with these pale tears? What I have said,
does that not make you happy?
I was thinking of the children.
I will see that they are well looked after.
I will cheer up. I trust what you have said.
But it’s a woman’s nature to shed tears.
But why be so tearful with the boys?
I gave birth to them. When you made that prayer
about them growing up, I felt pity,
wondering how things would turn out for them.
But let’s discuss the reasons for your visit.
I’ve mentioned some. Now I’ll let you know the rest.
Since the rulers here are keen to banish me,
I recognize the best thing I can do
is try not to stand in their way or yours,
by staying here. This royal house thinks me
their enemy. So I’ve made up my mind
to leave this country and go into exile.
But you should beg Creon to spare our boys,
not banish them, so they can grow up here,
under your direction.
Well, I don’t know
if I can convince him. But I should try.
You could tell your wife to ask her father
not to send the children into exile.
A good idea. I think I can persuade her.
You will, if she’s a woman like the rest.
And I’ll give you some help. I’ll send her gifts,
by far the finest human gifts I know,
a finely woven gown, a diadem
of twisted gold. The boys will take them.
One of my servants must fetch them here—
She’s got more than one reason to be happy,
that wife of yours. She’s blessed in countless ways.
In you she’s found a very worthy man
to share her bed—and now she gets these gifts,
which my grandfather Helios once gave
to his descendants.
take up these wedding gifts and carry them
as offerings to the happy royal bride.
What she’s getting will be worthy of her.
What are you doing, you foolish woman,
disposing of these things of yours? Do you think
the royal house lacks clothes or gold? Keep them.
Don’t give them away. If my wife values me,
she’ll set more store on what I want to do
than on rich possessions. I’m sure of that.
Don’t say that. Even the gods, they claim,
are won by gifts. And among mortal men,
gold works more wonders than a thousand words.
Her fortune’s on the rise. Gods favour her.
She’s young, with royal power to command.
But to spare my children banishment,
I’d trade more than gold. I’d give my life.
Now, children, when you get inside the palace,
you must beg this new wife of your father’s,
my mistress, not to send you into exile.
When you present these gifts, your must make sure
she takes them from you herself, in her own hands.
Now go and be quick about it. Good luck!
Bring your mother back news of your success,
the happy news she so desires to hear.
I’ve no longer any hope
that these children stay alive,
as they stroll to their own slaughter.
The bride will take her diadem,
she’ll take her golden ruin.
With her own hand she’ll fix
across her lovely yellow hair
the jewelry of death.
The unearthly gleam, the charm
will tempt her to put on the robe
and ornament of twisted gold.
Her marriage bed will lie among the dead.
That’s the trap she’ll fall in.
That’s how she’ll die.
She can’t escape destruction.
And you, unlucky man,
married to the daughter of a king—
how ignorant you are right now,
bringing death to both your sons,
to your bride an agonizing end.
You most unfortunate man,
how wrong you were about your destiny.
Next, I mourn your sorrows,
unhappy mother of these children,
intent on slaughtering your sons,
because your lawless husband
left you and your marriage bed
and now lives with another wife.
Medea by Euripides