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    IPHIGENIA IN AULIS Essay Summary

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    A monologue from the play by Euripides

    NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. i. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1920.

    CLYTEMNESTRA: Now hear me, for my thoughts will I unfold
    In no obscure and coloured mode of speech.
    First then, for first with this will I upbraid thee,
    Me didst thou wed against my will, and seize
    By force; my former husband Tantalus
    By thee was slain. By thee my infant son,
    Torn from my breast by violence, was whirled
    And dashed against the ground. The sons of Jove,
    My brothers, glitt’ring on their steeds in arms
    Advanced against thee; but old Tyndarus,
    My father, saved thee, at his knees become
    A supplicant; and hence didst thou obtain
    My bed. To thee and to thy house my thoughts
    Thus reconciled, thou shalt thyself attest
    How irreproachable a wife I was,
    How chaste, with what attention I increased
    The splendour of thy house, that ent’ring there
    Thou hadst delight, and going out, with thee
    Went happiness along. A wife like this
    Is a rare prize; the worthless are not rare.
    Three daughters have I borne thee, and this son.
    Of one of these wilt thou–O piercing grief!–
    Deprive me. Should one ask thee, for what cause
    Thy daughter wilt thou kill, what wouldst thou say?
    Speak; or I must speak for thee! E’en for this,
    That Menelaus may regain Helena.
    Well would it be, if, for his wanton wife
    Our children made the price, what most we hate
    With what is dearest to us we redeem.
    But if thou lead the forces, leaving me
    At Argos, should thy absence then be long,
    Think what my heart must feel, when in the house
    I see the seats all vacant of my child,
    And her apartment vacant: I shall sit
    Alone, in tears, thus ever wailing her:
    “Thy father, O my child, hath slain thee; he
    That gave thee birth, hath killed thee, not another,
    Nor by another hand; this is the prize
    He left his house.” But do not, by the gods,
    Do not compel me to be aught but good
    To thee, nor be thou aught but good to me;
    Since there will want a slight pretence alone
    For me, and for my daughters left at home,
    To welcome, as becomes us, thy return.
    Well, thou wilt sacrifice thy child: what vows
    Wilt thou then form? what blessing wilt thou ask
    To wait thee, thou, who dost thy daughter slay–
    Thou, who with shame to this unlucky war
    Art marching? Is it just that I should pray
    For aught of good to thee’should I not deem
    The gods unwise, if they their favours shower
    On those who stain their willing hands with blood?
    Wilt thou, to Argos when returned, embrace
    Thy children? But thou hast no right: thy face
    Which of thy children will behold, if one
    With cool deliberate purpose thou shalt kill?
    Now to this point I come: if thee alone
    To bear the sceptre, thee to lead the troops
    Th’ occasion called, shouldst thou not thus have urged
    Thy just appeal to Greece: “Is it your will,
    Ye Grecians, to the Phrygian shores to sail?
    Cast then the lot whose daughter must be slain.”
    This had at least been equal; nor hadst thou
    Been singled out from all to give thy child
    A victim for the Greeks. Or Menelaus,
    Whose cause this is, should for the mother slay
    Hermione: but I, who to thy bed
    Am faithful, of my child shall be deprived,
    And she, that hath misdone, at her return
    To Sparta her young daughter shall bear back,
    And thus be happy. Aught if I have said
    Amiss, reply to that: but if my words
    Speak nought but sober reason, do not slay
    Thy child, and mine: and thus thou wilt be wise.

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