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.
IPHIGENIA: Had I, my father, the persuasive voice
Of Orpheus, and his skill to charm the rocks
To follow me, and soothe whome’er I please
With winning words, I would make trial of it;
But I have nothing to present thee now
Save tears, my only eloquence; and those
I can present thee. On thy knees I hang,
A suppliant wreath, this body, which she bore
To thee. Ah! kill me not in youth’s fresh prime.
Sweet is the light of heaven; compel me not
What is beneath to view. I was the first
To call thee father, me thou first didst call
Thy child; I was the first that on thy knees
Fondly caressed thee, and from thee received
The fond caress; this was thy speech to me:
“Shall I, my child, e’er see thee in some house
Of splendour, happy in thy husband, live,
And flourish, as becomes my dignity?”
My speech to thee was, leaning ‘gainst thy cheek,
Which with my hand I now caress: “And what
Shall I then do for thee? Shall I receive
My father when grown old, and in my house
Cheer him with each fond office, to repay
The careful nurture which he gave my youth?”
These words are on my memory deep impressed;
Thou hast forgot them, and wilt kill thy child.
By Pelops I entreat thee, by thy sire
Atreus, by this my mother, who before
Suffered for me the pangs of childbirth, now
These pangs again to suffer, do not kill me.
If Paris be enamoured of his bride,
His Helen, what concerns it me? and how
Comes he to my destruction? Look upon me,
Give me a smile, give me a kiss, my father,
That, if my words persuade thee not, in death
I may have this memorial of thy love.
My brother, small assistance canst thou give
Thy friends, yet for thy sister with thy tears
Implore thy father that she may not die:
E’en infants have a sense of ills: and see,
My father, silent though he be, he sues
To thee: be gentle to me, on my life
Have pity. Thy two children by this beard
Entreat thee, thy dear children: one is yet
An infant, one to riper years arrived.
I will sum all in this, which shall contain
More than long speech: To view the light of life
To mortals is most sweet, but all beneath
Is nothing: of his senses is he reft
Who hath a wish to die; for life, though ill,
Excels whate’er there is of good in death.