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.