‘Euripides’ - "Greek Dramas" (p251, 1900): Internet Archive Book Images
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Helen (Wife of Menelaos)
Orestes (Son of Agamemnon and Klytaemestra)
Menelaos (Brother of Agamemnon)
Tyndareus (Father of Helen and Klytaemestra)
Pylades (Cousin of Orestes)
Hermione (Daughter to Menelaos and Helen)
A Phrygian (Male slave to Helen)
Apollo (A God)
Chorus of Argive Women
Messenger (An old peasant)
Outside the royal palace of Argos.
Six days after the murder of Klytaemestra and Aegisthus.
Left of the palace door is a couch upon which sleeps Orestes. His sleep is very disturbed and obviously nightmarish and he often tosses and turns, in violent fits. Occasionally, he sobs or groans in fear.
His sister, Elektra sits by his side, comforting him and fixing the cloak that covers him.
On either side of the palace stand armed guards.
Elektra They say that there’s no ill, nor pain, nor grief that is sent by the gods, the weight of which cannot be endured by the soul of a mortal.
The blessed Tantalus –a blessedness which I do not begrudge him- who, as I’ve been told, is the son of Zeus –the very son of Zeus, mind- and yet, there he is, suspended from the clouds and trembling with fear, lest a huge rock, hanging over his head, falls on him!
Well, people say that he’s paying for a sin he’s committed. A grave one, they say. That of having an undisciplined tongue.
He was a mortal and the gods had given him the honour of inviting him to their table, to share in their feast –eat like them, sit next to them- but Tantalus just couldn’t keep his mouth shut!
Tantalus was Pelop’s father and Atreus’ grandfather and it was this grandchild, Atreus, who, when Fate spun out her wool tufts of destiny for everyone, for him, she spun out a web of troubles, troubles which even included fighting a war against his own brother, Thyestes!
But what am I doing, retelling that tale of horror?
In any case, this man, Atreus, slaughtered his brother’s children and served them up to him, to eat, on a feast to which his brother had invited him. But let me jump over the events that follow that one and get onto the fact that Atreus married Aerope of Crete. Those two had Agamemnon, who later became the famous (if you could called him that) General of the Greek army and Menelaos who married that heaven-hated woman, Helen.
Then, Agamemnon married Klytaemestra -another famous personage in Greece- from which couple emerged us three daughters: Chrysothemis, Iphigeneia and I, Elektra; as well as a son, this one here, Orestes. 21
Four of us, out of the same, heaven-cursed mother, who had snared her husband inside the folds of a huge piece of cloth and then murdered him!
What she gave as an excuse for that murder… well, that is something that would be highly improper for a young woman’s lips to utter in public, so I’ll just leave it for the world to work out on its own.
No need for me to be the one to blame Phoebus with anything either… even though it was he who had urged Orestes to kill his own mother, which, admittedly, was not a thing that would earn anyone any glory. Still, poor Orestes acted out of obedience to a god and I? I, too, took part in that murderous deed, just as Pylades did, who had helped us bring about the deed’s success.
She gets up and comes closer to the chorus 31
The very moment Orestes committed that murder, he was overcome by a dreadful illness. A shocking disease that has his body wasting away.
There he is, the poor man, lying on that couch, his mother’s blood spinning him into fits of frenzy. I am very reluctant and afraid to name the goddesses who chase him with such terror but… well, it’s the Eumenides.
It’s been six days now that the corpse of his murdered mother was committed to the cleansing pyre.
Six days and no food has passed the poor man’s lips. 40
Six days and he has yet to wash the blood off his skin.
For six days he’s been laying there, under his cloak, burning with fever or, whenever the fever eases a bit, he starts crying. Sometimes he jumps up like a young colt that’s just been freed from its harness!
And then, there’s also the fact that this city, Argos, has decreed a law which says that, because we are matricides, it is forbidden for anyone to give us a place by his fireside or to shelter us under his roof or even talk to us!
Today is the day when they’ll all vote whether we are to die by stoning or by someone’s sword, specially sharpened for the task.
A sword plunged into our throat. 50
There is one small hope for us. Our uncle, Menelaos, has just arrived from Troy. The harbour of Nauplia is cluttered with his fleet. All his ships are anchored there.
After he left Troy he wandered about the seas for a very long time.
He was afraid about his wife’s welfare though. Sent her off to the palace in the middle of the night last night, ahead of him, to escape the wrath of those whose sons were killed beneath the tall towers of Troy. He was afraid they might throw stones at her.
Helen! She’s taken on the role of the “ill-fated one!”
She’s in there now, crying and grieving the death of her sister and all the misfortunes that her family has suffered. 60
Still, she does have some solace to her pains. Her daughter, Hermione, is with her.
The little daughter she had left behind when she sailed off with Paris to Troy. The little girl that Menelaos brought here from her home in Sparta, for my mother to look after her. That’s something that will give her some joy, something to keep her mind off her misery.
So, now, I’m eagerly watching every road leading this way to catch Menelaos when he comes. Without his help, I’m afraid we’ll be sunk. There’s no one else who will lend us a hand.
A house in the midst of a disaster is helpless!
Enter Helen from the palace.
She is carrying a basket containing small libation jugs and a lock of hair.
She is very vain and conscious of her beauty, often fixing her hair or her clothes.
Helen Poor, poor, Elektra! Poor, unfortunate Elektra! Daughter of my sister Klytaemestra and Agamemnon! Poor, poor, unmarried, Elektra! 70
How is it all going, Elektra? How are you managing with your brother, there, Orestes? Our poor Orestes who has killed his own mother!
Oh, and by the way, Elektra, by talking with you, I am not committing a sin and so I will not bring upon myself any pollution because, personally, I blame Phoebus Apollo for that event.
Still I do grieve for my sister, Klytaemestra!
My poor sister! I haven’t set eyes on her since the day I was made by some madness, sent by the heavens, to sail off to Troy! A most dreadful journey!
Poor Klytaemestra! She gone now! Gone! So I cry sad tears over her loss.
Elektra You ask about Orestes? Need I tell you anything about him when your own eyes can see the awful state Agamemnon’s son is in? 81
He is no more than a miserable corpse. Barely a breath out of him and I’m not surprised he’s suffering so much. I am not surprised and I’m not blaming him for them. I merely sit beside him, sleeplessly watching him.
You and your husband, though! You are both so blessed!
Ah! You have arrived at our worst hour! A miserable hour!
Helen How long has been lying on that couch like that?
Elektra He’s been like from the moment he spilled his mother’s blood.
Helen Poor man!
And poor woman who had suffered such a terrible death!
Elektra Unhappy both. He killed her and by that action he also killed himself!
Helen Please, dear girl, could you do something for me?
Elektra Sure, if I can. I’ve got to sit here, watching over my brother.
Helen Could you go to my sister’s tomb for me, please, Elektra?
Elektra You want me to go to my mother’s tomb? What for?
Helen Because, my dear, I wants you to make a libation for me and an offering of a lock of my hair.
Elektra But why? Aren’t you allowed to visit your own sister’s tomb?
Helen No, no! I am allowed but I am just a bit ashamed to show myself to the people of Argos.
Elektra Good thinking, Helen but a little late. I was you who has left her home so shamefully!
Helen True words, Elektra but unkindly spoken! 100
Elektra So why are you suddenly ashamed to be seen by the people of Mycenae?
Helen Elektra, I am afraid of the fathers of all those men who died at Troy.
Elektra So you should be, Helen! Your name is echoed throughout Argos. Every mouth shouts it!
Helen So, Elektra, do this little favour for me and relieve me of this fear, please.
Elektra No, I couldn’t bear to face my mother’s tomb!
Helen But it would be an even greater shame to send these offerings over by a servant.
Elektra Well, then why not send your daughter, Hermione with them?
Helen Because it’s not proper for young girls to be seen in public.
Elektra But it would be a way of repaying her dead aunt for looking after her all these years.
Helen Ah! Yes! Thank you, dear, you have convinced me. You are right. I’ll send my daughter over. 110
Calling through the palace gates
Hermione, darling, come out here, please!
Enter Hermione from the palace. Late teens.
Ah! Darling, please take this basket of libations and this lock of my hair to your aunt’s tomb. Pour out the mixture of honey and milk, as well this frothy wine first and then, stand on top of the heaped soil of the tomb and utter these words Your sister, Helen, sends these libations to you as a gift. She could not come here herself, personally, because she’s terrified by the mob of Argives.”
Then ask her to have good and kind thoughts about me and you and y husband… as well as those two, poor miserable creatures who’ve punished by the heavens so badly. 120
Oh, and tell her also that I’ll pay, in full, whatever funeral gifts are appropriate from a living sister to a dead one.
Now, go, my child and hurry. Don’t waste any time and the moment you’ve finished with this, think only of getting yourself home, quickly.
Exit Hermione with the basket of libations. SR.
Helen goes into the palace.
Elektra Talking about Helen
Physical beauty! What a disaster it is for humans who don’t possess it and what a saving joy it is for those who have it!
Did you notice how she had trimmed off just the very tips of her hair? Just the very tips! We wouldn’t want to disturbed our natural beauty, now, would we?
Same old Helen! She was like this all her life.
She spits in disgust 130
Ah! I hope the gods’ anger destroy you, Helen, just as you’ve destroyed not only my life and my brother’s life but also the lives of all of the Greeks!
She sees the chorus approaching
Ah! I can see my friends are coming again. They come and they help me sing my sad laments. But I hope they won’t wake up my brother from his gentle sleep because then his frenzied fits will start and I’ll start crying all over again.
Enter the chorus of Argive women softly, conscious that they must not make any noise.
Come, good friends come but step very softly! Not a sound, please, not a whisper. 140
I know your heart is in the right place but, it would be terrible if you woke him up now.
Chorus To the rest of her friends
Hush, girls, walk quietly, softly, with no noise. Not a whisper!
Elektra Stay back, girls! Don’t go too close to his couch, please!
Chorus Moving back
Yes, yes. I’ll do that.
Elektra Shhh! Please my good friends… speak softly; as softly as the breath of a slender reedy flute, my friends.
Chorus Yes, yes. See how softly I’m talking now?
Elektra That’s right. Lower your voice even more. Come. Come quietly.
Now tell me why you’re here.
It took him so long to fall back to sleep again!
Chorus How is he? Tell us, Elektra. Is he any better?
Elektra Well, he’s still alive but his breathing is getting slower. Short little gasps, they are.
Chorus Is that right? The poor man!
Elektra Don’t wake him up now! If he as much as twitch his eyelids he will die! He is sleeping so deeply, so sweetly!
Chorus Poor man! 160
The work of the gods have brought about all his suffering!
Elektra So much suffering!
An unjust god uttered an unjust command to him.
Apollo! It was he who had uttered it to Orestes from Themis’ tripod: the unjust murder of our mother.
Chorus Ah, look! He’s moving under his cloak! Did you see that?
Elektra Yes, I did! It was you loud voices that woke him up, you stupid woman!
Chorus She approaches Orestes to check more closely
Ah, no, I think he’s still asleep!
Elektra Get away from there! Go on, go away! 170
Leave us alone! Move back from there!
Go on and stop all this noisy chatter!
Chorus He’s asleep.
Elektra Good, let him rest!
Chorus O Night!
Chorus Blessed Night!
Chorus You give sleep to the weary limbs of men!
Chorus Come now, my Queen!
Rise from the abyss of Erebus and let your wings carry you here, to Agamemnon’s house!
Chorus A house in ruins!
Chorus A house destroyed by overwhelming misfortune. 180
Elektra Hush! Stop that noise!
For Heaven’s sake, control your tongue!
Silence! All of you!
Move back from his couch!
Let him enjoy his peaceful sleep!
Chorus How will all this end, for the poor tortured man, Elektra?
Elektra Death! It will end by his death, my dear friend. What else? He won’t even eat!
Chorus Yes, it’s obvious. There’s only death left for him. 190
Elektra It was Apollo! Phoebus Apollo!
It was he who has delivered us this fatal blow!
He who has given us a mother who shed the blood of our father!
Chorus Justice dictated it so.
Elektra Disgraceful Justice!
Mother, you have killed and you have been killed in turn.
You have given birth to us, yet you have killed us, killed our father.
We are dead, mother! We are dead! No more alive than are corpses! 200
You are in your grave, mother but the greater part of my life has gone!
It will be spent in tears and in groans of grief; of midnight tears!
I will spend the rest of my life, unwed, childless, dragging a lifeless life to its end.
Chorus Elektra, my darling, you’re standing right next to your brother. Do check to see if he’s still alive. Perhaps he has died without you noticing it.
His body is so slack, it worries me.
Suddenly Orestes moves, then slowly sits up. He looks refreshed
Orestes Ah, sweet, absorbing sleep! Healer of sickness! 211
I am so grateful for your visit.
I needed this sleep. You came just in time.
Oh, blessed lady goddess Oblivion! Goddess who destroys pain.
What a wise goddess you are, Dear Sleep!
You are the first goddess whom the suffering souls call for help!
But… Elektra, what am I do doing here? Where was I before this? How did I get here?
I can remember nothing. My mind has gone.
Elektra Darling brother!
How happy I was to see you fall asleep!
Would you like me to help you sit up?
Orestes Yes, yes. Help me up. Give me your hand.
Ah! Now, wipe away this horrible froth from my mouth and eyes.
With a handkerchief, Elektra does as he says.
Gladly, my dear brother!
It’s sweet work for a sister to help her brother, work that I cannot refuse.
Orestes Sit here beside me.
I need to lean my body against yours so I can stay upright.
Elektra sits next to him
Can you brush back my slimy hair from my face, please? I can hardly see through it.
Elektra Ah, your poor head!
Look at it!
And your hair! Slimy and horrible! Unwashed like the hair of a savage!
Let me lie back on the couch again.
These fits leave me paralysed. No strength in my arms and legs at all.
She helps him lie down
Elektra There you are.
A couch is a sick man’s best friend.
It’s annoying, I know but it’s necessary.
After a minute or so Orestes tries to raise again
Orestes Ah! Help me sit up again! 231
Now help me turn round a bit.
I am such a nuisance!
That’s how sick people are: helpless and a nuisance to others!
Elektra Shall I help you put your feet on the ground?
Perhaps you ought to walk a bit. The change may do you some good.
I think I should try. It just might do me some good and even if it doesn’t it still would better than lying here like this.
Elektra Well, then my darling brother, now, while the Furies have left your mind, listen to what I’m about to tell you.
Orestes You have news for me?
If it’s good news, then you will please me but if they’re bad, no don’t tell me. I have enough troubles as it is.
Elektra Our uncle, Menelaos has come. He’s here, in Argos, Orestes. 241
His ships are right now, anchored at Nauplia.
Orestes What? What did you say?
Menelaos is here? Has he come here as a beacon of hope to save us from all our troubles? Has he come to us as a close relative, a relative who wants to repay our father for all he has done for him?
Elektra Well, he HAS come! He is here now and the proof of what I’m telling is that he has brought Helen here as well. Brought here from the towers of Troy.
Orestes I’d feel more pleased for him if he had he survived the war without her.
If he has brought Helen here then he’s brought us a great deal of trouble.
Elektra The daughters of Tyndareus –our mother and our aunt- are disgraced throughout Greece.
Orestes Now, don’t you act like them! You can certainly behave better than that evil lot! Better in both, word as well as heart. 251
Suddenly Orestes begins to behave irrationally, responding to phantoms, his eyes becoming wild with extreme distress.
Your illness has come back. Your eyes!
Your eyes look fearsome. Disturbed.
Your calm and sanity has been taken over again by this frenzy!
Orestes Talking wildly to the phantoms
Mother I beg you! No!
No, mother don’t release those horrible women!
No! Their eyes! Their bloodshot eyes! Ah!
And their hair! Like spinning snakes!
Ah! Look! Look! They’re getting closer!
They’re about to leap at me!
Elektra Come, come you poor tortured man! Come now, here, lie on the couch!
It is your mind that sees these horrors, not your eyes.
Orestes Still in the state of frenzy. 260
Those bitches… those bitches there, bitches of hell… ah! Those priestesses of Hades… their eyes terrifying like those of a gorgon… they want to kill me!
Phoebus Apollo, help!
Elektra wraps her arms around him and tries to control his madness
Elektra No, stop!
No, I won’t let you go!
I’ll hold you… stop shaking all about the place!
Orestes Let me go!
Ah! You are one of those fearsome bitches who hold me by the waist and want to hurl me into the hell of Tartarus!
Orestes breaks away violently from Elektra’s grip
How can I win when even Heaven is against me!
Orestes Talking to some imaginary attendant
My horn-tipped bow! Give it to me! It’s a gift from Apollo. He gave it to me so I could defend myself against those goddesses, if they try to frighten me with this raving frenzy.
He takes the imaginary bow from the attendant.
Screaming at one of the goddesses, warning her.
Some bitch of a goddess will be severely wounded by this mortal hand, if she doesn’t disappear from my sight!
He places an arrow in the bow and stretches the string threateningly.
Elektra lifts her robe to her face and begins to cry behind it.
Are you listening, bitch?
The feathered arrow is all ready and waiting in my far-shooting bow! They’re ready for you if you don’t disappear.
Do you hear me? Are you still here? Go on! Off you go! Raise your wings and fly off into the sky!
The goddess finally obeys but he calls after her:
And blame all those oracles by Phoebus Apollo!
Suddenly he recovers from his madness
What’s going on?
I’m raving like a madman!
I’m panting! Gasping!
Looks around him
How did I get here, out of bed?
Ah! The tempest of madness has passed. The sea is tranquil again.
Elektra, what is it? Why are you crying like this, in the folds of your robe? 280
Ah, I feel so ashamed, my sister! So ashamed to have made share my suffering, my disease! A beautiful young woman like you, suffering as I am!
No, dear! Stop worrying about me and my pains! It is true, you agreed with me but the hand that has spilt our mother’s blood was mine.
No, no! I blame Apollo!
It was at his urging that I committed this most irreverent act. It was he who encouraged me to perform it.
Encouraged me with words but not with deeds!
If only I had I asked my father –Agamemnon, who is Hades- if only I had I asked him, eye-to-eye, if I should kill my mother, he would have begged me –with his hand at my beard- he would have implored me earnestly not to do it!
He would have told me not to plunge a murderer’s sword into her breast. Not ever! 290
The deed would not bring him back to life but I, I would go on, for the rest of my life, suffering this madness!
Come, my sister! Uncover your face and stop crying. I know things look bad.
And, dear sister, when you see me all dispirited, come and help me regain my calm, soften the terrors and the nightmares that spin about in my brain. Encourage me, comfort me and I shall do the same when you are sighing and groaning with pain. I will come by your side with soft words of comfort.
That’s how friends should behave towards each other, with love and with kind help
But now, dear sister, go to your room and rest. Lie down and shut your poor, weary eyes for a while. Eat something. Have a refreshing bath. 300
Or else you’ll collapse with exhaustion, or catch some disease from me while you’re sitting here, looking after me. What will I do then?
You’re the only I have left to take care of me. As you can see, everyone else has gone.
Elektra Uncovering her face
Leave you, Orestes? Never?
I will live and die along with you. There is no difference to me –alive or dead- if you are dead. What can I, a woman do, alone? How can I survive by myself? No brother, no father, no friend?
Still, if that’s what you think I should do, then I shall do it. 311
You just lie down on your couch, here, and try not to be too alarmed by the terrors and dreads that chase you away from it. Don’t move from here.
She helps him get under the covers.
Don’t move from under this blanket. Real or imagined, illness can tire and perplex mortals.
Elektra exits into the palace.
Chorus Winged goddesses!
Chorus Goddesses of Frenzy!
Chorus Dancers of tears! 320
Chorus Singers of groans!
Dark skinned goddess who spread your wings across the endless upper firmament!
Chorus Avenging spirits who seek the spilling blood for blood spilled.
Chorus Murder for murder!
Chorus Goddesses, I beg you!
Chorus Goddesses, I pray to you!
Chorus Let Orestes, Lord Agamemnon’s boy, shed this raging madness from his mind!
Chorus Let him regain the reins of his fleeing wits!
Chorus To Orestes
What a deed! What a deed, you performed, you poor boy!
What destruction that deed has brought for you to suffer!
Chorus Brought to you by Phoebus Apollo!
Uttered to you from his holy tripod!
Chorus In his holy shrine! 330
In Delphi, the very navel of the Earth!
Chorus Oh, Zeus!
What mercy, then?
What murderous struggle makes you go on, you poor boy?
Chorus Poor boy!
Zeus has given you only tears, poor boy!
Chorus Tears upon tears!
Chorus A blood thirsty spirit, a spirit in frenzied search for vengeance, dances in your house, poor boy, a spirit that spins you into fits of madness, crying out, “You have murdered your mother!”
Chorus Tears upon tears I shed for you, my boy!
Chorus Tears upon tears I shed for you, poor boy!
Chorus There is no permanency in the happiness that mortals feel! 340
Chorus Some god or other will shake it this way and that, batter it, like the sail of a swift ship is battered by the gales and tempests of huge seas, with mountainous waves of disastrous and deadly troubles!
Chorus Yet what other house can one honour more than yours?
It is the house of Tantalus!
A house that sprung from the marriage with gods!
Chorus Ah! Look!
Here comes King Menelaos!
Chorus What splendour!
Chorus What luxury!
Chorus What greater proof is needed that his blood is that of the house of Tantalus?
Menelaos, accompanied by soldiers make a noisy and pompous entrance.
Chorus Greetings, Menelaos, the chief of that fleet of a thousand ships that had sailed to Asia!
Chorus You and the Heavens have achieved all of your heart’s desires!
This is the house!
What pleasure it gives me to see it after Troy!
What melancholy it gives me when I think of the miserable despair that has gathered around its hearth!
I first heard of the murder of Agamemnon by his wife, when I was anchoring at Cape Malea. The seer, Glaucus, Nereus’ prophet –never has that prophet erred- told me about it. Glaucus is the sailor’s prophet. He emerged through the waves and told me directly, “Menelaos, your brother is dead. His wife has given him his last bath. 360
Words that flooded my eyes and the eyes of all my sailors with tears.
When we reached Nauplia, Helen, my wife, disembarked and got here before me. 370
I was looking forward to wrapping my arms around Orestes and his mother. I thought things were going well for them but then, a sailor told me the other piece of dreadful news. The news about the unholy murder of Klytaemestra, the daughter of Tyndareus himself! So tell me, young ladies, where is Orestes, that poor boy who got himself into this horrible mess. I left this palace for Troy when he was but a baby in his mother’s arms, so I wouldn’t be able to recognise him now.
Orestes gets up from the couch and comes to Menelaos.
Orestes Menelaos, here I am. 380
I am the Orestes you are looking for.
I will tell you my whole sorry tale, uncle but let me first kneel before you and grasp you knees, beg you, pray to you with my own lips but without the ceremonial bough, to save me. Save me from destruction, my uncle!
Save me! You have come just in time for that.
Menelaos Good gods!
What is this? What corpse is this?
Orestes A corpse, indeed, uncle!
More corpse than a living man!
Turned into a corpse by many pains, though I still see the light of day.
Menelaos My poor boy!
You look like a wild beast with this filthy hair!
Orestes It is my deeds, uncle, the things that I have done that torture me so, not my appearance.
Menelaos And your eyes, Orestes!
Such icy stares they shoot forth!
Orestes My whole body, uncle! My whole body is dead. 390
I am me, Orestes, by name only!
Menelaos But this horror, this… disfigurement, defies words!
Orestes Yes, it is I. I, the man who has killed his mother!
Menelaos So I’ve heard, my boy but… but be frugal in your words about it, Orestes. Spend as few of them on it as you can.
Orestes Frugal! Frugal I am, my uncle! Now if only God would be as frugal with the disasters he sends upon me!
Menelaos What is it you’re suffering from, Orestes? What is this illness of yours?
Orestes Understanding, my uncle. The understanding that I have committed evil.
Menelaos Understanding? What do you mean by that? The wise must have clear speech, my boy. Leave the obscure mutterings to the unwise.
Orestes Grief! Grief is what is causing me the most pain…
Menelaos Grief, ey? She is an awful goddess, that one but, she’s by no means, terminal.
Orestes And then there are these attacks of madness. No doubt a punishment for murdering my mother. 400
Menelaos And these attacks, these attacks of madness you say you suffer, when did they first begin? Which day, exactly?
Orestes The very day I was building a mount for my poor mother’s tomb.
Menelaos Were you inside at the time they came or were you sitting by the pyre?
Orestes No, I was outside waiting for her bones to be gathered.
Menelaos Was there anyone else around… to help you stay on your feet, I mean?
Orestes Yes, my friend, Pylades. He had also helped me with the murder.
Menelaos What sort of visions accompany these attacks of madness?
Orestes The vision I saw was of three young women who looked like the black goddess, Night.
Menelaos Ah! I know them! I know the women you mean but I do not wish to call them by their name.
Orestes Yes, they are holy. You are wise not to call them by their name. 410
Menelaos So these are the goddesses who attack you with madness because you’ve shed kindred blood. Is this right?
Orestes Ah! They hunt me and hound me so terribly!
Menelaos He who has committed grave ills must suffer grave pain. There’s nothing strange about that!
Orestes But there is a way out for me…
Menelaos Oh, no, my boy! Not suicide! No! That’s not a very wise thing to do, that one!
Orestes No… I mean… Well, it Phoebus Apollo who had ordered me to murder my mother.
Menelaos A very unwise thing for him to do, that one. He has no idea of what is just and right that god!
Orestes Wise or not, mortals are the slaves of the gods.
Menelaos And Apollo gives no support now?
Orestes He’s like all the other gods. Slow to do anything. 420
Menelaos How long has it been since your mother… breathed her last?
Orestes Today is the sixth day. Her pyre mount is still warm.
Menelaos Well, these goddesses certainly weren’t slow, were they?
Only six days and they’re already hounding you for your mother’s blood!
Orestes Yes. I was quick to obey them but they are slow offering their help.
Menelaos The wise god stays out of blame.
Orestes But the truly wise stay with their friends through good and evil.
Menelaos Did you get anything out of that deed? Of avenging your father’s murder?
Orestes Not yet and, to me, this delay means I should expect nothing, ever!
Menelaos And how have the citizens of Argos been treating you since the murders?
Orestes They all hate me! No one will talk to me.
Menelaos Haven’t they cleansed your hands of the blood, according to our custom?
Orestes No. All their doors are firmly shut to me. 430
Menelaos But why? Who’s responsible for this?
Orestes Oeax. He blames my father for the death of his brother, Palamedes, in Troy.
Menelaos I see. You get punished because of his brother’s murder.
Orestes A murder which, uncle, I had nothing to do with.
There are three things that are killing me, my uncle.
Menelaos Three? Aegisthus’ friends, perhaps?
Orestes Yes, uncle. They are being terrible to me and the whole city listens to them.
Menelaos What about the sceptre? Agamemnon’s royal sceptre. Do they let you hold it?
Orestes Royal sceptre? They won’t let me hold on to my life, uncle!
Menelaos So, what are they up now? Anything definite you can tell me?
Orestes This very day they will be taking a vote against me. 440
Menelaos What will they be voting on, your banishment or your life?
Orestes Death by stoning. At their own hands.
Menelaos So why aren’t you running away –jumping the border?
Orestes Uncle, they have me totally surrounded by men armed in bronze!
Menelaos Mercenaries or Argive men?
Orestes All the citizens. They’re all after my blood.
Menelaos My poor boy! This is as bad a fortune as one can get!
Orestes Yes, my uncle and this is why you are my only and last hope to get out of this lot of horrors! My fortune is truly, as bad as it can get but yours, my uncle, you have arrived here, in the greatest of fortunes, so, please, share it with me.
Give your nephew some of your good fortune. 450
Don’t keep all this great fortune to yourself. Pick up some of our burden as well for the sake of my father do whom you owe a great debt of gratitude.
True friends, friends who are not friends just in nae only, help one another in hard times.
Chorus Indicating into the distance
Ah! Look here comes, Tyndareus, the old Spartan, hurrying his poor old legs.
Chorus He’s wearing black and his hair is cut short.
Chorus He must be in mourning!
Orestes Ah! 459
That’s it! Now I’m dead!
Uncle, after what I’ve done, I’m terribly afraid, ashamed, to meet Tyndareus!
When I was a little boy he looked after me as if I was his own child. He would pick me up and carry me around in his arms, singing, “Agamemnon’s little boy, Agamemnon’s little boy!” So did his wife, Leda, my grand mother. The two of them treated me like they treated their sons, the Dioscuri, Castor and Polydeuces.
Oh, my poor heart!
Oh, my dear soul!
Oh, how dreadfully I’ve repaid them for all their kindness and love!
Where can I find a dark corner to hide my face? Where can I find a cloud that I can spread across my face to avoid his eyes?
Orestes huddles up tightly, fearfully against the walls of the palace.
Enter Tyndareus with attendants.
He is an old man. Slow. Pain and grief accompanies his every move and every word.
Tyndareus: To the chorus 470
Women, where can I find Menelaos? Where is my daughter’s husband?
I was pouring the libations on my Klytaemestra’s tomb when someone told me he has come here, that he has arrived in Nauplia. Safe and sound they say, after all these years away.
Come, women, take me to him!
I can’t wait to take Menelaos’ hand and shake it. I can’t wait to welcome my son-in-law. It’s been a long time!
Menelaos Joy to you, old Tyndareus!
A mortal who let Zeus share his marital bed!
Tyndareus Ah, Menelaos! Joy to you, too, my dear son-in-law!
Suddenly notices Orestes.
Ah! What awful sight is this? If only one could see into the future! I’d never –
Here, before this palace!
Menelaos, look there! A mother-killing snake! An evil beast, thunderous lightning shooting out of his evil eyes!
Ah! How I loathe that beast!
You are not friends with that disgraceful snake, are you Menelaos?
Menelaos I am, Tyndareus. He is my best friend’s son! My brother’s son. 482
Tyndareus A man like that? Could a man like that really be the son of Agamemnon?
Menelaos He is, Tyndareus; and I must acknowledge this relationship if he is the victim of some misfortune.
Tyndareus Bah! You’ve spent so much time among the barbarians that you have become one yourself!
Menelaos No, it’s something all the Greeks do: Respect the family.
Tyndareus True but they do not disrespect the law.
Menelaos Intelligent folk consider a deed performed by force is a deed performed by a slave.
Tyndareus That is your opinion, not mine.
Menelaos Your anger and your old age, Tyndareus, have blunted your wisdom. 490
Tyndareus My wisdom is blunted, you say?
It’s that man there whose wisdom is blunted!
We all know what is good and what is evil. They are both obvious to every one.
What man’s wisdom is more blunted than that of that man there?
Did he think of what is just and what is not? Did he not think of the common laws of this country?
He was my brother’s judge. My brother’s wife has killed my brother with a blow to his head and he had breathed his last. It was a vile act and one which I’ll never condone.
It was incumbent upon this man to impose the blood laws of our nation and hurl her into exile, away from this house. 500
Had he done that, he would, not only have avoided the disaster he is suffering now but he would have been acknowledged by people as a moderate man, a man who acted with respect to our laws and to our gods.
What he’s done, however is to earn the same fate as his mother. He thought she was evil but by killing her, by killing his mother, he proved that he is even more evil than her.
So let me ask you this, then my dear son-in-law: Let us say that Orestes is married and his wife kills him. Then his son kills his mother and then his son, seeking vengeance, continues with the murders. How would this destruction ever end?
No, Menelaos. 512
Our ancestors had all this sorted out very well for us: They would make sure that a man with blood in his hands would not be seen or be met by any of the citizens of his city. They would exile him. No more pursuing vengeance. No more of this blood for blood and death for death. With them it was exile. It was exile, Menelaos and not more blood-shedding that would restore the purity of the house and of the land. Exile and not the constant hunt for vengeance!
Now, Menelaos, I hate impious women and of them, the one I hate the most is my own daughter, Klytaemestra, who murdered her own husband in cold blood.
And I hate your wife, too, Menelaos! 520
Helen! I shall never say a good word about her and I shall never speak to her again!
Such a dreadful woman and you – you went all the way to Troy to bring her back here! That deed was unwise, my son-in-law!
The law, Menelaos! The law! I will do whatever is in my power to protect the law! Protect it from just this sort of beastly and disgraceful deeds! Deeds that brings down cities and countries!
What went on in your mind when your mother –your very own mother!- bared her breast to you and in tears begged you not to murder her!
You vile creature!
I wasn’t there to witness that horrible deed of yours, these old eyes are flooded with tears at the very thought of it!
You are a vile creature, Orestes and the proof of it is that the gods, the heavens, hate you! 530
What are these dreadful fits of madness and terror that come upon you, if they are not the punishment of the gods?
You have slaughtered your mother and so you must be hated by the gods -and so you are punished! There is no need for me to hear the words of witnesses when I can see this –this state you’re in- with my very own eyes.
And you, Menelaos. Let me use plain and clear words to you: Don’t help this man! Don’t act against the will of the gods!
Let the citizens stone him to death or else never walk again of Spartan land!
My daughter’s death was just. She should have died but not at this creature’s hands!
In all other things in my life, in everything except my daughters, Menelaos, I have been very fortunate. With them… with my daughters, there, alas, I have been unfortunate! 540
Fortunate is the man whose children are good!
Chorus Unfortunate is the man whose children give him notorious disasters!
Orestes Slowly and painfully raises from his corner and approaches Tyndareus
I am afraid, old man!
Afraid to say anything to you, old sir, because I’m quite certain that no matter what I say, no matter what words I use, I will cause you – I will cause your heart, great pain.
I am aware of the impious deed I performed: I have killed my mother. There’s no denying in that act, sir but I have also performed a pious deed, old sir, that of avenging the murderous spilling of my father’s blood.
Lowering his head in shame.
But, I respect your age, old sir and so I shall stop my tale here and take on the proper path. I respect your grey hair.
Tyndareus, though disgusted with Orestes, motions him to go on.
Well, then, what should have I done? 551
Thing of these two matters, old sir, two matters at grave odds with each other: First, my mother, just like a ploughed field, received my father’s seed and I so, was born. Without a father to sow the seed there is no child. Ever!
And so, considering the matter, I chose to protect him, rather than my mother. To protect the man who was the cause of my existence, rather the woman who brought me up.
But your daughter, old sir!
I… I’m far too ashamed to call that woman, mother!
Your daughter, sir, in secret and unholy nuptials took a ban to her bed.
I know, to speak of such things, not only do I hurt her but I also hurt myself but still, I must speak of them. It was Aigisthus she secretly took to her bed. Aigisthus became the husband of her house. 560
So, I killed him.
And after him I killed my mother! An unholy act, yes but I did it, I have performed that sacrifice for the sake of my father.
You say I should be stoned for committing these acts but let me tell you that these acts have brought a great benefit to Greece.
Women will no longer be so bold as to try and get away with the murder of their husbands like my mother did, by asking by exposing their breasts to their children and soliciting their pity. How easy for them!
The slightest pretext and they’d be murdering their husbands! 570
Not now, though!
Because of what I have done, acts which you call dreadful, I have put a stop to this practice.
I have killed my mother with Justice on my side. I hated her because she had betrayed her husband while he was fighting a war, a General to the whole of the Greek army. She had defiled her marriage bed!
She knew she had sinned! She knew very well she did the wrong thing but did she make some way of reparation, perform some deed of atonement?
No. Instead, because she was afraid of being punished by my father, she killed him!
No punishment for her but ample punishment for my father!
By the gods! 580
Oh, I know it’s a sin to call upon them now, because gods judge murders but – oh, Gods! What would the dead man –my father- have done to me if I had left that woman’s deeds unpunished?
The furies are working for my mother now, sending me into fits of frenzy. Well had not my father suffered an even greater wrong? Would he not then, outraged by me, send his furies to haunt me?
Old sir, it was your fault. You have produced a daughter who has destroyed me. A very evil daughter who had the temerity and boldness to murder my father and make a murderer out of me!
But look at Telemachus. Odysseus’ son. He didn’t have to kill his mother! Why? Because she, Penelope didn’t betray her husband’s bed!
And what about Apollo? The god of prophesy who lives in the very centre of the earth, the god whose oracles are the clearest guides to all the mortals. Oracles that the whole world obeys. It was his oracle that I, too obeyed. It was his oracle that told me to kill your daughter! Accuse him of the murder, then! Put him to death! It was he who has erred, not I! 591
What was I to do?
Can he not undo the pollution that he had caused me to commit in the first place? If not, then where could I go, if the god who had ordered me to kill my mother won’t save me?
Old sir, I repeat, the blame for my misfortune rests with you, for having brought to life such an evil daughter. It was because of her reckless behaviour, because of the fact that she had murdered my father that I became my mother’s killer.
So, don’t say that the deed was evil. Evil is what he who has performed it must now suffer! 600
Blessed are those mortals who have married well. But when marriage fails, then all around them fails with it.
They are the very seed of every man’s misfortune!
Tyndareus The impudence!
Such an undisciplined tongue!
You talk back to me with words that wound my soul!
Well then, you’ve made me even more determined to see you die!
To Menelaos 610
What a great addition to my pains this wretch here has given me!
I have come to adorn my daughter’s tomb with some flowers, pain enough without this man’s accusations! Now, I shall go to the city and urge all the Argives to go after him with all their might. Him and his sister.
Back to Orestes
I shall urge them to stone you two to death! That woman deserves to die even more than you do. It was she who dropped the seed of wrath against your mother. She who kept murmuring in your ear insulting tales about her, to make you hate her. Tales springing out of Agamemnon’s dreams and Aigisthus’ bed.
Ah! May the gods below be disgusted by all this, just like the gods above are abhorred by them.
Tales that had set this whole palace on fire. A blaze that matched those of Hephaistos but one which the god had nothing to do with. A blaze without the flames.
To Menelaos 622
Menelaos, listen to me and heed my words well because I’m about to act upon them!
If our kinship means anything to you –good or bad- do not protect this man from being stoned to death. His death is the will of the gods. Let the citizens of this city kill him; or else, never step on the soil of my country. Don’t ever step on Spartan soil.
Think about what you’ve just heard.
Do not prefer the company of criminals to those who live by the law!
Servants, get me out of here!
Exit Tyndareus SL.
Menelaos paces back and forth, pondering deeply the words of Tyndareus.
Orestes Let him go! 630
Let us continue our conversation, Menelaos, without the idiotic interruptions of an old man!
Menelaos, what is it? Why are you pacing back and forth like this?
What’s bothering your mind?
What crossroads of thinking bother you?
Menelaos Let me think, Orestes.
I am trying to decide on those crossroads. After what he has said, I have no idea which of the two to take.
Orestes Well then, make no decision until you hear me out.
Menelaos Speak then.
There are times when speech is better than silence, though, there are also times when silence is preferable to speech.
Orestes Good, then I will. 640
It’s best to make long speeches that explain everything clearly than short ones that explain nothing.
Menelaos, I wont nothing from you other than what you’ve got from my father; and I don’t mean wealth. Save my life as he has saved yours and I will be far more content.
My uncle, I do not deny that I have done something wrong but now, I must ask you to stand by me, even though it might mean that you also do something wrong.
My father did wrong for your sake also, Menelaos. He did wrong by mustering the whole of the Greek army and went to Troy. It was wrong of him to do that but he did it because he wanted to right the wrongs committed by your wife.
And so, Menelaos, it is now time for you to repay my father by doing a wrong for me. 651
He has endangered his own body for you just like a worthy brother should. He has stood by your shield in the battlefield so that you could win your wife back.
Repay me now for that effort. Not for the whole ten years of it for one day. Protect me for just this one day!
I ask for no repayment of the sacrifice of my sister, Iphigeneia in Aulis. You may keep your daughter Hermione. I will not ask of you to sacrifice her, though this would mean you get the better of the deal.
However, present circumstances give me no room for bargaining and so, I’ll let that stand. 660
But do pay back the debt you owe to my poor father. Grant me my life and the life of my sister who has remained unmarried for so long. Grant me my life because if I die, my father’s house will be left without an heir.
Of course, you will tell me that what I ask of you is impossible.
Indeed it is but it is at such times, when things are impossible, that good friends help good friends. What need do we have of friends if the gods bless us with good fortune? No need at all because the blessing of the gods suffice.
My dear uncle, the whole of Greece knows how much you love your wife and I’m not saying this just to flatter you, my uncle but, in Helen’s name, uncle, I beg you, in Helen’s name – 669
Menelaos scowls at the mention of his wife’s name and turns away with disdain.
Oh, no! Uncle! No, don’t turn away from me!
Oh, there is no hope left!
So then, I must endure hopelessness!
Changes his mind and falls at Menelaos’ feet.
Uncle! My uncle!
In the name of all the people you love, I beg you!
Brother of my own father, I beg you! Think of him!
Remember that Agamemnon can hear you from down below, in the world of the dead.
His soul, uncle is right here, with us!
Right now it is hovering around us and he’s talking to you. My words are his words.
I am choking with tears and groans of pain, uncle!
He gets up
Uncle, I have made my plea to you. It is a plea for my life. A plea that not only I but all men make.
Chorus Menelaos, I know I am only a woman but I, too, beg you! 680
Chorus Help those who need help!
Chorus You have the power to help him, Menelaos!
After a moment of thought, Menelaos turns to Orestes
Menelaos Yes, Orestes, what you say about good friends is true and I understand your dreadful predicament. I want to do whatever is in my power to help you, to stand by your side and together fight the enemy. That, as you say, is the duty of good friends. Fight the enemy to the death and with all the power that gods give us.
But I need the gods to grand me that power.
My spear and I came here alone and with no friends. None of them are alive and I’ve been away, troubled by many ordeals, for many years.
For us, Orestes, for us two alone, to beat Pelasgian Argos! Orestes, on our own, it is impossible! 690
Perhaps we could do it with gentle and persuasive speech. But then, how can such enormous troubles be conquered with such flimsy efforts? It’s stupid to even think of it! When the masses get wild with anger, when they can feel the power of their madness, efforts like this are like trying to quench a fire that went amok!
But if you sit back quietly and wait. Wait and watch. Watch the anger of the masses.
Watch it, watch their rage carefully, until it finally recedes and when it does, you can then get from them whatever you want. 700
The souls of these people have both, burgeoning rage as well as understanding, so, act wisely and wait for them to arrive at the right temperament before you act.
In the meantime, I’ll go to Tyndareus and represent you. I will try to persuade him and the Argives to use this anger of theirs, responsibly. Excess in anything is unhelpful.
A ship whose sails are stretched too tightly will succumb to a tempest. Slacken them a little and the ship will regain its balance.
Both, the gods and the mortals hate excessive passion.
You are right. I must save your life. I won’t deny that but I cannot do it with the force of a spear. Rather, it is possible to do it with wise speech.
Forget the force of spear! A single spear will do nothing to overturn all the troubles that beset you. 711
Orestes, it’s not because of laziness that I want to try this soft approach but because at times such as this the wise should answer to the dictates of Fortune.
Menelaos turns to leave but is stopped just before the exit
You refuse to defend your friends, your relatives but you can raise an army to bring back a woman!
Turn your back to me, then, and run, coward!
Obviously you think nothing of the debt you owe to my father!
Exit Menelaos, shaking his head dismissively
Poor father! Poor Agamemnon! You have no friends!
Oh! Now I have no one! He was my last hope to escape the death that the Argives have in store for me. He was my last hope of saving my life.
Suddenly he sees Pylades in the distance SR
Ah! My best and dearest friend, Pylades!
He is coming from Phocis, running all the way!
Ah, what a delightful sight he is!
Sailors in trouble greet calm waters with less pleasure than that which a man in trouble feels, when he sees a loyal friend.
Pylades Orestes! 729
What is going on here?
I’ve rushed through the city and saw the people gathered in the assembly, discussing your execution and that of your sister! They’re getting ready for it now! Why?
Orestes drops his head with shame
What is it Orestes?
Dear, dear, friend, the dearest of all of my friends! How are you dealing with all this?
Why do you look like this?
Orestes In a word, Pylades, we are dead!
Pylades If that is so, Orestes, then so am I. Friends must share everything.
Orestes That coward, Menelaos! He has betrayed his friendship to both, me and my sister!
Pylades Ah, Menelaos! It’s only natural that the husband of an evil woman to be evil himself.
Orestes He might as well not have come to Argos for all the good he did to us!
Pylades Has Menelaos come to Argos?
Orestes Yes. 740
He was away for a long time but, once he got here, it’s taken no time at all for him to show just how disloyal he is to his friends.
Pylades And he brought his miserable wife with him, has he?
Orestes No. It was the other way round. She came first and she brought him here.
Pylades One woman! The only woman who has killed so many Greeks!
Where is she now?
Orestes In there, in my house –if it is still mine, that is!
Pylades What did you ask Menelaos to do?
Orestes I’ve asked him not to just sit there and watch while my sister and I are being stoned to death. I’ve asked him to do something!
Pylades So what did he say to that?
By the gods, I’d love to know what his response was!
Orestes What did he say?
He used the talk of traitors. “Be patient, my boy, be careful…”
The usual stuff disloyal friends say.
Pylades But tell me why he said that. What was his excuse?
Tell me that and then I’ll know everything that went on.
Orestes Well, that man came! 750
That man with the immaculate daughters!
Pylades That man? You mean Tyndareus?
Ha! Obviously he’d be fuming with rage about his daughter!
Orestes You’ve got it, Pylades!
So, Menelaos went with old Tyndareus rather than my father.
Pylades No courage to stand by you then, ey? Wouldn’t help you at all in such an hour of need?
Orestes Courage? Menelaos?
Ha! He’s certainly not born with it.
No, he only shows his courage to women!
Pylades You’re in dreadful trouble then, my friend.
Is there no other way you can escape this death sentence?
Orestes The Argives are about to vote on whether we’re guilty of murder.
Pylades I dread to think what their verdict will be, Orestes!
Orestes Either life or death, my friend. Small words for enormous deeds.
Pylades Well then, my friend, you and your sister should run away! Leave your palace and get away from here! Escape!
Orestes Can’t you see, Pylades? There are guards everywhere. Watching us all the time! 760
Pylades Yes, I can.
I saw them in town as well. They’ve closed up all the streets out of it. Armed to the teeth.
Orestes They have surround us. Like armies surround the walls of cities.
Pylades But what about me?
Why don’t you ask what happened to me, Orestes?
I, too am suffering!
Orestes You, my friend?
Yours and mine, a mountainous suffering!
But who is making you suffer?
Pylades My father, Strophius!
He became angry and sent me off into exile.
He told me to leave his house for ever!
Orestes But what for? What did he say you did wrong?
Was it a decision he made on his own or was the town involved in it?
Pylades He says I am polluted because I have helped you with the murder of your mother.
Orestes Ah, my poor friend!
It looks like my burden has fallen on your shoulders as well.
Pylades I am not Menelaos so I will endure them.
Orestes But, Pylades, what if the Argives will kill you along with me? 770
Aren’t you afraid of that?
Pylades The Argives have no jurisdiction over me. I am a Phocian.
Orestes Ah, my friend! When mobs have rotten leaders they are likely to do all sorts of nasty things.
Pylades It’s a very different story when their leaders are wise, though…
Orestes So be it. It looks like we must speak to them. Talk to the Argives in the assembly.
Pylades Must? Why must we? Where’s the need for us to speak to them?
Orestes Well, I can stand in front of them and tell them –
Pylades Tell them what, Orestes? That you’ve done something noble and just?
Orestes But isn’t that the truth? Have I not simply sought justice for my father’s death?
Pylades Forget it, Orestes. They won’t accept that with too much pleasure.
Orestes So, what should I do? Die in silence? Die a coward?
Pylades No, I am not talking about cowardice.
Orestes So what should I do then?
Pylades Is there no hope at all of escaping death if you stayed here?
Orestes No, none at all!
Pylades So you think that if you did face the public you might escape it?
Orestes I might, if Fate helps. 780
Pylades Well, it seems this is a better course of action to take than simply sitting and waiting.
Orestes So, you think I should go to them, then?
Pylades In any case, my friend, if they do kill you, you will die a more noble death.
Orestes Of course because my deed was just.
Pylades You must hope then that that’s how the people will see it, too.
Orestes Quite right. By fronting up to them I will avoid looking like a coward.
Pylades Better than if you stayed here, in silence.
Orestes Perhaps someone might feel sorry for me…
Pylades Then there is your noble birth. That should work to your advantage.
Orestes …when I remind them of my father’s death.
Pylades Yes, I can see that as a possibility.
Orestes Turns to leave
So I must go.
I won’t stay here and die a coward!
Pylades Yes, I agree.
Orestes Should we tell Elektra?
Pylades Heavens, no!
Orestes She would shed some tears –
Pylades Which would definitely be a bad omen!
Orestes We better not tell her then.
Pylades It will save us quite some time, as well.
Orestes There’s one thing that still bothers me. 790
Orestes I’m afraid that the goddesses might send me into a fit of madness again.
Pylades I’ll look after you if that happens.
Orestes It would be horrible for you, my friend.
Pylades No, not for me it won’t be.
Orestes But you may catch my disease as well.
Pylades I don’t care about that.
Orestes Well, are you sure then? Not concerned about anything?
Pylades Concerns among friends are an awful impediment.
Orestes Well then, Captain, lead me on!
Pylades I shall, indeed!
Orestes Lead me on to my father’s grave first.
Pylades Why there?
Orestes I want to ask him to save me.
Pylades And so he should!
Orestes But keep me away from my mother’s grave. Don’t let me see her grave!
Pylades No, I won’t. I know she hated you.
Well then, hurry. The Argives will conduct their voting without you and they’ll sentence you to death.
Come, lean your sick shoulder against mine and together we’ll go through the city. 800
Pay no attention to the crowd and feel no shame.
I want to show the world I am your friend and that I have come to help you in your most dire hour.
Orestes And this is the proof of it!
Friends are closer! Friends are more reliable than blood relatives! Friends are better than family!
Friends, men outside your family, strangers who understand your pain and sympathise with it. Give me a friend before you give me family!
Exit Orestes and Pylades SL
Chorus Gone are the riches!
Chorus Gone, too the virtue!
Chorus Gone is the pride that shone throughout Greece!
Chorus All the way up to the waters of the river Simois! 810
Chorus Vanished from the grand house of Atreus!
Chorus It was the ancient curse, born out of an ancient dispute about a golden lamb!
Chorus To which of Tantalus’ grandsons did it belong?
Chorus Did it belong to Thyestes or to Atreus?
Chorus The atrocious feast!
Chorus Atrocious slaughter of the children of nobles!
Chorus This is the fountain of the curse: Pain for pain!
Unending, unconquerable circle of pain that runs its violent course through the veins of the two sons of Atreus!
Chorus An evil practice, through and through to slaughter a parent. 820
Chorus To cut his flesh with murderous violence
Chorus With the forged steel of a sword and then raise it high with impudent pride
Chorus And let the sun’s rays fall upon the dark and bloody gore!
Chorus It’s not a virtue but a sin to do such impious deeds.
These are the deeds of maddened fools and criminals.
Chorus And so, Tyndareus’ daughter, luckless Klytaemestra, cried out, with death’s inspiration, at her son: Don’t, my son!
Chorus Don’t kill me, my son! The deed you dare to do now is steeped in sin!
Don’t kill your mother!
Chorus Don’t shroud yourself in eternal shame by honouring your father! 830
Chorus What sin is heavier?
Chorus What can cause a greater flood of tears and groans of pity then the shedding of a mother’s blood?
Chorus It is this crime that Orestes, Agamemnon’s son is hunted by the Furies and pricked with fits of insanity.
Chorus His eyes!
Chorus They roll with fear!
Chorus What sight is more pitiful?
Chorus Than when his mother tore her golden robe asunder and Orestes saw her breast before he slaughtered her? 840
Chorus A pain to his mother for the pain she gave his father.
Enter Elektra from the Palace. She looks around for Orestes and becomes distressed when she can’t find him.
Elektra Friends, where is Orestes?
Have his fits driven him away from the palace?
Chorus No, Elektra. He’s gone to the city to speak at the trial which will determine whether you two will live or die.
Elektra Oh, no! What made him do a thing like that? Who told him to do that?
Chorus Pylades did. 850
Enter Messenger SL
Chorus Hang on, it looks like this messenger has some news to do with your brother.
Messenger Ah! What sad news I have for you, you unfortunate woman!
Poor, Elektra! Poor daughter of the general Agamemnon!
What a sad tale I must tell you!
We are dead!
Your words made that clear!
We are dead!
The news you carry are horrible! I know it, horrible!
Messenger The Pelasgians have just cast their vote.
Both of you are to die, this very day! 859
My worst fears have been realised! The floods of tears I have shed all this time were for this very reason.
Tell me, old sir, what reasons did the Pelasgians give for the death sentence they served upon us?
And tell me also, sir, will I die alongside my brother by stoning or by the sword?
Messenger It so happened, my lady that I had just gone to town to see if I could find out news about you and your brother.
I was always a loyal subject to your father, my lady. My household survived upon his generosity. Yes, I am but a poor farmer but that doesn’t mean that I can’t also be a loyal friend to my king.
So, anyway, I saw a crowd rushing up to Danaus’ Hill. The hill which, people say, was where Danaus had first gathered all the people to hold a hearing for Aegyptus. 871
So, when I got there I approached one of the men and asked him, “What’s going on? Have we received some news from our enemies that’s got the whole city all anxious?”
The man pointed into the distance and said, “can’t you see Orestes over there? He’s hurrying towards us to enter the trial of his life!”
And so I looked in his direction and saw a sight that I wish the gods had never let me see! An unbearable sight! 880
There was your brother with his friend, Pylades heading our way. The first, a distressing sight of a man, succumbed by an illness and the second, behaving like a brother who’s trying to ease his friend’s misery and calm his agony, just like children do with each other.
When all the Argives gathered around, a herald stood up and asked if there was anyone who had anything to say and that this was a meeting to decide whether the matricide, Orestes was to live or die.
After him stood up Talthybius who, together with your father had destroyed Troy.
But Talthybius always only agrees with whoever is in power, so, what we got from him was a garbled speech, praising Agamemnon one minute but then, with sickening smiles at the followers of Aigisthus, disparaging Orestes the next, saying that the son has given children a new and dreadful precedent for sons to use against their parents. 889
That’s what his lot is like. In fact, that’s what all heralds are like: always ready to jump up to defence and friendship of the most powerful in the city.
Then the king, Diomedes got up to speak.
His view was that the city shouldn’t kill you or your brother but that justice would be served if they were to punish you by sending you into exile. 899
Some agreed with him, others didn’t.
After him, a man with the loudest, most undisciplined tongue got up and started mouthing off all sorts of bluster and cockiness. Arrogant man. An Argive but not a local, you know?
He just loved the sound of his own voice that one and, of course, also loved anyone who’d pay him the right price for his loudness and his vulgar fancy words. Fancy words that can cause great mischief to a city!
Sweet speeches, speeches that lack wisdom may persuade the people but they are also a great menace to the whole city whereas speeches which carry good, intelligent advice are always of benefit to the city; a benefit that one can’t see straight away but will see it in the long run.
And that’s how we should judge the leaders of our cities, as well, because, both, leaders and public speakers have the same role. 911
In any case, this man, with his fancy and loud speech, was urging the people to kill you and Orestes by stoning.
Anyhow, the man got up and spoke his nonsense but in the end, it was your uncle, Tyndareus, who also got up and supported him with the arguments to make his speech -in favour of your murder- stick.
But then another man got up and his speech had the opposite direction. Now this man wasn’t as much to look at as were the previous speakers but, nevertheless, he was a brave man to do that. He hardly ever entered any of the debates concerning the affairs of the city or had ever much to do with what went on in the market place and the public speakers’ quarters.
He was just a farmer. One of those men who used his own hands to work the land, alone. Protect it from neglect. No, he wasn’t some public orator or anything like that but he was honest enough and clever enough to enter this debate. 920
Now this man got up and proposed that Orestes should be awarded the prize of an athlete. He should be given the garland of victory because he was brave enough to avenge the murder of his father, Agamemnon, by killing his evil and sinful mother, Klytaemestra.
Because, he said, it’s this sort of woman who made it impossible for men to pick up their swords and spears and go off to a distant campaign. How could the soldiers leave their home, knowing that some of the men left behind, would destroy the good order of their homes and their cities by shamelessly seducing their wives?
The better sort of people in the crowd were convinced by his words but no one else got up to speak after him. 930
Except your brother who stepped up and made this speech: “Pelasgian gentlemen, ” he said, “owners Inachus’ land. Danaus’ precinct! By killing my mother I have not only served the needs of my father but also your needs!
Is it not true that if women were excused in killing their husbands then all of you men should go now and kill yourselves!
Either that, or make yourselves their slaves, which is absolutely the wrong thing to do.
We now have the woman who has betrayed my father’s bed, lying in her grave, dead but if you also put me to death, then you’ll topple our established laws and, well, no one will escape his murder and such disgrace will not be too rare a sight.” 939
I thought it was a good speech but the crowd wasn’t convinced and when the hands were counted, it was that arrogant loud mouth who had won the vote. The one who had proposed to have you and your brother stoned to death.
Then, Orestes, with great difficulty, managed to convince them all not to have you two killed by stoning but to accept his promise that by the end of this day you will both die by his own hand.
Pylades, tears flooding from his eyes, lead him away from the meeting and now, accompanied by their friends who are groaning with grief and despair, are heading this way. 950
In a few minutes your eyes will see a truly bitter and miserable sight.
So, Elektra, prepare the sword, or the noose because you must soon abandon the light of day. Neither your noble birth, nor Apollo who sits upon his tripod will be of any help to you now. Apollo has destroyed your lives.
Exit Messenger. SL
Chorus Ah! Look at the poor girl!
Chorus How miserable she must feel!
Chorus Silent, dumbfounded, head slumped.
She’s about to burst into tears!
Elektra Scratches her face with her nails 960
Land of the Pelasgians!
I cry and, with my nails, I tear open my white cheeks!
Let the blood run!
I beat my head, in praise of beautiful Persephone,
I beat my head in honour of the young goddess who rules the world below!
City, whose walls are built by the great Cyclopes, cry!
Tell of the young girl whose tresses have been shorn by the iron sword!
Tell of the endless troubles of this house!
Cry my land, cry!
Cry for those who must now die!
Cry for those who once led the armies of Greece!
They’ve all gone!
Gone is the whole house of Pelops!
Gone is the whole race of people that once filled this happy palace!
Destroyed by the envy of the gods
Destroyed by the hateful, the murderous will of the Argives!
Ever-suffering race of men!
See how Fate works against your dreams, against your expectations!
One pain rushes to follow another filling all your days with pain!
Ever-changing pains. 980
Ever-changing, uncertain life.
If only I could throw myself upon that rock!
The rock that tore itself from Mount Olympus!
The rock that swings and spins from golden chains between the Heavens and Earth!
Then I could tell my sorrows to Tantalus himself!
Father of our generation,
Father of our race,
Founder of our House!
Tantalus, who saw untold disasters!
The four flying steeds yoked to a chariot!
The reins held by Pelops!
Pelops hurls Myrtilus into the surging waves of the ocean below!
And there! Look there!
Pelops lands his chariot on the frothy shores of Gerastus!
And that’s when the seed of groaning curses is sown into my house!
There the flocks of the sheep of Hermes, son of Maia, Myrtilus’ father.
And there, look there!
Among them, the lamb with the golden fleece!
Atreus’ lamb, on Atreus’ horse-pasturing land, a portent of Atreus’ curse. 1000
Eris, the goddess of strife changed the heavenly course of Apollo’s chariot,
From East to West to Dawn with her snow-white horses
Zeus changed the course of the Pleiades, all seven stars,
Eris then sends death in pursuit of death to the generations of Atreus
The Thyesteian feast
The deceitful Aerope’s false bed of love, the Cretan Aerope, Atreus’ treacherous wife!
Here, now, the groaning curse has arrived to destroy me
Chorus Elektra look! 1013
Here’s your brother!
Chorus Sentenced to death!
Chorus His loyal friend, Pylades, like a devoted brother, walks beside him, supporting his ailing body.
Enter Orestes supported by Pylades. SL
My brother! My brother!
I see you in front of your tomb, my brother!
I see you in front of death’s pyre, my brother!
My brother! Oh, my brother!
This is the last time my eyes see you, my brother!
I am losing my mind!
Orestes Enough, Elektra! 1021
Enough of this womanish crying!
Now be silent! We must accept our Fate, pitiful though it is!
Elektra Be silent? How can I be silent, my brother?
How can I control my tears?
Our Fate will take us away from the god’s light!
Orestes Woman, you’re adding another death upon the death the Argives have given me!
Enough moaning about our troubles!
Elektra What a terrible Fate you must endure, my brother, Orestes!
Your youth, my brother!
Your death, my brother, has cut your life so short!
Now is the time you should be living, my brother but now is the time you must die!
Orestes For gods’ sake, woman! You’re draining me of courage! 1031
You are making me cry with this sad litany of my troubles!
Elektra How can I not cry, Orestes? We are about to die!
Life is dear to everyone and everyone cries when they’re about to lose it!
Orestes Our master is this day’s Fate.
Today we must die by our own hand.
Let us either prepare the ropes or sharpen a sword!
Elektra It’s best then that you kill me, my brother, rather than some other Argive.
That would be an insult to the house of Agamemnon!
Orestes No! I have done enough killing!
I cannot kill you.
It is enough that I have killed my own mother!
You must kill yourself, Elektra, by your own hand and by any means you choose.
Elektra So be it, then! 1041
The work of your sword will serve me well enough!
But let me first put my arms around your neck, my brother!
Orestes Come then, my sister.
If it gives you pleasure to embrace those close to their death, come, embrace me!
Elektra O, my beloved brother!
My own beloved brother,
My only, my deepest, my sweetest joy!
Orestes Sister, now you will make me cry, as well!
Let me return your embrace. In the depths of such despair, why should I hold back?
O, dear sister! The dearest embrace!
In this misery, our words replace our children and our marriage bed!
Elektra If only the same sword killed us both! 1052
If only both of our bodies were buried in the same coffin, made of cedar!
Orestes That would be a great joy but, my dear sister, you can see how few of our family are left. There’s no one to bury us in the same tomb.
Elektra Had not our uncle, Menelaos, stood up to say anything on our behalf?
The coward, who has betrayed our father?
Orestes Menelaos had not even turned up at the meeting.
Obviously he’s got hopes set on becoming the king of this land as well. That’s why he doesn’t want to save us, his family.
But now, sister, let us die honourably, worthy of our father, Agamemnon! 1060
I will display to the city my honourable blood by plunging the sword through my heart and you must act just as bravely.
Pylades, you must take care of what needs to be done after our death.
See to it that our bodies are covered with the shroud and then carried to our father’s tomb. Bury us there, together.
I am going now to perform the deed.
He turns to enter the palace
I must make my first ever complaint to you, Orestes.
Do you suppose I want to go on living after you die?
Orestes But, Pylades, why should you die along with me? 1071
Pylades You ask this question of me?
How could I possibly live without your friendship?
Orestes You, Pylades did not murder your mother, like I, the poor fool, have done!
Pylades But I have! I was with you. We performed the deed together.
I should suffer the same consequences as you.
Orestes Take your living body back to your father, Pylades. Don’t kill it with mine.
You have a country, my friend, I have none. You have a house, your father’s house with a harbour full of wealth.
And though it’s true, you will lose out on the marriage of my ill-fated sister, here, whom I have promised you, in honour of our friendship but marry another woman and have children with her.
There are no marriage ties between us, now, my friend. 1081
For now, my friend, farewell. You may well, fare well because for us, who are about to die, there is no faring well.
Pylades Your thinking is far from mine, Orestes!
Let the fertile earth refuse my blood and let the bright air refuse my spirit if, like disloyal friend abandon you and let you die and I don’t!
I was in with you on the murder from the start. I had my hand in it, alongside yours, in all its planning. 1090
It is the deed for which you are now being punished.
That is something you cannot deny, so I, too, now should die with both of you two.
As well, since I have agreed to marry her, I feel that she is my wife.
How would I excuse myself at Delphi? What could I say to the Phocians that would support this action of mine? The action that shows that I am your friend only when you are free of misfortune but not one when misfortune strikes you?
This cannot be. Your misfortunes are also mine.
Well then, since die we must, then let us find some way to make Menelaos suffer the same misfortune.
Orestes Ah! If only! 1100
If only I could see this, my dear friend, then I would die a happy man!
Pylades In that case, do as I say.
Adjourn the thrust of the sword for a bit.
Orestes I shall adjourn it, if it means the punishment of my enemy.
Pylades looks at the chorus with suspicion and draws Orestes a little away from them.
Pylades Quietly then. I don’t trust women very much.
Orestes O, have no fear of these women, Pylades. They are all friends of mine.
Pylades Let us kill Helen. That will certainly give Menelaos something to grieve about!
Orestes Yes! If that were possible I’d do it! How do you suggest we do this?
Pylades She’s hiding inside the palace. Let us go in and cut her throat.
Orestes Oh, yes, she’s in there, all right. Putting her seal on every one of our possessions!
Pylades Not for much longer. She is now betrothed to Hades!
Orestes But how can we do it? She’s got Trojan slaves everywhere! 1110
Pylades Trojan slaves? Where? I’m not afraid of any Trojan slaves!
Orestes She’s got them all in there, holding her scent jars and mirrors!
Pylades So, she’s returned fro m Troy with all the barbarian luxuries, ey?
Orestes But of course. Greece is just too small a place for her!
Pylades My friend, slaves mean nothing to free men!
Orestes If this could be done then I wouldn’t mind dying twice!
Pylades If I could avenge you, Orestes, nor would I!
Orestes Well, then, explain what we need to do.
Pylades Let us go into the palace pretending that we will kill ourselves in there.
Orestes Yes, I see, what then? 1120
Pylades We will stand before her and grieve for our Fate.
Orestes To which she’ll pretend to grieve with us, though, in her heart, she’d be very happy.
Pylades We’ll be feeling exactly as she will be!
Orestes What then? How do we achieve our goal?
Pylades We will go inside with swords hidden under our cloaks.
Orestes And the slaves? What will we do with them?
Pylades We’ll lock them up in different rooms throughout the palace.
Orestes Right! And those who won’t be silent, we’ll kill!
Pylades After that, we’ll act according to how things unfold.
Orestes To murder Helen! I understand your thinking there. 1130
Now listen why my plan is good.
Had we raised our sword against some woman more virtuous than Helen, the murder would be deemed disgraceful but by punishing her, we are doing the whole of Greece a service in justice. Justice for all the father she has killed and for all the fathers who have lost their sons and for all the women whose lives she has destroyed by killing their husbands.
The whole of Greece will celebrate this death and they will conduct sacrifices to the gods, praying to them to send us joy because we have killed an evil woman!
As well, if you killed her, they won’t be calling you a mother-killer but they will replace this name with a far better one. They’ll be calling you, “Helen’s Killer,” the killer of the woman who has caused the deaths of many! 1140
No, It’s not at all right that Menelaos’ life prospers while your father’s, yours and your sister’s lives are put to death unjustly.
And then there’s you mother – but no, I won’t speak of her because the gods consider that improper… And then, is it right that Menelaos should take over your palace when it was with your father’s spear that he regained his wife?
I shall cut her up myself, with my black sword or else, let me live no longer!
And if we don’t manage to kill Helen, then let us burn along with this house when we set it alight! One of these plans will succeed and glory will follow us for one of two reasons, Orestes: either we will die as men should die, with honour, or we shall save our lives honourably.
Chorus Yes! 1153
Tyndareus’ daughter has earned the hatred of all the women!
Chorus She has disgraced her sex!
Orestes There’s nothing more valuable than a firm friend! Neither wealth nor the power of a king matches it and it would be sheer foolishness to prefer the friendship of the masses to that of a single true and solid friend.
My friend, you have helped me when I sought justice from Aegisthus and you have remind by my side even when danger was all around me. You are helping me even now that I am seeking justice from my enemies.
You have never left my side! 1160
But I better stop praising you because excess praise is excess burden for the person praised.
So, the time for my last breaths is near!
But before I take those last breaths I want to see that my enemies pay for their betrayal. I want those of my enemies who have killed me, die with me and those who have made me suffer, repay me with equal suffering.
I am the son of Agamemnon. The son of the man who was given the leadership of the whole of Greece, not because he was king but because Greece thought him to be worthy of that honour.
He ruled Greece as if with some divine power.
I will not shame my father by dying the death of a slave. 1170
No, I will die the death of a free man by exacting justice from Menelaos.
I will think myself a fortunate man if I can achieve even one of my aims but if I can manage to escape death while I perform these killings, then, well, that will be the answer of all my prayers.
Just uttering these thoughts of mine, even in such fleeting words, is a great joy!
I believe I have the answer to our escape!
Orestes You’re hoping for Divine Providence, my sister but where?
Where can your wise head see this Providence?
Elektra Well, listen then. You too, Pylades. 1180
Orestes I’m listening. Talk, sister. Let’s not delay our good fortune!
Elektra Of course, you do know Helen’s daughter, don’t you?
Orestes Hermione, yes. Our mother brought her up, while Helen was in Troy.
Elektra That’s right. She has just gone off to our mother’s grave.
Orestes To do what?
Elektra, what hope do you see in that?
Elektra Her mother, Helen, sent her there to pour libations, on her behalf.
Orestes Yes, but what has this got to do with our affair?
Elektra Orestes, you must seize Hermione when she returns.
Orestes And how will that help us three? 1190
Elektra Once you’ve killed Helen, Menelaos will try to kill you –and me, and Pylades, we’re all family- but if you have his daughter, you could threaten him with her life by putting your sword at the girl’s neck.
By then, Menelaos would have seen his wife’s blood-soaked corpse so he might think about letting us go. If he does, then you let him have his daughter alive.
But if he can’t control his rage and charges at you, begin to cut Hermione’s throat. 1200
He’ll soon soften his rage. Menelaos is neither bold nor brave.
I think that’s the full extent of my thinking.
Orestes The heart of a real man in the body of the most beautiful of all women!
Sister, you certainly deserve the rewards of life rather than those of death.
My poor friend, Pylades, this is the woman you will be deprived of, if we die, or, if we live, this is the woman who will be a blessing to your bed.
Pylades I wish then that we live and that she comes with me to Phocis, honoured in a wedding procession.
Orestes Where is Hermione, then? 1211
She’s taking a long time at the tomb.
Your plan is good in every respect, Elektra but we do need to catch this traitor’s cub!
Elektra I don’t think she’ll be much longer now. She’s left a long time ago.
Right, then, my dear sister. You stay in front of the palace door and wait for her.
And keep an eye out, in case Menelaos or any of his friends turns up before we two have committed the murder.
If they do, then let us know, either by pounding loudly at the door or by yelling through it. 1220
Taking his sword out
Pylades, since you’re coming with me, let’s get our swords ready for the deed.
Agamemnon, help your son, help those in need of you!
You inhabit the world of the Dark Night, father but I have suffered much injustice because of you, because I have committed a deed of virtue. Help me! Even your own brother has betrayed me.
Come help me. I want to grab his wife and kill her!
Help us to perform this deed.
Elektra Also praying 1231
Father, if you can hear our pleas, down below, the pleas of your own children who are being killed for your sake, come and help them!
Pylades Joins them
Agamemnon, kinsman to my father, hear my pleas also and save your children!
Orestes I pour a libation of tears to you, my father!
Elektra And from me a libation of pains.
Pylades That will do now. 1240
If prayers are heard by those below, Agamemnon will hear them.
But you Zeus! You, father of our ancestors and you, holy Justice who sit by his throne, grant us a happy outcome to our efforts.
We, three kinsmen are facing a single battle and a single justice. All three of us, must either live or die.
Exit Orestes and Pylades into the palace
Elektra Noble women of Pelasgian Mycenae…
Chorus Yes my Lady.
Chorus Of course, we can still call you “Lady,” in this city of the Danaans! 1250
Elektra Friends, some of you watch the road on this side and the others look down that road.
We must guard the palace.
Chorus Why, dear Lady?
Chorus What do we watch out for?
Elektra I have this awful fear that someone might see my brother in the process of performing the bloody deed and add to our troubles.
Chorus Come then, friends, let’s hurry!
The chorus splits into two groups, each guarding one side of the stage
Chorus I’ll guard this side here. The East.
Chorus And I’ll stand here, on the West side. 1260
Elektra Look all around you, ladies.
Chorus Yes, we’ll watch out in all directions.
Chorus We’ll do as you say, Elektra.
Elektra That’s it. Look carefully in every direction. Brush your hair from your eyes.
Chorus Indicating within 1269
Ah! There’s someone coming this way, girls.
Watch out, some peasant coming towards the palace.
Elektra Oh, no!
That’s it then!
He’ll alert the our enemies, girls. He’ll tell them about our hidden swords!
Oh, no, don’t be afraid, Elektra. I was wrong. There’s no one on the road.
A few moments of tense waiting
Elektra To the other group
Anyone approaching from your side?
I hope there’s no one there.
Chorus No, no one coming this way. To the other group. What about you lot? Any Danaans coming your way?
Chorus No, no one. All’s clear.
After a few more moments of tense waiting.
Elektra I think I’ll see if I can hear anything through the door.
She hears nothing and gets angry. She shouts inside.
Come on, you men!
Now is the time for you to perform your bloody sacrifice! It’s all quiet out here. No one will hear you if you do it now.
They all listen for a few moments
No, they can’t hear us!
Oh, gods, what terrible luck!
Obviously, the woman’s beauty has blunted their swords!
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if suddenly we don’t get a visit from some Argive man, armed to the teeth, ready to barge in there and rescue her.
Watch the roads carefully, girls. 1290
This is no time to relax, girls. You too, there! Look all around you, everywhere!
The chorus moves about searching the roads
Chorus We are watching, Elektra!
Chorus We’re moving all about and watching the roads carefully.
Suddenly a great deal of noise indicating a scuffle within.
Help me Argives!
Pelasgian Argives, they are murdering me!
Elektra Did you hear that?
That’s Helen’s voice! The men are doing their work!
I know, it’s Helen’s voice.
Chorus Oh, Zeus!
Chorus Almighty Zeus, help our friends! 1300
Menelaos where are you? They are murdering me!
Elektra Murder her, men!
Kill her, men!
Plunge your swords into her, men!
Hit her again and again, men!
This is the whore who has betrayed her husband and her land!
This is the whore who has killed thousands of Greek men!
Killed them and maimed them by the roaring waters of the Trojan river, Scamander!
By the battlefields where iron let loose tears upon tears!
Kill her, men, kill her!
Chorus Hold it! 1311
I think I’ve heard someone coming along that path there.
Chorus He’s coming towards us!
Elektra It’s Hermione, my dear friends!
She’s coming right when the murder is happening!
Don’t make a sound. Let her fall right into our nets and if we capture her she’ll be an awesome catch!
Now look sharp and don’t let your expression betray what’s going on inside the palace. I’ll put on a sad face and pretend as if I know nothing.
Enter Hermione SR carrying the empty libation basket
Oh, darling girl! 1321
Have you poured the libations upon Klytaemestra’s grave?
Have you adorned it with flowers?
Hermione I have, indeed!
She is now happy with me… but I’m a bit anxious.
I’ve heard someone cry out just now. From inside the palace…
Elektra Of course you did, dear girl, of course you did!
The things we must endure, my dear, call for some loud grief!
Hermione What is it, Elektra? Some new troubles?
Elektra Argos has decided to kill Orestes and me!
Hermione Oh, no! But, you are related to me! They can’t do that!
Elektra They can my dear and they did.
We are in the grips of Necessity’s yoke.
Hermione Is that what the shouting in the palace was about?
Elektra Yes. The men had fallen before Helen’s knees and are begging her, crying out…
Hermione What men, Elektra?
I know nothing of this. Tell me, who was crying out?
Elektra Orestes. He was begging Helen that he and I be saved.
Hermione No wonder the whole house is wailing with grief, then!
Elektra No wonder!
My darling girl! Why don’t you add your voice to that of my brother? Beg your mother, the luckiest of all mothers, fall at her feet and beg her not to allow Menelaos to kill us. Let him see to it that we don’t die!
Do that for us, my dear girl. After all, my own mother raised you, darling. 1340
Take pity on us and save us!
Come, let me take you inside so you can join our battle! You are our very last hope.
Hermione Yes, I shall do that. Let’s hurry.
I shall do what ever is in my power to save you.
Elektra opens the palace door and leads Hermione inside. As soon as Hermione enters, she shuts the door firmly and shouts to those inside.
Elekra Grab her my dear friends!
Raise your swords to her!
What men are these here?
Elektra Shut up, girl!
You are not here to save your life but ours!
Grab her, men, grab her!
Your swords against her throat men! 1350
Courage, my friends!
Let Menelaos see that he’s dealing with some real men, not some Trojan cowards!
Let him suffer what cowards suffer!
Exit Elektra into the palace. A few seconds later the sounds of a violent conflict emanate and stir the chorus into action.
Girls scream! Make noise! Raise a loud shout!
Drown out the murder in the palace!
Don’t let the Argives hear the screaming cries!
Chorus They’ll come to the women’s rescue!
Chorus Don’t let them come before I see Helen’s bloody corpse lying on the palace floor!
Chorus Or before some Trojan slave of theirs comes and tells us the full story!
Chorus The gods have delivered the Justice due to Helen. 1360
Chorus Vengeance has been exacted from Helen!
Chorus Helen is dead!
Chorus Helen has killed!
Chorus Helen has let loose the tears of all of Greece!
Chorus Helen has betrayed husband and country for that cursed man from Troy!
Chorus A bitter curse upon Paris!
Chorus Paris, who dragged all Hellas to Troy!
From the Palace we hear the sound of a door-bolt being pulled back and the creaking of the door opening
Chorus The bolt of the door is being pulled!
Enter a Trojan Slave.
He has just witnessed Helen’s murder so he is terrified
Chorus A Trojan slave!
Chorus He’ll tell us what is going on inside.
I have run away from death! I pick up my Trojan slippers and run away!
Big sword! Argive sword. Big! 1370
I run away, fast!
Away from the bedroom with cedar beds!
Away from the Doric triglyphs!
Far away. Quick away!
Oh, my good mother Earth! My very good mother Earth! Take me far away from here!
Which way, foreign ladies?
Which way I should go now?
To the sky? Fly high up to the sky?
To the sea? I run to the sea? Which sea?
The Ocean? The bull-headed Ocean? Big arms run around earth?
Chorus What is it, Trojan? 1380
Chorus What is it, Helen’s slave?
Phrygian Troy… Troy…
Oh, Troy! Oh my beautiful Phrygian city!
Oh, my beautiful holy, holy mountain!
Beautiful earth Ida, Troy!
Now I cry, I cry, I cry the song of the chariot race!
I cry barbary tongue. I cry your destruction, Troy, my barbary city!
You die because of Helen the beautiful woman from egg born. Big feathers, long neck like swan. Leda’s baby. Bad Helen! Bad, bad, terrible bad Helen.
Erinys! Beautiful towers of Troy, down! Apollo’s towers, down!
Bad fortune for beautiful Troy! 1390
I cry, I cry, I cry! The song of Troy, fall down!
Beautiful horses of Ganymede, Zeus’ lover.
Trojan, tell us slowly what happened in there.
Chorus I couldn’t understand one word he said!
Phrygian Ai, ai, ai!
I cry barbary tongue. Barbary men cry, ai, ai, ai!
Ai, ai, ai!
Barbary blood of my kings, all everywhere on ground.
Iron swords everywhere kill! Everywhere blood on ground!
I tell you for you exactly: Two lions! Twins lions! Swish, swish!
Greek twins lions come inside house. 1400
One is son of big man General. One other one is son of Strophius. Bad man this one. Sneaky, tricky… like Odysseas… quite, but tricky, very tricky.
Him, other one, is good friend of other one. Swish, swish, fight, fight, fight!
Braver war man. Brave war snake. Planning and planning like quiet snake! Curse to him! Bad snake man!
Lions come to the throne of Helen.
Wife of Paris who shoots arrows good. 1410
And they cry and they cry and face wet with crying and one stand one side of woman and one other the other side of woman and they touch her here and here and this side and this side and cry for help from Helen.
All the Trojan slaves worry and worry.
Maybe this is no good for Helen. Maybe this is trap for Helen. They run around everywhere and some say no, it’s all right, not trap and other men say yes, this is trap for daughter of Tyndareus. 1420
They say, this is tricky trap, catch Helen. Mother killer Orestes make tricky trap!
Chorus And you? What were you doing at the time?
Chorus I bet he was already running off in fear!
Phrygian I was doing like Phrygian people doing. Barbary thing.
Make fresh breeze for Helen. For her beautiful hair.
I have big round circle with many, many feathers and I make cool breeze for her hair and for her beautiful cheeks. Like barbary people make.
Helen spin and spin distaff of linen. Long string. Long string to the floor. 1431
She want to make big cloth with barbary string, for Klytaemestra, for her burial.
Big purple cloth. Beautiful. For Klytaemestra. 1438
But other man, Orestes, tell Helen: “Daughter of Zeus, put foot down and come! Leave your couch and come here. Here, Pelop’s ancient seat, ancient fireplace, my ancient father. Come and I tell you something.”
That’s what he say to Helen and he take her by the hand.
He first, she after, they go and go and she think nothing bad will happen. So she go.
But his friend, other lion, Phocian lion, did other thing. He shout to us: “Go away,” he say like madman. “Go away! Go away somewhere else! You coward Phrygians!” He shouts to us. Then he pushed them some in this room, some in that room, some in the halls… and then he locked all the doors and we couldn’t go to help Helen, our mistress.
Chorus Yes, yes and then what happened? 1453
Phrygian Oh, mother! Ai, ai, ai!
Oh, mother of Troy! Ai, ai, ai!
Oh, almighty, mighty, mother!
Blood! Sin! Evil!
Ai, ai, ai!
I see everything with my eyes in that palace! The palace of the king!
They take out big swords with their hands. They hide before, under their purple cloths, and then they look this way and then that way, everywhere look to see if anyone there, looking to them.
Then, then, they jump to the woman like wild pigs in the mountain and say to her, “Now woman, you will die! Your big evil husband, he kills you now. He left his brother’s son behind to die in Argos city.” 1460
And then she cry and cry loud, “Ah, ah! Oh, oh! No, no!”
Then –ai, ai, ai!
Then she bang and bang her lovely white arms to her chest and to her head, bang, bang! Very sad, very sad noise, she make.
Then she turn fast with her gold sandals and she try to run away, fast, fast.
Then… But Orestes, his big boot, big Mycenaean boot, he run fast to her and pushed fingers inside her hair and pull hard her head. Pull hard back to his shoulder, this one, left one, put his black sword ready to kill, on her neck. 1470
Chorus But what happened to all the Phrygian palace guards? They were supposed to be there to protect her.
Phrygian When we hear the noise of killing – ai, ai, ai!
We run this way, we run that way, we pick up crowbars and other things and we make doors and windows in the rooms they lock us, make them all fall down. Then we pick up stones and bows, another man a sword swish, swish in his hand and run to save Helen.
But when we got there, Pylades was there.
Him strong just like Hektor. Hektor the Phrygian or just like Ajax too. I saw big Ajax. Very big man. Big helmet with three big plumes. I saw Ajax outside Priam’s gates. Big strong man. 1480
Then we swish, swish with the swords and make big fight but it was no good.
The Greeks much better with war than the Phrygians. Born stronger. So, one man run away, another man, fall dead, one other one big wound and one more, fall on the ground and beg for to save his life.
We run this way, we run that way, hide in the shadows.
Ai, ai, ai!
Some men falling down, killed, some men nearly falling down killed and some other men killed. Dead.
Then –ai, ai, ai! 1490
Poor little girl Hermione came inside palace. Her mother was falling down, falling down, killed and poor little girl come inside then!
Then –ai, ai, ai!
Then the men run for Hermione! Run like wild mad men, like Dionysus men with no holy wands, they stop with Helen and run for little girl and they take her and run back again for to Helen, to daughter for Zeus but Helen is nowhere!
Helen gone! Not in the house! Not anywhere!
Not here, not there –ai, ai, ai! Gone!
Light of Day!
Dark of Night!
Maybe magic drugs, maybe magic tricks, maybe gods take away, I don’t know but she run away!
And then I run away and I don’t know what happens after.
My feet run away from the palace, fast, very fast!
Ai, ai, ai!
Oh, poor Menelaos! So much trouble to bring wife back from Troy but Helen gone!
Enter Orestes from the palace, furious, sword in hand
Chorus Ah! Look! 1503
One strange thing follows closely upon another!
Here’s Orestes! Angry and with his sword high!
He’s rushing from the palace.
Chorus He’s sure angry!
Orestes Where’s the man who escaped my sword?
Phrygian Falls before Orestes’ feet
I kiss your feet like barbary people do.
Orestes We’re not in Troy, now, Phrygian. This here is Argos!
Phrygian Yes, yes, my Lord. Argos, yes but everywhere, everyone more sweet to live than to die, my Lord!
Orestes You weren’t trying to call Menelaos for help, were you, Phrygian? 1510
Phrygian Help? Help? Ah, yes, help!
Help for you, my Lord. Better for you to have help, my Lord!
Orestes So, you agree, Helen’s disappearance was justified?
Phrygian Oh, yes, my Lord. Sure. Very justified. Even if she had three throats to cut!
Orestes You are a lying, flattering coward!
Your tongue is not saying what you think!
Phrygian My Lord, she has ruined Greece AND Troy! Greeks and Phrygians, too, she killed!
Orestes Swear you’re not lying to me, Phrygian! Swear or you’ll see the sharp end of this!
Phrygian By my life, my Lord! I swear my life. That’s big swear, not small!
Orestes Bring the sword close to the Phrygian’s throat
Zeus, were all the Trojans as afraid of the sword as you?
Phrygian My Lord, my Lord, move the sword away a little!
Ai, ai, ai! It’s… it’s very shiny death to my eyes.
Orestes Are you afraid that you’ll turn into stone, are you? Like people who see a gorgon? 1520
Phrygian No, not into a stone, my Lord but into a corpse.
I don’t any gorgon people.
Orestes But are a slave, Phrygian and death will release from slavery. Why be afraid of death?
Phrygian Because, my Lord. Even a slave feels good to see the light of the sun.
Orestes Well said, Phrygian. Your good brain has saved you.
Now go into the palace!
Phrygian You, no kill me?
Orestes No, I won’t. I have spared your life.
Phrygian You say good news now.
Orestes Perhaps but I could change them!
Phrygian Oh, no, no good news now!
Do you think I’d dirty my sword with the blood of your throat?
Look at you!
You are neither a woman born nor a man alive!
No, I came out here to stop all your shouting. I don’t want the whole of Argos stirred up over this.
Orestes turns to the chorus. The Phrygian sees this as an opportunity to race away into the palace.
But I am not afraid of Menelaos. Let him come within the reach of my sword. 1531
Let him and his pride over his fancy, shoulder length blond hair come!
Let him come!
But if he comes here, to this palace, with an army of Argives seeking vengeance for Helen’s death, instead of wanting to save me, my sister and my friend then his eyes will fall upon the corpses of both, his wife as well as his daughter!
Chorus Again and again the House of Atreus groans with pain!
Chorus What now?
Shall we inform Argos?
Shall we be silent?
Chorus Silence is the safer move. 1540
A flame then a puff of smoke rises from the roof of the palace
Fire and smoke rise to the heavens.
Chorus The palace sends a new message!
Intermittent flames rise and fall from the roof of the palace
Chorus Torches! They want to burn the palace down!
The house of Tantalus is burning!
Chorus They will stop at nothing!
Chorus No pain is enough for them!
Chorus God declares the end of every mortal.
He and only he will do as he pleases with our end.
Chorus And Vengeance!
Great is her power!
Chorus She has flooded this palace with blood!
Flood the palace in blood!
Chorus All because of the sin of Myrtilus!
Chorus Indicating behind the screens 1550
Ah, look! Here’s Menelaos!
He’s rushing this way.
Chorus He must have heard about the goings on inside the palace.
Chorus Shouts to the people inside the palace.
Hey, you, in there!
You, inside the palace, children of Atreus, bolt the doors well.
Menelaos is coming!
Chorus A man with luck behind him is dangerous to man with no luck, Orestes!
Enter Menelaos with men.
Menelaos I am here because I have heard that dreadful violence has been committed here by… no, I won’t call them men, rather, a pair of wild lions!
They tell me that my wife was not killed but, somehow vanished, obviously a stupid story told by someone whose wits have been shattered by fear. It’s a trick, a lie, concocted by that mother killer, Orestes. A laughable trick!
Approaches the door of the palace 1560
You in the palace! One of you open this door!
To his men
Men, I order you to smash this door so that I can go inside and, at least rescue my daughter from the hands of these murderers and take one last look at my poor wife.
These hands will murder these murderers and send them to meet my wife in Hades!
Menelaos’ men begin to smash the door down when, on the roof of the palace, appear the two men and Elektra, with Hermione. Orestes has his sword at Hermione’s throat. Elektra and Pylades are each holding a lit torch.
The door is shut. Leave it shut!
Yes, you, Menelaos! You and your ever-towering arrogance!
Leave the door or else I’ll crush your head with this stone I’ve ripped off from this ancient building! 1570
The bolts across that door are strong. You won’t bend them, Menelaos and you won’t be able to get inside to rescue anyone.
What is going on here?
Do I see fire on the roof of my house?
Do I see torches all lit up ready to burn the place down?
Is that a tower of men up there?
Is that a sword at my daughter’s throat?
Orestes Menelaos, do you want to keep asking questions or do you want to listen to me?
Menelaos I want neither of the two but you’re forcing me to listen to you.
Orestes Menelaos, if you truly interested, I am about to kill your daughter!
Menelaos You already killed Helen. Do you want to commit yet another murder?
Orestes Helen? Oh, I wish I had managed to get that murder done! 1580
If only the gods had not robbed me of the deed!
Menelaos Your denial is nothing but trickery!
Orestes My denial is, regrettably, authentic!
I wish I could have -
Menelaos Could have done what?
Orestes I wish I could have hurled that woman, that betrayer of Greece into Hades!
Menelaos Let me have my wife’s body so that I may build a tomb for her.
Orestes You’ll have to ask the gods for her body.
But I will kill your daughter here!
Menelaos So, the mother killer will go on killing!
Orestes I killed, seeking vengeance for my father but you! You have abandoned me to murderers!
Menelaos Was not the murder of your mother enough for you?
Orestes I will never have enough of killing evil women! 1590
Menelaos What about you, Pylades?
Are you an accomplice to these murderous deeds?
Pylades does not answer
Orestes His silence says “yes.” I’ll say it for him.
Menelaos But, unless you’ve got wings you won’t escape your crime!
Orestes No, you’re right there. We won’t be escaping.
We’ll be setting the palace on fire.
Menelaos You will burn your own father’s house down?
Orestes Yes, uncle. I will do that to prevent you from getting it!
And then I’ll slaughter this girl over its flames.
Menelaos Well, go ahead then. Kill her. You’ll pay for her murder to me!
Orestes Tightens her grip on Hermione.
It will happen!
Menelaos Ah, no! No, don’t do it!
Orestes Well, then shut up and take what’s coming to you.
Menelaos Take your sword away from my daughter’s throat! 1608
Orestes You are a liar!
Menelaos And you? Will you kill my daughter?
Orestes That’s no lie!
Menelaos In despair 1610
What am I supposed to do now?
Orestes Go and talk to the Argives.
Menelaos Talk to them about what?
Orestes Tell them not kill me!
Menelaos Or else you’ll kill my child?
Menelaos Do you have any right to live? 1600
Orestes To live and to rule this country!
Menelaos The country? What country is that?
Orestes This country here! Pelasgian Argos!
Menelaos What a man to conduct the holy ceremonies!
Orestes Why not?
Menelaos As well as to perform the sacrifices!
Orestes Why, are you better than me?
Menelaos Of course I am. There’s no blood in my hands!
Orestes Maybe not your hands but there’s plenty of blood in your heart!
Menelaos But who would ever speak with you?
Orestes Anyone who loves his father, would, uncle!
Menelaos But no one who loves his mother!
Orestes The man who loves his mother is a lucky man.
Menelaos Then you are certainly not a lucky man!
Orestes No. I hate evil women.
Menelaos O, my poor Helen!
Orestes What about me?
Menelaos Poor Helen!
My poor, Helen I’ve brought you back all the way from Troy, only to have you slaughtered…
Orestes I wish!
Menelaos A million pains, heaped upon a million pains!
Orestes I know all about pains!
Menelaos I have suffered dreadful pains!
Orestes You’ve caused your own suffering by not helping us!
Menelaos You have me in your grips now!
Orestes You’re in the grips of your own cowardice!
Elektra, burn this place down and you, Pylades, my best friend, start burning the parapets!
Menelaos Danaans! Argives! Men of horse loving Argos, help! 1621
Pick up your arms and run over here quickly!
This shameless mother killer is trying to escape his own death by causing totally destruction to your whole city!
A general rush by Agamemnon’s men and by the chorus before Apollo appears on the machine, above everyone.
Soften this anger of yours!
It is I, Phoebus Apollo, son of Leto. I am right here, talking to you from nearby.
And you, too, Orestes! Calm down and stop frightening the poor girl.
All of you listen to my offer.
Orestes, you were extremely angry with Menelaos and you wanted to kill his wife, Helen. She has flown from your hands and now you can see her there Indicating the sky deep into the night’s ether. She is that star there! 1629
It was I, personally who had saved her from your sword, thanks to her father Zeus’ command.
Zeus’ daughter is immortal and so she will go on living in that sky, along with her brothers, Kastor and Polydeuces, a star that will be of great help to the sailors.
Marry another woman now for your house.
The gods had used Helen’s beauty to bring the people of Phrygia and Greece together to a single place on earth where they would die and thus lighten the burden of the ever-growing population of mortals. 1640
So much for Helen.
As for you, Orestes, you must now leave the borders of Argos and spend the full circle of the next year in the meadows of Parrhasia. Your exile there will change her name and both, Arcadians and Parrhasians will know it henceforth as Oresteum.
At the end of that year go to the city of Athens and submit yourself to the hands of the three Eumenides for your prosecution as a matricide.
There, on the hill of Ares, the judging gods will cast their votes which will be respected by both sides and you will be declared victorious. 1651
Furthermore, Orestes, your Fate declares that you will marry the woman at whose throat you are holding your sword. Hermione. Neoptolemus who thinks that he will marry her will not do so. For him it is written that he must die by the sword of someone from Delphi when Neoptolemus goes there to demand from me satisfaction for the death of Achilles, his father.
You have promised your sister, Elektra to your friend there, Pylades. You must fulfil that promise. His life is destined to be blessed.
Menelaos, you must allow Orestes to be king of Argos and you must go and rule Sparta, your wife’s dowry, a land that has caused you immeasurable pain right up to this very minute. 1660
I will reconcile this man with this city since it was I who has forced him to kill his own mother.
God of prophesy!
At the time you forced me to kill my mother I thought I was hearing the voice of some avenging spirit but now, I can see that your prophesies are not false. They are indeed true!
Still, it has all turned out well and I will heed your words. 1670
Look, I am letting Hermione go. I will not kill her and I will accept marriage to her whenever her father will offer her to me.
Daughter of Zeus, joy to you!
You are indeed blessed and you shall live in the home of the blessed gods.
Orestes, Apollo has commanded me to give you my daughter and so I now obey his command.
You are of noble blood and you will be marrying into a house of nobility so, may both of you enjoy your lives.
Apollo So, then, depart all of you to the place I have allocated for you and end now your quarrel.
Menelaos We shall do so, Apollo.
Orestes I agree.
I end my quarrel about everything that has happened before and about your oracles, Apollo.
Orestes, Elektra, Pylades, and Hermione climb down from the roof and reappear on the stage through the palace door.
Apollo Go, then, all of you.
Peace is the loveliest of the gods. Honour her.
I will guide Helen through the bright star-filled sky to the chambers of Zeus.
There, she will sit on the throne, next to Hera and Hebe, Herakles’ wife and she, too, will be a goddess to be honoured and revered by mortals for ever and worshipped with sacrifices and libations, along with her brothers, sons of Zeus, the Tyndarids, Castor and Polydeuces, guides, all three to the men who sail over the sea’s waves.
End of Euripides’ “ORESTES”