A monologue from the play by Euripides

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. ii. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1922.
  • MEDEA: From my apartment, ye Corinthian dames,
    Lest ye my conduct censure, I come forth:
    For I have known full many who obtained
    Fame and high rank; some to the public gaze
    Stood ever forth, while others, in a sphere
    More distant, chose their merits to display:
    Nor yet a few, who, studious of repose,
    Have with malignant obloquy been called
    Devoid of spirit: for no human eyes
    Can form a just discernment; at one glance,
    Before the inmost secrets of the heart
    Are clearly known, a bitter hate 'gainst him
    Who never wronged us they too oft inspire.
    But 'tis a stranger's duty to adopt
    The manners of the land in which he dwells;
    Nor can I praise that native, led astray
    By mere perverseness and o'erweening folly,
    Who bitter enmity incurs from those
    Of his own city. But, alas! my friends,
    This unforseen calamity hath withered
    The vigour of my soul. I am undone,
    Bereft of every joy that life can yield,
    And therefore wish to die. For as to him,
    My husband, whom it did import me most
    To have a thorough knowledge of, he proves
    The worst of men. But sure among all those
    Who have with breath and reason been endued,
    We women are the most unhappy race.
    First, with abundant gold are we constrained
    To buy a husband, and in him receive
    A haughty master. Still doth there remain
    One mischief than this mischief yet more grievous,
    The hazard whether we procure a mate
    Worthless or virtuous: for divorces bring
    Reproach to woman, nor must she renounce
    The man she wedded; as for her who comes
    Where usages and edicts, which at home
    She learnt not, are established, she the gift
    Of divination needs to teach her how
    A husband must be chosen: if aright
    These duties we perform, and he the yoke
    Of wedlock with complacency sustains,
    Ours is a happy life; but if we fail
    In this great object, better 'twere to die.
    For, when afflicted by domestic ills,
    A man goes forth, his choler to appease,
    And to some friend or comrade can reveal
    What he endures; but we to him alone
    For succour must look up. They still contend
    That we, at home remaining, lead a life
    Exempt from danger, while they launch the spear:
    False are these judgments; rather would I thrice,
    Armed with a target, in th' embattled field
    Maintain my stand, than suffer once the throes
    Of childbirth. But this language suits not you:
    This is your native city, the abode
    Of your loved parents, every comfort life
    Can furnish is at hand, and with your friends
    You here converse: but I, forlorn, and left
    Without a home, am by that husband scorned
    Who carried me from a Barbarian realm.
    Nor mother, brother, or relation now
    Have I, to whom I 'midst these storms of woe,
    Like an auspicious haven, can repair.
    Thus far I therefore crave ye will espouse
    My interests, as if haply any means
    Or any stratagem can be devised
    For me with justice to avenge these wrongs
    On my perfidious husband, on the king
    Who to that husband's arms his daughter gave,
    And the new-wedded princess; to observe
    Strict silence. For although at other times
    A woman, filled with terror, is unfit
    For battle, or to face the lifted sword,
    She when her soul by marriage wrongs is fired,
    Thirsts with a rage unparalleled for blood.