A monologue from the play by Euripides

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. i. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1920.
  • HELEN: To what ills
    Have I been subject, O my dear companions!
    Did not my mother, as a prodigy
    Which wondering mortals gaze at, bring me forth?
    For neither Grecian nor barbaric dame
    Till then produced an egg, in which her children
    Enveloped lay, as they report, from Jove
    Leda engendered. My whole life and all
    That hath befallen me, but conspires to form
    One series of miraculous events;
    To Juno some, and to my beauty some
    Are owing. Would to Heaven, that, like a tablet
    Whose picture is effaced, I could exchange
    This form for one less comely, since the Greeks
    Forgetting those abundant gifts showered down
    By prosperous Fortune which I now possess,
    Think but of what redounds not to my honour,
    And still remember my ideal shame.
    Whoever therefore, with one single species
    Of misery is afflicted by the gods,
    Although the weight of Heaven's chastising hand
    Be grievous, may with fortitude endure
    Such visitation: but by many woes
    Am I oppressed, and first of all exposed
    To slanderous tongues, although I ne'er have erred.
    It were a lesser evil e'en to sin
    Than be suspected falsely. Then the gods,
    'Midst men of barbarous manners, placed me far
    From my loved country: torn from every friend,
    I languish here, to servitude consigned
    Although of free born race: for 'midst barbarians
    Are all enslaved but one, their haughty lord.
    My fortunes had this single anchor left,
    Perchance my husband might at length arrive
    To snatch me from my woes; but he, alas!
    Is now no more, my mother too is dead,
    And I am deemed her murd'ress, though unjustly,
    Yet am I branded with this foul reproach;
    And she who was the glory of our house,
    My daughter in the virgin state grown grey,
    Still droops unwedded: my illustrious brothers,
    Castor and Pollux, called the sons of Jove,
    Are now no more. But I impute my death,
    Crushed as I am by all these various woes,
    Not to my own misdeeds, but to the power
    Of adverse fortune only: this one danger
    There yet remains, if at my native land
    I should again arrive, they will confine me
    In a close dungeon, thinking me that Helen
    Who dwelt in Ilion, till she thence was borne
    By Menelaus. Were my husband living,
    We might have known each other, by producing
    Those tokens to which none beside are privy:
    But this will never be, nor can he e'er
    Return in safety. To what purpose then
    Do I still lengthen out this wretched being?
    To what new fortunes am I still reserved?
    Shall I select a husband, but to vary
    My present ills, to dwell beneath the roof
    Of a barbarian, at luxurious boards
    With wealth abounding, seated? for the dame
    Whom wedlock couples with the man she hates
    Death is the best expedient. But with glory
    How shall I die? the fatal noose appears
    To be so base, that e'en in slaves 'tis held
    Unseemly thus to perish; in the poniard
    There's somewhat great and generous. But to me
    Delays are useless: welcome instant death:
    Into such depth of misery am I plunged.
    For beauty renders other women blest,
    But hath to me the source of ruin proved.