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.
  • ELECTRA: Then I will speak, and preface thus my speech.
    I wish, my mother, that a better mind
    Were thine; for excellence of form hath brought
    To thee and Helena deserved praise.
    Nature hath formed you sisters, light and vain,
    Of Castor much unworthy. She was borne
    Away, and by her own consent undone;
    Thou hast destroyed the noblest man of Greece:
    Thy daughter's death thy pretext, thou hast slain
    Thy husband; but so well as I none knows,
    Before it was decreed that she should die,
    Whilst from Mycenæ his departure yet
    Was recent, at the mirror didst thou form
    The graceful ringlets of thy golden hair.
    The wife, that in her husband's absence seeks
    With curious care to set her beauty forth,
    Mark as a wanton: she with nicest skill
    Would not adorn her person to appear
    Abroad, but that she is inclined to ill.
    Of all the Grecian dames didst thou alone,
    I know, rejoice, when prosperous were the arms
    Of Troy; but when defeated, on thine eyes
    A cloud hung dark; for never didst thou wish
    That Agamemnon should from Troy return.
    Yet glorious was th' occasion offered thee
    The strength of female virtue to display:
    Thou hadst a husband in no excellence
    Inferior to Ægisthus: and so vile
    Thy sister's conduct, thou hadst power from thence
    The highest honour to thyself to draw;
    For in the foulness of th' example vice
    Instructive holds a mirror to the good.
    But if my father, as thou urgest, killed
    Thy daughter, how have I to thee done wrong?
    My brother how? Or why, when thou hadst slain
    Thy husband, didst thou not to us consign
    Our father's house, but make it the lewd scene
    Of other nuptials purchased by that prize?
    Nor is thy husband exiled for thy son;
    Nor hath he died for me, though, far beyond
    My sister's death, me living hath he slain.
    If blood, in righteous retribution, calls
    For blood, by me behoves it thou shouldst bleed,
    And by thy son Orestes, to avenge
    My father: there if this was just alike
    Is it just here. Unwise is he, who weds,
    Allured by riches or nobility,
    A vicious woman: all that greatness brings
    Must yield to that endeared domestic bliss,
    Which on the chaste though humble bed attends.