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.
  • IPHIGENIA: Had I, my father, the persuasive voice
    Of Orpheus, and his skill to charm the rocks
    To follow me, and soothe whome'er I please
    With winning words, I would make trial of it;
    But I have nothing to present thee now
    Save tears, my only eloquence; and those
    I can present thee. On thy knees I hang,
    A suppliant wreath, this body, which she bore
    To thee. Ah! kill me not in youth's fresh prime.
    Sweet is the light of heaven; compel me not
    What is beneath to view. I was the first
    To call thee father, me thou first didst call
    Thy child; I was the first that on thy knees
    Fondly caressed thee, and from thee received
    The fond caress; this was thy speech to me:
    "Shall I, my child, e'er see thee in some house
    Of splendour, happy in thy husband, live,
    And flourish, as becomes my dignity?"
    My speech to thee was, leaning 'gainst thy cheek,
    Which with my hand I now caress: "And what
    Shall I then do for thee? Shall I receive
    My father when grown old, and in my house
    Cheer him with each fond office, to repay
    The careful nurture which he gave my youth?"
    These words are on my memory deep impressed;
    Thou hast forgot them, and wilt kill thy child.
    By Pelops I entreat thee, by thy sire
    Atreus, by this my mother, who before
    Suffered for me the pangs of childbirth, now
    These pangs again to suffer, do not kill me.
    If Paris be enamoured of his bride,
    His Helen, what concerns it me? and how
    Comes he to my destruction? Look upon me,
    Give me a smile, give me a kiss, my father,
    That, if my words persuade thee not, in death
    I may have this memorial of thy love.
    My brother, small assistance canst thou give
    Thy friends, yet for thy sister with thy tears
    Implore thy father that she may not die:
    E'en infants have a sense of ills: and see,
    My father, silent though he be, he sues
    To thee: be gentle to me, on my life
    Have pity. Thy two children by this beard
    Entreat thee, thy dear children: one is yet
    An infant, one to riper years arrived.
    I will sum all in this, which shall contain
    More than long speech: To view the light of life
    To mortals is most sweet, but all beneath
    Is nothing: of his senses is he reft
    Who hath a wish to die; for life, though ill,
    Excels whate'er there is of good in death.