A monologue from the play by Jean Racine

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramatic Works of Jean Racine. Trans. Robert Bruce Boswell. London: George Bell and Sons, 1911.
  • ESTHER: O God, my King,
    Behold me trembling and alone before Thee!
    How oft my father in my childhood taught me
    That Thou didst swear a covenant with us
    When, to prepare a people for Thyself,
    It pleased Thee in Thy love to choose our fathers:
    Yea, Thine own holy mouth did promise them
    Posterity that should endure for ever.
    Alas! This people has despised Thy law;
    The nation of Thy choice has been unfaithful;
    She has cast off her Husband and her Father,
    To pay adulterous vows to other gods;
    And now she stoops beneath the stranger's yoke.
    But to be slaves is not enough, our lives
    Are threaten'd; our proud conquerors mock our tears,
    To their own gods ascribe their victories,
    And with one mortal blow would fain to-day
    Destroy Thy name, Thy people, and Thy worship.
    Shall then a traitor, after all Thy deeds
    Of wondrous might, make void Thy covenant,
    Rob all mankind of Thy most precious gift,
    The Holy One, long promised, long expected?
    No, no, forbid the Gentiles in their fury,
    Drunk with our blood, to shut the only mouths
    Which hymn Thy praises throughout all the world;
    Confound their gods that are no gods at all.
    And as for me whom Thou hast placed among
    These infidels, Thou knowest how I hate
    Their sinful feasts, and count as profanations
    Their table, and their offerings, and rites;
    This very pomp to which I am condemn'd,
    This diadem, that I am forced to wear
    On days of high solemnity and pride,
    I trample under foot when all alone,
    To these vain gauds preferring dust and ashes,
    And take no pleasure but in tears like these.
    I have been waiting Thine appointed time
    To venture boldly in Thy people's cause.
    The hour is come; and I, with prompt submission,
    Will brave the dreadful presence of the King.
    'Tis in Thy name I go; guide Thou my steps
    Before this lion fierce that knows Thee not;
    Command his wrath to sleep at sight of me,
    And lend me gracious words to charm his ear.
    The winds and tempests of the skies obey Thee;
    Turn Thou his rage against our enemies.