A monologue from the play by Sophocles

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Dramas. Sophocles. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1906.
  • DEIANIRA: Friends, while our guest is parleying in the house
    With the girl-captives, on the point to go,
    I am come forth to you in private, first
    Wishing to tell you my devices, next
    To be condoled with for my injuries.
    For I have taken to my house a maid--
    A maid no more, but mated, to my thinking--
    Even as a shipman takes a load on board,
    A losing bargain for my heart! And now
    We two abide beneath one coverlet
    To be embraced. This reward Heracles--
    Faithful and good as we reputed him--
    Sends, in return for my long house-tending.
    And him I cannot be indignant with,
    Often afflicted by this malady;
    But to keep house with her, and to go shares
    In the same marriage-bond--what wife could do it?
    For I see bloom on her side coming on,
    And on mine fading; and of such an eye
    Will pick the flower, and eschew the rest.
    This, then, is what I fear; lest Heracles
    Come to be called my consort, but her mate,
    The younger woman. Still it is not well
    A wife who has discretion, as I said,
    Should become wroth; rather in what way, friends,
    I may find easement, to deliver me,
    Lo, I will tell you. I have long possessed
    A keepsake of a monster of old time,
    Put by in a brass vessel, which I took
    When yet a girl, out of the mortal wound
    Of the shag-bosomed Nessus, as he died;
    Who used to carry men across the ford
    Of the Evenus, a deep stream, for hire,
    With his mere hands, plying without oar or sail.
    He, when I first with Heracles a bride
    Went, at my sire's disposing, carried me
    Upon his back, when he was in mid-passage,
    Touched me with wanton hands. And I cried out;
    And straight the son of Jove turned, and his hands
    Launched a winged shaft; and it whizzed through the breast,
    Into his lungs. And as the brute expired,
    He spake these words; "Child of old Œneus,
    If you will hear, you shall have this much profit,
    Seeing you were my last of passengers,
    Out of my ferrying; for if you collect
    The gore that stiffens round my deadly wound,
    Just where the black envenomed shafts were dipped
    In blood of the Lernæan water-snake,
    A medicine for the heart of Heracles
    It shall be to you; so that he shall love
    No woman whom he looks on, more than you."
    Mindful of this, my friends--for since his death
    It has been carefully locked up at home--
    I dipped this tunic, and threw in the whole
    Of what he told me just before he died.
    This has been done. Now never may I know--
    Never be taught--malign experiments;
    Nay, those who try them I detest; but if
    Against this girl by charms I may prevail,
    And by a philtre used on Heracles--
    Why, means have been supplied; unless I seem
    Busied in vain; if so, I will not do it.