A monologue from the play by Sophocles
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Dramas. Sophocles. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1906.
TECMESSA: O my lord Ajax, in the ills of men
There is none sorer than Necessity.
I was the offspring of a sire free-born,
Strong in his wealth, no Phrygian more than he;
And now, I am a slave. So the Gods willed it,
And thy right hand determined. Coming thus
Unto thy bed, I am on thy side, now.
And I beseech thee by our household Jove,
And by thy couch, which thou didst share with me,
Leave me not open to contemptuous talk
From thy foes’ tongues, bequeathing me to be
Handmaid to some one! For the very day
Thou diest, and dying puttest me away,
Think how the Argives will lay violent hands
On me who, with thy son, must thenceforth eat
The bread of bondage! And some master then,
In bitter language aiming taunts at me,
Will word me–“Look at Ajax’ concubine!
His, who was once the mightiest of the host;
What servitude, after such envied state,
Is come on her!” Such things will some one say,
And I shall be the sport of destiny,
But thee and thine these sayings will bring to shame.
O tremble, ere in sorrowful old age
Thou leav’st thy father–leav’st thy mother, too,
Who has seen so many years, and oft to Heaven
Is praying for thy return in safety home!
And pity, O king, thy son–if he, bereft
Of childish nurture, must survive alone,
Under unfriendly guardians–what sore trouble
Is this which, by the death, thou wilt impart
To him and me? For I no longer know
To whom to look, save thee; my native land
Thy spear destroyed; and yet another stroke
Brought low my mother and my sire, to be
Inhabitants of Hades with the dead.
What home, then, could supply thy place to me?
What wealth? All my existence is in thee.
Have thou some care for me. Some mindfulness
A man should surely keep, of any thing
That pleased him once.