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.
HECUBA: Not one
Exists, whose sorrows equal mine, unless
You of Calamity herself would speak.
Yet hear the motive why I clasp your knees.
If I appear to merit what I suffer,
I must be patient; but if not, avenge
My wrongs upon the man who ‘gainst his guest
Such treachery could commit, who, nor the gods
Of Erebus beneath, nor those who rule
In Heaven above regarding, this vile deed
Did perpetrate, e’en he with whom I oft
Partook the feast, on whom I showered each bounty,
Esteeming him the first of all my friends;
Yet, when at Ilion’s palace with respect
He had been treated, a deliberate scheme
Of murder forming, he destroyed my son,
On whom he deigned not to bestow a tomb,
But threw his corse into the briny deep.
Though I indeed am feeble, and a slave,
Yet mighty are the gods, and by their law
The world is ruled: for by that law we learn
That there are gods, and can mark out the bounds
Of justice and injustice; if such law
To you transmitted, be infringed, if they
Who kill their guests, or dare with impious hand
To violate the altars of the gods,
Unpunished ‘scape, no equity is left
Among mankind. Deeming such base connivance
Unworthy of yourself, revere my woes,
Have pity on me, like a painter take
Your stand to view me, and observe the number
Of my afflictions; once was I a queen,
But now am I a slave; in many a son
I once was rich, but now am I both old
And of my children reft, without a city,
Forlorn, and of all mortals the most wretched.
That band of my heroic sons is now no more,
Myself a captive, am led forth to tasks
Unseemly, and e’en now these eyes behold
The air obscured by Ilion’s rising smoke.
It might be vain perhaps, were I to found
A claim to your assistance on your love:
Yet must I speak: my daughter, who in Troy
Was called Cassandra, the prophetic dame,
Partakes your bed; and how those rapturous nights
Will you acknowledge, or to her show
Your gratitude for all the fond embraces
Which she bestows, O king, or in her stead
To me her mother? In the soul of man
Th’ endearments of the night, by darkness veiled,
Create the strongest interest. To my tale
Now listen: do you see that breathless corse?
Each act of kindness which to him is shown,
Upon a kinsman of the dame you love
Will be conferred. But, in one point my speech
Is yet deficient. By the wondrous arts
Of Dædalus, or some benignant god,
Could I give voice to each arm, hand, and hair,
And each extremest joint, they round your knees
Should cling together, and together weep,
At once combining with a thousand tongues.
O monarch, O thou light of Greece, comply,
And stretch forth that avenging arm to aid
An aged woman, though she be a thing
Of nought, O succour: for the good man’s duty
Is to obey the dread behests of justice,
And ever punish those who act amiss.