HELEN – Monologue (Helen – 1)

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.


At thy knees I fall,
O virgin, as a suppliant, and here take
My miserable seat, both for myself,
And him whom, scarce restored to me, I see
Now on the verge of death. Forbear t’ inform
Thy brother, that to these fond arms my lord
Again is come. O save him, I implore thee;
Nor gratify thy brother, by betraying
The feelings of humanity, to purchase
A wicked and unjust applause: for Jove
Detests all violence, he bids us use
What we possess, but not increase our stores
By rapine. It is better to be poor,
Than gain unrighteous wealth. For all mankind
Enjoy these common blessings, Air and Earth;
Nor ought we our own house with gold to fill,
By keeping fraudfully another’s right,
Or seizing it by violence. For Hermes,
Commissioned by the blest immortal powers,
Hath, at my cost, consigned me to thy sire,
To keep me for this husband, who is here
And claims me back again: but by what means
Can he receive me after he is dead?
Or how can the Egyptian king restore me
A living consort to my breathless lord?
Consider therefore, both the will of Heaven
And that of thy great father. Would the god,
Would the deceased, surrender up or keep
Another’s right? I deem they would restore it.
Hence to thy foolish brother shouldst not thou
Pay more respect than to thy virtuous sire.
And sure if thou, a prophetess, who utter’st
Th’ oracular responses of the gods,
Break’st through thy father’s justice, to comply
With an unrighteous brother: it were base
In thee to understand each mystic truth
Revealed by the immortal powers, the things
That are, and those that are not; yet o’erlook
The rules of justice. But O stoop to save
Me, miserable me, from all those ills
In which I am involved; this great exertion
Of thy benignant aid, my fortunes claim.
For there is no man who abhors not Helen;
‘Tis rumored through all Greece that I betrayed
My husband, and abode beneath the roofs
Of wealthy Phrygia. But to Greece once more
Should I return and to the Spartan realm;
When they are told, and see, how to the arts
Of these contending goddesses they owe
Their ruin; but that I have to my friends
Been ever true, they to the rank I held
‘Midst chaste and virtuous matrons, will restore me:
My daughter too, whom no man dares to wed,
From me her bridal portion shall receive;
And I, no longer doomed to lead the life
Of an unhappy vagrant, shall enjoy
The treasures that our palaces contain.
Had Menelaus died, and been consumed
In the funeral pyre, I should have wept
For him far distant in a foreign realm;
But now shall I for ever be bereft
Of him who lives, and seem to have escaped
From every danger. Virgin, act not thus;
To thee I kneel a suppliant; O confer
On me this boon, and emulate the justice
Of your great sire. For fair renown attends
The children, from a virtuous father sprung,
Who equal their hereditary worth.

Read the play here

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