HIPPOLYTUS – Monologue (Nurse)

A monologue from the play by Euripides

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. ii. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1922.


O queen, at first, an instantaneous shock,
I, from the history of thy woes, received:
Now am I sensible my fears were groundless.
But frequently the second thoughts of man
Are more discreet; for there is nothing strange
Nought, in thy sufferings, foreign to the course
Of nature: thee the goddess in her rage
Invades. Thou lov’st. And why should this surprise?
Many as well as thee have done the same.
Art thou resolved to cast thy life away
Because thou lov’st? How wretched were the state
Of those who love, and shall hereafter love,
If death must thence ensue! For though too strong
To be withstood, when she with all her might
Assails us, Venus gently visits those
Who yield; but if she light on one who soars
With proud and overweening views too high,
As thou mayst well conceive, to utter scorn
Such she exposes; through the boundless tracts
Of air she glides, and reigns ‘midst ocean’s waves:
All things from her their origin derive,
‘Tis she that in each breast the genial seeds
Of potent love infuses, and from love
Descends each tribe that fills the peopled earth.
Thy who with ancient writings have conversed,
And ever dwell among the tuneful Nine,
Know how to Theban Semele’s embrace
Flew amorous Jove, how bright Aurora stole
Young Cephalus, and placed among the gods
The object of her passion: yet in Heaven
They still reside, where unabashed they meet
Their kindred gods; those gods, because they feel
A sympathetic wound, I deem, indulge
Their weakness: and wilt thou refuse to bear
Like imperfections? Nature on these terms
Decreed thou from thy father shouldst receive
Thy being: look for other gods, or yield
Submission to these laws. Hast thou observed,
How many husbands, men who are endued
With a superior wisdom, when they see
The nuptial bed by secret lust defiled,
Appear as though they saw not: and how oft
The fathers, if their sons transgress, connive
At their unhappy passion? To conceal
Unseemly actions is no trifling part
Of human wisdom; nor should man his life
Form with too great precision; for the roof,
The covering from the storm, the builder leaves
Less fair, less highly finished. If immersed
In evils great as those thou hast described,
How canst thou hope to ‘scape? But if thy virtues,
Since thou art only human, far exceed
Thy failings, it is well with thee: desist,
O my loved daughter, from thy evil purpose,
And cease to utter these reproachful words:
For there is nought but contumelious pride
In thy endeavour to be yet more perfect
Than the immortal gods: endure thy passion
With fortitude, since ’twas the will divine
That thou shouldst love: but give a prosperous turn,
If possible, to thy disease. For songs
There are with magic virtues fraught, and words
Which soothe the soul: hence an effectual cure
May be obtained: in such discovery man
Would long in vain be busied, to our sex
If no spontaneous stratagem occur.

Read the play here

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