Ion – Monologue (Old Man)

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.


My honoured mistress (for with you I grieve),
We are betrayed by your perfidious lord,
Wronged by premeditated fraud, and cast
Forth from Erectheus’ house: I speak not this
Through hatred to your husband, but because
I love you more than him, who wedding you
When to the city he a stranger came,
Your palace too and whole inheritance
With you receiving, on some other dame
Appears to have begotten sons by stealth:
How ’twas by stealth I’ll prove; when he perceived
That you were barren, he was not content
To share the self-same fate, but on a slave,
Whom he embraced in secrecy, begot
And to some Delphic matron gave this son,
That in a foreign realm he might be nurtured:
He, to the temple of Apollo sent,
Is here trained up in secret. But the sire,
Soon as he knew the stripling had attained
The years of manhood, hath on you prevailed
Hither to come, because you had no child.
The god indeed hath spoken truth; not so
Xuthus, who from his infancy hath reared
The boy, and forged these tales; that, if detected,
His crimes might be imputed to the god:
But coming hither, and by length of time
Hoping to screen the fraud, he now resolves
He will transfer the sceptre to this stripling,
For whom at length he forges the new name
Of Ion, to denote that he went forth
And met him. Ah, how do I ever hate
Those wicked men who plot unrighteous deeds,
And then adorn them with delusive art!
Rather would I possess a virtuous friend
Of mean abilities, than one more wise
And profligate. Of all disastrous fates
Yours is the worst, who to your house admit
Its future lord, whose mother is unknown,
A youth selected from th’ ignoble crowd,
The base-born issue of some female slave.
For this had only been a single ill
Had he persuaded you, since you are childless,
T’ adopt, and in your place lodged the son
Of some illustrious dame: but if to you
This scheme had been disgustful, from the kindred
Of Æolus his sire should he have sought
Another consort. Hence is it incumbent
On you to execute some great revenge
Worthy of woman: with the lifted sword,
Or by some stratagem or deadly poison,
Your husband and his offspring to dispatch
Ere you by them are murdered: you will lose
Your life if you delay, for when two foes
Meet in one house some mischief must befall,
Or this or that. I therefore will with you
Partake the danger, and with you conspire
To slay that stripling, entering the abode
Where for the sumptuous banquet he is making
Th’ accustomed preparation. While I view
The sun, and e’en in death, I will repay
The bounty of those lords who nurtured me.
For there is one thing only which confers
Disgrace on slaves–the name; in all beside
No virtuous slave to freeborn spirit yields.

Read the play here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top