A monologue from the play by Sophocles
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Dramas. Sophocles. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1906.
O front of impudence! Which thinkest thou
Now to defile–My grey hairs, or thine own?
Who hast spit forth out of thy mouth at me
Murders and marriages and accidents,
Which to my grief, not of free will, I suffered;
Such was the will of Heaven, that had some cause
For wrath, it may be, with out house, of old.
Since for myself, I know you cannot find
Any reproach of wrongfulness in me,
That could have doomed me to commit these wrongs
Against myself and mine; for, answer me,
If to my father by an oracle
The revelation came that he should die
By his son’s hands, how can you justly tax
Me with the fact, whom neither father yet
Then had begot, or mother had conceived,
Me, who as yet had not begun to me?
And if thereafter proving–as I proved–
Hapless, I did lay hands upon my sire
And slay him, nowise knowing what I did,
Nor yet to whom I did it, how, I ask,
Can you with reason blame the unconscious deed!
And for my mother–are you not ashamed,
O miserable! at forcing me to name
Her marriage, your own sister’s–as I will–
I will not now be silent, you being grown
To such a monster of outspokenness!
She bare–ah, yes, unknowingly she bare
Me–who not knew! Woe worth the while to me
And having given me birth, she brought me forth
Children–her own reproach! But of set purpose,
For one thing, well I know, you spit this venom
On her, and me; whereas I wedded her
Unwitting, and unwillingly speak of it.
But not for this my marriage, nor for that–
That parricide, which you continually
Throw in my teeth, bitterly upbraiding it,
Do I consent to be called infamous.
For answer me a question; but this one;
If any person here upon the spot
Drew near to kill you–you the just one–whether
Would you enquire if he that sought your life
Were your own father, or requite him straight?
You would requite the offender, I conceive,
If you love life; not look about for law.
Just such was the misfortune I incurred,
Led by the hand of Heaven; for which, I fancy,
Not even my father’s spirit, were he alive,
Could say one word against me. And yet you–
(For just you are not, but think well to utter
All things, both lawful and unlawful,) you
Slander me with these sayings before them all!
Yea, you make free to fawn on Theseus’ name,
And upon Athens–how decorously
She hath been ordered; and so lauding her,
You miss out this, that if there be a land
That knows what reverence to the Gods is due,
‘Tis she herein excels, whence to remove
Me, the old suppliant, you assail my person,
And seize my daughters, and make off with them.
Wherefore these maiden Powers I invoke
With supplications, and with prayers adjure
To come, as aiders and auxiliaries;
So you may learn what sort of men they are,
By whom this city is defended.