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.
ORESTES: In reverence to thy age I dread to speak
What I well know must pierce thy heart with grief.
I am unholy in my mother’s death,
But holy, as my father I avenged.
The veneration due to those grey hairs
Strikes me with awe: else I could urge my plea
Freely and boldly; but thy years dismay me.
What could I do? Let fact be weighed with fact.
My father was the author of my being;
Thy daughter brought me forth: he gave me life,
Which she but fostered: to the higher cause
A higher reverence then I deemed was due.
Thy daughter, for I dare not call her mother,
Forsook her royal bed for a rank sty
Of secret and adulterous lust: on me
The word reflects disgrace, yet I must speak it.
Ægisthus was this private paramour:
Him first I slew, then sacrificed my mother:
An impious deed; but I avenged my father.
Thou threatenst the just vengeance of the state:
Hear me: deserve I not the thanks of Greece?
Should wives with ruffian boldness kill their husbands,
Then fly for refuge to their sons, and think,
Baring their breast, to captivate their pity,
These deeds would pass for nothing, as the mood,
For something or for nothing, shall incline them.
This complot have I broke, by doing what
Thy pompous language styles atrocious deeds.
My soul abhorred my mother, and I slew her,
Who, when her lord was absent, and in arms
To glorious conquest led the sons of Greece,
Betrayed him, with pollution stained his bed;
And, conscious of her guilt, sought not t’ atone it,
But, to escape his righteous vengeance, poured
Destruction on his head, and killed my father.
Now by the gods, though in a charge of blood
Ill it becomes me to invoke the gods,
Had I in silence tamely borne her deeds,
Would not the murdered, justly hating me,
Have roused the Furies to torment my soul?
Or hath she only her assisting fiends,
And he no fav’ring power t’ avenge his wrongs?
Thou, when to that bad daughter thou gavst birth,
Didst give me ruin; for through her bold crime
I lost my father, and my mother slew.
Seest thou Ulysses’ wife? Telemachus
Shed not her blood; for she, unstained with vice,
Guards her chaste bed with spotless sanctity.
Seest thou Apollo, who to mortal ears
Sounds from his central cave the voice of truth?
Him we obey in all that he commands:
Obeying his commands, I slew my mother;
Drag him then to your bar, put him to death;
The guilt is his, not mine. What should I do?
The guilt on him transferred, is not the god
Sufficient to absolve me? Where shall man
Find refuge, if the god, at whose command
I did it, will not now save me from death?
Then say not that these deeds were done not well,
But to the doers most unhappily.
If well accorded, the connubial state
From all its strings speaks perfect harmony;
If ill, at home, abroad, the harsh notes jar,
And with rude discord wound the ear of Peace.