THE TROJAN WOMEN – Monologue (Hecuba)

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.


Forbear, ye virgins; what was pleasing once
Pleases no more: here let me lie thus fall’n,
A fall that suits what I have suffered, what
I suffer, and shall suffer. O ye gods,
Unkind associates I indeed invoke,
Yet when affliction rends the anguished heart,
We with becoming grace invoke the gods
First it is pleasing to me to recount
My happier fortunes: thus my woes shall raise
A stronger pity. Royal was my birth,
And marriage joined me to a royal house;
There I was mother of illustrious sons,
Sons with superior excellence adorned
Above the Phrygians; such no Trojan dame,
No Grecian, no Barbarian e’er could boast;
These I saw fall’n beneath the Grecian spear,
And laid my several tresses on their tomb.
For Priam too, their father, flowed my tears;
His fate I heard not from report, but saw it,
These eyes beheld him murdered at the altar
Of Guardian Jove; my vanquished city stormed;
My daughters, whom I nurtured high in hope
Of choosing honourable nuptials for them,
For others nurtured from my hands are rent;
There is no hope that me they e’er shall see,
And I shall never see them more. Th’ extreme,
The height of my afflicting ill is this:
I to some house shall go a hoary slave,
To some base task, most irksome to my age,
Assigned; or at their doors to keep the keys
A portress shall I wait, the mother once
Of Hector, or to labour at the mill;
For royal couches, on the ground to make
My rugged bed; and o’er these worn-out limbs
The tattered remnant of a worn-out robe,
Unseemly to my happier state, to throw.
Ah, for one woman’s nuptial bed, what woes
Are mine, and will be mine! Alas, my child,
My poor Cassandra, madd’ning with the gods,
By what misfortunes is thy purity
Defiled? And where art thou, Polyxena,
O thou unhappy! Thus of all my sons
And all my daughters, many though they were,
Not one is left to soothe my miseries.
Why do you raise me, virgins? With what hope
Lead you this foot, which once with stately port
In Troy advanced, but now a slave, to seek
A bed of leaves strewn on the ground, a stone
My pillow, there to lie, to perish there
Wasted with tears? Then deem not of the great
Now flourishing as happy, ere they die.

Read the play here

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