Before the temple of THETIS in Thessaly. ANDROMACHE, dressed as a
suppliant, is clinging to the altar in front of the temple. The palace
of Achilles is nearby.
ANDROMACHE O city of Thebes, glory of Asia, whence on a day I came
to Priam's princely home with many a rich and costly thing in my dower,
affianced unto Hector to be the mother of his children, I Andromache,
envied name in days of yore, but now of all women that have been or
yet shall be the most unfortunate; for I have lived to see my husband
Hector slain by Achilles, and the babe Astyanax, whom I bore my lord,
hurled from the towering battlements, when the Hellenes sacked our
Trojan home; and I myself am come to Hellas as a slave, though I was
esteemed a daughter of a race most free, given to Neoptolemus that
island-prince, and set apart for him as his special prize from the
spoils of Troy. And here I dwell upon the boundaries of Phthia and
Pharsalia's town, where Thetis erst, the goddess of the sea, abode
with Peleus apart from the world, avoiding the throng of men; wherefore
the folk of Thessaly call it the sacred place of Thetis, in honour
of the goddess's marriage. Here dwells the son of Achilles and suffers
Peleus still to rule Pharsalia, not wishing to assume the sceptre
while the old man lives. Within these halls have borne a boy to the
son of Achilles, my master. Now aforetime for all my misery I ever
had a hope to lead me on, that, if my child were safe, I might find
some help and protection from my woes; but since my lord in scorn
of his bondmaid's charms hath wedded that Spartan Hermione, I am tormented
by her most cruelly; for she saith that I by secret enchantment am
making her barren and distasteful to her husband, and that I design
to take her place in this house, ousting her the rightful mistress
by force; whereas I at first submitted against my will and now have
resigned my place; be almighty Zeus my witness that it was not of
my own free will I became her rival!
But I cannot convince her, and she longs to kill me, and her father
Menelaus is an accomplice in this. E'en now is he within, arrived
from Sparta for this very purpose, while I in terror am come to take
up position here in the shrine of Thetis adjoining the house, if haply
it may save me from death; for Peleus and his descendants hold it
in honour as symbol of his marriage with the Nereid. My only son am
I secretly conveying to a neighbour's house in fear for his life.
For his sire stands not by my side to lend his aid and cannot avail
his child at all, being absent in the land of Delphi, where he is
offering recompense to Loxias for the madness he committed, when on
a day he went to Pytho and demanded of Phoebus satisfaction for his
father's death, if haply his prayer might avert those past sins and
win for him the god's goodwill hereafter. (The MAID OF ANDROMACHE
MAID Mistress mine, be sure I do not hesitate to call thee by that
name, seeing that I thought it thy right in thine own house also,
when we dwelt in Troy-land; as I was ever thy friend and thy husband's
while yet he was alive, so now have I come with strange tidings, in
terror lest any of our masters learn hereof but still out of pity
for thee; for Menelaus and his daughter are forming dire plots against
thee, whereof thou must beware.
ANDROMACHE Ah! kind companion of my bondage, for such thou art to
her, who, erst thy queen, is now sunk in misery; what are they doing?
What new schemes are they devising in their eagerness to take away
my wretched life?
MAID Alas! poor lady, they intend to slay thy son, whom thou hast
privily conveyed from out the house.
ANDROMACHE Ah me! Has she heard that my babe was put out of her reach?
Who told her? Woe is me! how utterly undone!
MAID I know not, but thus much of their schemes I heard myself; and
Menelaus has left the house to fetch him.
ANDROMACHE Then am I lost; ah, my child! those vultures twain will