his marriage with thee for this. For thou wast no captive from Troy
whom he wedded, but the daughter of a gallant sire, with a rich dower,
from a city too of no mean prosperity. Nor will thy father forsake
thee, as thou dreadest, and allow thee to be cast out from this house.
Nay, enter now, nor show thyself before the palace, lest the sight
of thee there bring reproach upon thee, my daughter. (The NURSE departs
as ORESTES and his attendants enter.)
LEADER Lo! a stranger of foreign appearance from some other land
comes hurrying towards us.
ORESTES Women of this foreign land! is this the home, the palace
of Achilles' son?
LEADER Thou hast it; but who art thou to ask such a question?
ORESTES The son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, by name Orestes, on
ply way to the oracle of Zeus at Dodona. But now that I am come to
Phthia, I am resolved to inquire about my kinswoman, Hermione of Sparta;
is she alive and well? for though she dwells in a land far from my
own, I love her none the less.
HERMIONE Son of Agamemnon, thy appearing is as a haven from the storm
to sailors; by thy knees I pray, have pity on me in my distress, on
me of whose fortunes thou art inquiring. About thy knees I twine my
arms with all the force of sacred fillets.
ORESTES Ha! what is this? Am I mistaken or do I really see before
me the queen of this palace, the daughter of Menelaus?
HERMIONE The same, that only child whom Helen, daughter of Tyndareus,
bore my father in his halls; never doubt that.
ORESTES O saviour Phoebus, grant us respite from our woe! But what
is the matter? art thou afflicted by gods or men?
HERMIONE Partly by myself, partly by the man who wedded me, and partly
by some god. On every side I see ruin.
ORESTES Why, what misfortune could happen to a woman as yet childless,
unless her honour is concerned?
HERMIONE My very ill! Thou hast hit my case exactly.
ORESTES On whom has thy husband set his affections in thy stead?
HERMIONE On his captive, Hector's wife.
ORESTES An evil case indeed, for a man to have two wives!
HERMIONE 'Tis even thus. So I resented it.
ORESTES Didst thou with woman's craft devise a plot against thy rival?
HERMIONE Yes, to slay her and her bastard child.
ORESTES And didst thou slay them, or did something happen to rescue
them from thee?
HERMIONE It was old Peleus, who showed regard to the weaker side.
ORESTES Hadst thou any accomplice in this attempted murder?
HERMIONE My father came from Sparta for this very purpose.
ORESTES And was he after all defeated by that old man's prowess?
HERMIONE Oh no! but by shame; and he hath gone and left me all alone.
ORESTES I understand; thou art afraid of thy husband for what thou
HERMIONE Thou hast guessed it; for he will have a right to slay me.
What can say for myself? Yet I beseech thee by Zeus the god of our
family, send me to a land as far as possible from this, or to my father's
house; for these very walls seem to cry out "Begone!" and all the
land of Phthia hates me. But if my lord return ere that from the oracle
of Phoebus, he will put me to death on a shameful charge, or enslave
me to his mistress, whom ruled before. Maybe some one will say, "How
was it thou didst go thus astray?" I was ruined by evil women who
came to me and puffed me up with words like these: "Wait! wilt thou
suffer that vile captive, a mere bondmaid, to dwell within thy house
and share thy wedded rights? By Heaven's queen! if it were my house
she should not live to reap my marriage-harvest!" And I listened to
the words of these Sirens, the cunning, knavish, subtle praters, and
was filled with silly thoughts. What need had I to care about my lord?
I had all I wanted, wealth in plenty, a house in which I was mistress,
and as for children, mine would be born in wedlock, while hers would
be bastards, half-slaves to mine. Oh! never, never,-this truth will