wert my ruin, making me and my brother orphans, though we had never
injured thee, and thou didst make a shameful marriage with my mother,
having slain her lord who led the host of Hellas, though thyself didst
never go to Troy. Such was thy folly, thou didst never dream that
my mother would prove thy curse when thou didst marry her, though
thou wert wronging my father's honour. Know this; whoso defiles his
neighbour's wife, and afterward is forced to take her to himself,
is a wretched wight, if he supposes she will be chaste as his wife,
though she sinned against her former lord. Thine was a life most miserable,
though thou didst pretend 'twas otherwise; well thou knewest how guilty
thy marriage was, and my mother knew she had a villain for husband.
Sinners both ye took each other's lot, she thy fortune, thou her curse.
While everywhere in Argos thou-wouldst hear such phrases as, "that
woman's husband," never "that man's wife." Yet 'tis shameful for the
wife and not the man to rule the house; wherefore I loathe those children,
who are called in the city not the sons of the man, their father,
but of their mother. For if a man makes a great match above his rank,
there is no talk of the husband but only of the wife. Herein lay thy
grievous error, due to ignorance; thou thoughtest thyself some one,
relying on thy wealth, but this is naught save to stay with us a space.
'Tis nature that stands fast, not wealth. For it, if it abide unchanged,
exalts man's horn; but riches dishonestly acquired and in the hands
of fools, soon take their flight, their blossom quickly shed. As for
thy sins with women, I pass them by, 'tis not for maiden's lips to
mention them, but I will shrewdly hint thereat. And then thy arrogance!
because forsooth thou hadst a palace and some looks to boast. May
I never have a husband with a girl's face, but one that bears him
like a man! For the children of these latter cling to a life of arms,
while those, who are so fair to see, do only serve to grace the dance.
Away from me! (Spurning the corpse with her foot) Time has shown
thy villainy, little as thou reckest of the forfeit thou hast paid
for it. Let none suppose, though he have run the first stage of his
course with joy, that he will get the better of justice, till he have
reached the goal and ended his career.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Terrible alike his crime and your revenge; for
mighty is the power of justice.
ORESTES 'Tis well. Carry his body within the house and hide it, sirrahs,
that when my mother comes, she may not see his corpse before she is
smitten herself. (PYLADES and the attendants take the body into the
ELECTRA Hold! let us strike out another scheme.
ORESTES How now? Are those allies from Mycenae whom I see?
ELECTRA No, 'tis my mother, that bare me.
ORESTES Full into the net she is rushing, oh, bravely!
ELECTRA See how proudly she rides in her chariot and fine robes!
ORESTES What must we do to our mother? Slay her?
ELECTRA What! has pity seized thee at sight of her?
ORESTES O God! how can I slay her that bare and suckled me?
ELECTRA Slay her as she slew thy father and mine.
ORESTES O Phoebus, how foolish was thy oracle-
ELECTRA Where Apollo errs, who shall be wise?
ORESTES In bidding me commit this crime-my mother's murder!
ELECTRA How canst thou be hurt by avenging thy father?
ORESTES Though pure before, I now shall carry into exile the stain
of a mother's blood.
ELECTRA Still, if thou avenge not thy father, thou wilt fail in thy
ORESTES And if I slay my mother, I must pay the penalty to her.
ELECTRA And so must thou to him, if thou resign the avenging of our
ORESTES Surely it was a fiend in the likeness of the god that ordered
ELECTRA Seated on the holy tripod? I think not so.
ORESTES I cannot believe this oracle was meant.