ELECTRA Turn not coward! Cast not thy manliness away!
ORESTES Am I to devise the same crafty scheme for her?
ELECTRA The self-same death thou didst mete out to her lord Aegisthus.
ORESTES I will go in; 'tis an awful task I undertake; an awful deed
I have to do; still if it is Heaven's will, be it so; I loathe and
yet I love the enterprise. (As ORESTES withdraws into the hut, CLYTEMNESTRA
enters in a chariot. Her attendants are hand-maidens attired in gorgeous
CHORUS (singing) Hail! Queen of Argos, daughter of Tyndareus, sister
of those two noble sons of Zeus, who dwell in the flame-lit firmament
amid the stars, whose guerdon high it is to save the sailor tossing
on the sea. All hail! because of thy wealth and high prosperity, I
do thee homage as I do the blessed gods. Now is the time, great queen,
for us to pay our court unto thy fortunes.
CLYTEMNESTRA Alight from the car, ye Trojan maids, and take my hand
that I may step down from the chariot. With Trojan spoils the temples
of the gods are decked, but I have obtained these maidens as a special
gift from Troy, in return for my lost daughter, a trifling boon no
doubt, but still an ornament to my house.
ELECTRA And may not I, mother, take that highly-favoured hand of
thine? I am a slave like them, an exile from my father's halls in
this miserable abode.
CLYTEMNESTRA See, my servants are here; trouble not on my account.
ELECTRA Why, thou didst make me thy prisoner by robbing me of my
home; like these I became a captive when my home was taken, an orphan
CLYTEMNESTRA True; but thy father plotted so wickedly against those
of his own kin whom least of all he should have treated so. Speak
I must; albeit, when woman gets an evil reputation, there is a feeling
of bitterness against all she says; unfairly indeed in my case, for
it were only fair to hate after learning the circumstances, and seeing
if the object deserves it; otherwise, why hate at all? Now Tyndareus
bestowed me on thy father not that I or any children I might bear
should be slain. Yet he went and took my daughter from our house to
the fleet at Aulis, persuading me that Achilles was to wed her; and
there he held her o'er the pyre, and cut Iphigenia's snowy throat.
Had he slain her to save his city from capture, or to benefit his
house, or to preserve his other children, a sacrifice of one for many,
could have pardoned him. But, as it was, his reasons for murdering
my child were these: the wantonness of Helen and her husband's folly
in not punishing the traitress. Still, wronged as I was, my rage had
not burst forth for this, nor would I have slain my lord, had he not
returned to me with that frenzied maiden and made her his mistress,
keeping at once two brides beneath the same roof. Women maybe are
given to folly, I do not deny it; this granted, when a husband goes
astray and sets aside his own true wife, she fain will follow his
example and find another love; and then in our case hot abuse is heard,
while the men, who are to blame for this, escape without a word. Again,
suppose Menelaus had been secretly snatched from his home, should
I have had to kill Orestes to save Menelaus, my sister's husband?
How would thy father have endured this? Was he then to escape death
for slaying what was mine, while I was to suffer at his hands? I slew
him, turning, as my only course, to his enemies. For which of all
thy father's friends would have joined me in his murder? Speak all
that is in thy heart, and prove against me with all free speech, that
thy father's death was not deserved.
ELECTRA Justly urged! but thy justice is not free from shame; for
in all things should every woman of sense yield to her husband. Whoso
thinketh otherwise comes not within the scope of what I say. Remember,
mother, those last words of thine, allowing me free utterance before
CLYTEMNESTRA Daughter, far from refusing it, I grant it again.
ELECTRA Thou wilt not, when thou hearest, wreak thy vengeance on