honour; wherefore I must wash that stain away in running streams,
dashing the water into my ears. How could I commit so foul a crime
when by the very mention of it I feel myself polluted? Be well assured,
woman, 'tis only my religious scruple saves thee. For had not I unawares
been caught by an oath, 'fore heaven! I would not have refrained from
telling all unto my father. But now I will from the house away, so
long as Theseus is abroad, and will maintain strict silence. But,
when my father comes, I will return and see how thou and thy mistress
face him, and so shall I learn by experience the extent of thy audacity.
Perdition seize you both! I can never satisfy my hate for women, no!
not even though some say this is ever my theme, for of a truth they
always are evil. So either let some one prove them chaste, or let
me still trample on them for ever. (HIPPOLYTUS departs in anger.)
CHORUS (chanting) O the cruel, unhappy fate of women! What arts,
what arguments have we, once we have made a slip, to loose by craft
the tight-drawn knot?
PHAEDRA (chanting) I have met my deserts. O earth, O light of day!
How can I escape the stroke of fate? How my pangs conceal, kind friends?
What god will appear to help me, what mortal to take my part or help
me in unrighteousness? The present calamity of my life admits of no
escape. Most hapless I of all my sex!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Alas, alas! the deed is done, thy servant's
schemes have gone awry, my queen, and all is lost.
PHAEDRA (to the NURSE) Accursed woman! traitress to thy friends!
How hast thou ruined me! May Zeus, my ancestor, smite thee with his
fiery bolt and uproot thee from thy place. Did I not foresee thy purpose,
did I not bid thee keep silence on the very matter which is now my
shame? But thou wouldst not be still; wherefore my fair name will
not go with me to the tomb. But now I must another scheme devise.
Yon youth, in the keenness of his fury, will tell his father of my
sin, and the aged Pittheus of my state and fill the world with stories
to my shame. Perdition seize thee and every meddling fool who by dishonest
means would serve unwilling friends!
NURSE Mistress, thou may'st condemn the mischief I have done, for
sorrow's sting o'ermasters thy judgment; yet can I answer thee in
face of this, if thou wilt hear. 'Twas I who nurtured thee; I love
thee still; but in my search for medicine to cure thy sickness I found
what least I sought. Had I but succeeded, I had been counted wise,
for the credit we get for wisdom is measured by our success.
PHAEDRA Is it just, is it any satisfaction to me, that thou shouldst
wound me first, then bandy words with me?
NURSE We dwell on this too long; I was not wise, I own; but there
are yet ways of escape from the trouble, my child.
PHAEDRA Be dumb henceforth; evil was thy first advice to me, evil
too thy attempted scheme. Begone and leave me, look to thyself; I
will my own fortunes for the best arrange. (The NURSE goes into the
palace.) Ye noble daughters of Troezen, grant me the only boon I
crave; in silence bury what ye here have heard.
LEADER By majestic Artemis, child of Zeus, I swear I will never divulge
aught of thy sorrows.
PHAEDRA 'Tis well. But I, with all my thought, can but one way discover
out of this calamity, that so I may secure my children's honour, and
find myself some help as matters stand. For never, never will I bring
shame upon my Cretan home, nor will I, to save one poor life, face
Theseus after my disgrace.
LEADER Art thou bent then on some cureless woe?
PHAEDRA On death; the means thereto must I devise myself.
PHAEDRA Do thou at least advise me well. For this very day shall
I gladden Cypris, my destroyer, by yielding up my life, and shall
own myself vanquished by cruel love. Yet shall my dying be another's
curse, that he may learn not to exult at my misfortunes; but when
he comes to share the self-same plague with me, he will take a lesson
in wisdom. (PHAEDRA enters the palace.)