Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides : Vol. II [1 ed.] 9781443807654, 9781847180636

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Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides : Vol. II [1 ed.]
 9781443807654, 9781847180636

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Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides

Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides Vol. II

Introduced and translated by

Harry Love

CAMBRIDGE SCHOLARS PRESS

Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Vol. II, introduced and translated by Harry Love This book first published 2006 by Cambridge Scholars Press 15 Angerton Gardens, Newcastle, NE5 2JA, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2006 by Harry Love

All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN 1-84718-063-9

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction: The Masks of Medea ....................................................................... 1 Euripides’ Medea ................................................................................................ 11 Introduction: Hyppolytus .................................................................................... 56 Euripides’ Hippolytus ......................................................................................... 72 Introduction: Hecuba, The Logic of Revenge ................................................... 120 The Hecuba of Euripides................................................................................... 133 Introduction: Bacchae ....................................................................................... 175 Euripides’ Bacchae ........................................................................................... 194 Appendix: Euripides ......................................................................................... 242 Selected Bibliography ....................................................................................... 244

Line numbers in all the play-texts refer to the corresponding lines in the Greek texts.

INTRODUCTION: THE MASKS OF MEDEA

I The story of Medea as presented by Euripides is, on the face of it, quite straightforward: a young lady (a princess) in a faraway country falls passionately in love with a good looking sailor from the old country. She, being a person from a faraway country, so possibly not very well brought up, elopes with the sailor and demonstrates her feelings for him by helping him to achieve his mercantile goal (the golden fleece) and murdering numerous members of her own family. Back in the old country and with a couple of children, she finds that her sailor has abandoned her for another woman, rather younger and better connected socially. She is to be thrown out of town with her two sons and left to her own devices. In an excess of pique she murders her rival and her rival’s father, using unorthodox methods learned in her faraway homeland. She then murders her two children, an act which, though regrettable, even painful, succeeds in wiping the smile off her husband’s face. Finally she leaves, triumphant, using an unorthodox means of locomotion provided by her rather unorthodox and foreign family. It sounds an unlikely story, but its essential ingredients and the character who embodies them refuse to go away. Medea keeps coming back, assuming all sorts of shapes, wearing any number of masks, and giving off more ‘meanings’ than a post-modernist could shake a stick at. Even in this brief summary of the story there is apparent a number of situations, actions and character traits that have gripped writers and performers for a couple of millennia. 1.

She is an alien in a ‘civilised’ country.

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She is perceived by her hosts to have special, even supernatural, powers.

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Her passions, of love or hate, and her revenge are extreme – she lacks control or moderation.

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4.

She betrays her own family as a consequence of her passion.

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She is betrayed by her husband.

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She murders her own children.

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Unusually for a tragic heroine, she gets off, rescued by her divine relations. In spite of all her lamentation and suffering, her cries of “Teach me how to die!” (96) in the beginning of the play, she never looks like doing the decent thing as, say, Phaedra does in the Hippolytus.

The point is, of course, that these very characteristics and situations, while always emotionally gripping and essentially theatrical, can be evaluated in a variety of ways and made to fit a variety of archetypal situations that are significant for different historical periods. Medea can be witch-like and evil; passionate and sympathetic; the alien in our midst (the ‘other’); the champion of the oppressed and betrayed. It all depends what you think is important and, perhaps, what you think ‘tragedy’ is. We will look at a few moments of this history, at some of the masks she has worn over time, and then at the face, or faces, we might yet see. And we should begin with the observation that Euripides’ play, though presented as a translation into Latin by George Buchanan in Scotland in the 1540s, was not actually translated again for performance until Wilamowitz-Moellendorff in Germany (1904) and Gilbert Murray in England (1907). The story is adapted into dramatic, operatic and balletic forms that reflect the aesthetic and moral priorities of their times. It is only through the twentieth century that more or less faithful translations of Euripides’ text begin to catch up with adaptations and amalgams of the Medea legend.1

II Historically, then, Medea has appeared in many guises according to whether this or that aspect of her story has been emphasised or suppressed. We will step lightly over other ancient versions of the story, such as Seneca’s or the fourth century AD Medea Volans (The Flying Medea), a kind of cantata in which St Augustine himself was reputed to have performed, and settle upon the sixteenth century. It is from this point that Medea regularly arises as either the front person or scapegoat for a moral/political cause. 1

The historical section of this introduction is based largely on essays by Fiona Macintosh, Diane Purkiss and Edith Hall in, E.Hall, F.Macintosh and O.Taplin (eds), Medea in Performance 1500 – 2000, Oxford: OUP, 2000.

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The Renaissance focus was on her witch-like qualities, wherein the supernatural inclines toward the unnatural, with all that that implies. Her ‘charms’ – both erotic and chemical – corrupt fine, upstanding men and make them effeminate, as Spenser tells us in the Fairie Queen. Or, according to Michael Drayton, as innocent as she may have been before she met Jason, her unbridled passions rush headlong toward elemental chaos: Medea pitifull in tender yeares, Untill with Jason she would take her flight, Then mercilesse her brother’s lymmes she teares, Betrays her father, flyes away by night, Nor nations, seas, nor daungers could affright; Who dyed with hate, nor could abate the wind, Now like a tiger falls into her kind. (From ‘Mortimeriades’)

And Medea’s most famous Renaissance descendant, Lady Macbeth, is as determined as her grand-dam to subordinate duties of childcare to other priorities: I have given suck, and know, How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me. I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn As you have done to this.

III By the eighteenth century Medea is a different person. Euripides in general has become assimilated into the cult of ‘sensibility’ – his pathetic situations and tragic passions (though never undiluted or unimproved) make him the most popular ancient model for an affecting and improving evening at the theatre. Medea, therefore, is transmogrified into an eighteenth century heroine; as Edith Hall puts it, [by the 1780s] “Greek tragic heroines had been transformed into the theatrical equivalents of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa.” She is the abandoned wife, who, overwhelmed by her love and neglected by her husband, struggles to maintain her virtue as a wife and mother. If she kills the children, she is allowed to plead temporary insanity, and she may even kill herself when she realises what has happened. The theatrical focus is on the passions and their affective power; not only do you see and empathise with virtuous passions, but, just as Wordsworth was a better man for spotting how

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decrepit but still virtuous his Leech Gatherer was, you see the suffering and leave the theatre a much improved person. Richard Glover’s 1767 adaptation is perhaps the most characteristic and popular English version. The focus is on Medea’s overwhelming love for Jason, and the dramatic climax is a study of madness brought about by suffering. In Act V we witness a sequence of emotional vignettes that takes us stage by stage through Medea’s journey out of the madness which has driven her to infanticide. First, the avenging warrior queen – the height of her madness, and furthest in character from her real feminine self; then pathetic and distracted (shades of Ophelia); third, the crisis of despair; lastly, awareness and guilt. MEDEA [as she rises from a swoon of despair] Not the disburthen’d sluices of the skies, The wat’ry Nereids with the ocean’s store, Nor all the tears, which misery has shed, Can from their mother wash her children’s blood. Where shall I hide from the piercing day? What man will grant protection to my guilt, What god afford me safeguard at his altar? Thou must alone receive me, thou, O earth. Then, while I crush my bosom on thy surface, And grasp the dust within my struggling hands, Distain my limbs, and strike my head against thee. At length in pity my suff’rings sue The loit’ring gods to rear the friendly bolt, And close my sorrows on thy peaceful breast. [Glover, Medea – Act V Sc 2]

The play ends with the intervention of Juno to prevent Medea’s suicide and her departure in the divine chariot, after a touching dialogue with Jason whom she still adores; wifely and motherly virtues emerge intact.

IV The nineteenth century lost interest in Medea the Mad Mother, but not in her other possible roles. She strikes more recognisably modern social and political attitudes: as the outsider, the colonial victim, or the torchbearer for a developing women’s movement. In the German-speaking world Franz Grillparzer’s Medea (1821), the third part of an Aeschylean-like trilogy, focussed on the racial and psychological undercurrents of her mistreatment in a foreign land. This is a sympathetic and victimised Medea, and she is the foundation for most interpretations through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from Victorian burlesque, through the long-standing popularity of Murray’s translation of

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Euripides in 1907, to innumerable campaigns against sexual, racial and psychological oppression up to the present day. In London on 14 July 1856, at the Olympic and Adelphi theatres, two plays opened: Robert Brough’s Medea, or the Best of Mothers, with a Brute of a Husband, and Mark Lemon’s Medea, or a Libel on the Lady of Colchis. Though comic, Brough’s version in particular had a contemporary political edge, contributing to the divorce law debate by extending the figure of Medea from a victim in need of protection to that of an individual who asserts her rights to freedom and self-fulfilment. The comedy is no send-up of the ‘new woman’ (even if she is played by a man) but of the absurdity of her situation. As the play nears its end Creon threatens to seize the boys, but, “Medea is seen standing…quivering with emotion – reeking knife in her hand.” And just as more slaughter is about to happen, the knife turns into a jester’s bauble and the dead are revived. Medea turns to the audience with this speech: What can a poor, lone, helpless woman do – Battled on all sides – but appeal to you? My plot destroyed – my damages made good. They’d change my very nature if they could. Don’t let them – rather aid me to pursue My murderous career the season through; Repentance is a thought that I abhor, What I have done don’t make me sorry for.

Nora, the heroine of Ibsen’s The Doll’s House, who similarly refuses to allow ‘them’ to ‘change her nature,’ is Medea’s direct descendant. Gilbert Murray’s 1907 rendition of Euripides’ text (Euripides dressed in Swinburne’s verse, as T.S. Eliot snottily put it) was a significant departure from previous practice; for the first time Euripides’ play is put successfully before a popular audience. While any translation is necessarily an adaptation, both linguistically and theatrically, the preservation of the original’s plot and structure is a risky venture because it is likely to require from an audience an unusual degree of knowledge and effort to be able to respond to what they see. The fact that the modern Medea, she who has dominated twentieth century interpretations of her story, coincides with an interest in Euripides’ text, is significant. In particular, the famous ‘Women of Corinth’ speech, which had been omitted from all known earlier adaptations of the play, becomes a focus of interpretation. Murray’s translation was easily the most influential presentation of Medea in the English speaking world in the early twentieth century, being performed in Britain, the USA and South Africa for almost 40 years.

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Sybil Thorndike was the actress who made this Medea famous. For her this was a thoroughly feminist play, as it was for Gilbert Murray. “Medea,” she is recorded as saying, “was in a way justified. As I studied the part I thought about the position of women in the world, the position of the underdog.” But the possibilities of Euripides’ text go further than this, and during the 1928-9 tour of South Africa, the parallels of race and gender become apparent, so bringing together the English Medea with the German tradition established by Grillparzer’s adaptation. In South Africa a Johannesburg theatre management relented to allow Africans into the audience, though segregated in the dresscircle. Sybil Thorndike commented: Until now it had been for me a war cry for all oppressed people – now it was the blacks, as Medea, crying out against the civilised whites in the person of Jason, the Greek. You heard sort of deep-breathing sounds from the dress-circle, and it was absolutely thrilling.

V The Medea legend, perhaps even more than that of Oedipus, is among the most powerful and enduring of ancient stories to excite the imagination of postRenaissance Europe. Among Euripidean dramas Hippolytus (though more accurately, Phaedra) has had a similarly long, but less widespread and consistent history, and latterly The Women of Troy and the Bacchae have struck historical harmonies. Euripides appealed to the eighteenth century through his ‘pathetic situations and tragic passions,’ which appeared to reinforce conventional understanding and evaluation of emotion, especially with regard to women. He appealed to the twentieth century because these same situations and passions, in the context of the evolution of European thought, reflected a more intense interest in the emotional lives of individuals and the variety of social or moral constraints imposed on them. If Medea becomes the standard-bearer for oppressed women or racial minorities, it is because an imaginative understanding of the experience of individuals, of the constraints to selffulfilment or self-realisation, have become a focus of value or attention. Perhaps the most revolutionary effect of Romantic and post-Romantic aesthetics, through their focus on the significance of emotions and insistence on empathy as the means of communicating them, is to have elevated the emotional experience of an individual as a locus of value in the context of other values (systems of morals, social organisation and occasionally metaphysics). However, Euripides was no Romantic. If emotions have a special significance in Greek tragedy (and they have) it is not merely as a measure of

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the authenticity of ‘character’ according to a scale of intensity, but as natural phenomena that include but go beyond human experience and values. The ‘Masks of Medea’ referred to in the title are not intimations of inauthenticity, of spurious identities that cover up, even smother, an inner self that craves emotional release, but are aspects of the whole person, each one as ‘real’ as the others. It is not, therefore, a case of the kind of moral and psychological striptease that characterises, say, Nora in Ibsen’s The Doll’s House, who leaves behind her inauthentic roles of wife, mother and daughter, to reveal something more authentic and personal within. The situation that Medea is in, on the other hand, releases through her a force that annihilates the role of mother, her last remaining social role, after other equally important roles, as wife and citizen, have been stripped away by Jason. It all comes down to what is meant by ‘mask’. The word for ‘mask’ (prosopon) in ancient Greek has none of its connotations in modern English of concealment or dissimulation. It was the regular word for ‘face’ or ‘countenance’, with particular emphasis on the features, especially the eyes. The prosopon marked the identity of an individual as he or she existed in relation to others, not something which hid a private and inalienable self from 2 view.

There is, however, an essential Medea who is different from the other characters on the stage. The difference is her divinity, that force which is let loose so devastatingly by the mistakes and misunderstandings of ordinary human beings. We are given intimations of this further dimension to Medea’s character early in the play by the Nurse [“She can be frightening, a dangerous enemy” (45); “Yes, dark clouds groan and then / There’s lightning. What will she do? / Insulted, her rage is unstoppable” (106-10)] and later by Medea herself (806-10). This is what Jason, with his cool, rational view of the world, has failed to see, and what Creon overlooks, in spite of his natural fears, when he grants her one more day to set her affairs in order. On the stage only the Chorus know the reality, even if they fail to understand it. They are drawn in by their initial sympathy for injustice done to Medea as a wife and a mother to be accomplices to the exaction of a ‘justice’ that is beyond their merely human comprehension. The nature of such justice perhaps requires further explanation. Euripides was always a controversial playwright, and even his contemporaries, though they acknowledged his talent, never warmed to him as they did to Aeschylus and Sophocles. One can only speculate why, but perhaps his combination of a relentless dissection of the power of emotion and an equally relentless determination to maintain an ironic perspective on it, could 2

Edith Hall, programme note for the National Theatre production of the Bacchae. London, 2002.

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provide some explanation. This was not Sophocles’ method – in Oedipus the King, for example, dramatic irony is resolved when the truth is revealed, and the exodos elaborates on that emotional moment and its possible meanings with no irony whatsoever. There is no opportunity to question the role of Apollo in creating the circumstances that give rise to the tragedy. The real resolution of the play is to allow the audience to penetrate, emotionally, the barrier of irony that previously distanced them. That is what audiences really like – ancient, modern, and most in between. Sophocles was always careful to keep his gods in the background, and so avoid contaminating them with irony. Euripides allows no such resolution and keeps his gods firmly in the frame. At the conclusion of the Hippolytus, for example, Artemis coolly observes the carnage, and a dying Hippolytus muses: “Oh, if the race of men could curse gods.” “Enough,” says Artemis, and proceeds to put an end to this distasteful episode: Not even in that darkness Below the earth will Aphrodite’s Rage against your body and your Good and pure soul be unavenged. I will exact justice on another; One of hers will feel my dart.

(1415-20)

And so it will go on. Hate and revenge are here presented with a cool matter-offactness that ironically underscores the passionate agonies the human characters have endured and have acted out on behalf of their divine patrons. Artemis is the pure embodiment of her sector of Nature, as Aphrodite is of hers. As gods they are impersonal, able only to react to whatever acknowledges or refuses to acknowledge their reality; ie, to ‘justice’ or ‘injustice’. The gods have no masks and have no need to protect themselves from the pain of existence inside the trappings of human reason or institutions. As the messenger in Medea remarks at the end of his grisly account of the deaths of Creusa and Creon: Man is a mere shadow, and I can say, Quite confidently, the clever men, those who Find reasons for things, deserve to be whipped. None of us can be happy – you may be rich, You may be lucky, but never, never happy. (1225-30)

What the Messenger has seen is inhuman, naked emotion, or that force which we call emotion in a human context, scorch its way through human lives. The victims have been stripped of their masks – in this case of everything, of their language, their familial bonds, their customs, everything, including their flesh.

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It has long been considered a problem with this play that Euripides concludes it by transforming Medea into a god who conveniently embarks on an Air Colchis flight out of it all. It is a problem, especially for we moderns with our less metaphysical understanding of theatre, to know how to maintain a credible transition from victim to divine victor. Most often it is presented as a symbolic event, or a metaphor for her escape from persecution and betrayal into a more authentic existence. At least in the Bacchae we knew from the start that Dionysus was a god, so that his appearance, unmasked, at the end was not altogether a surprise. And the ‘justice’ he dispenses there is no different from that dealt out by Medea. Formally Medea falls between the two other plays I have mentioned. She shares her human suffering with Phaedra; ie, the loss of society, selfrespect, human communion; and her divine anger she shares with Aphrodite. Aphrodite, and whatever it is she represents, acts through her human surrogate who must, in the scheme of things, be destroyed. In effect, the apotheosis of Medea is a death – her human attributes have been destroyed. There are many hints throughout the play that there is more to this woman than meets the eye (the Nurse’s continual expressions of fear that no-one is safe in the face of her mistress’s anger, and Medea’s own assurance to the Chorus that, “In hate or love [or to enemies or friends] I am of a different breed” 809). We can see the last mask slip when she says goodbye to her children, and she experiences much the same dilemma that confronts Phaedra in the Hippolytus. And like Phaedra she is caught by time, by the fact that things have happened and cannot be revoked. The pendulum swings between maternal feeling and the rage inspired by Jason’s insult, until she remembers that events have overtaken her: Oh, no. No! My heart. You can’t do this! Leave them. Spare your own children. In Athens they’ll make you happy. No! No! By all the horrors of hell I can never, never leave my children To be insulted by my enemies. But it’s done now – I can’t avoid it. Yes, I’m quite sure. She’ll have put on The crown, the gown. The girl is dead. Well. It is a hard, hard road for me, And I will send them down a harder one. (1056-68)

From this point on she isn’t human any more; she is unmasked, a raw thing of nature. What Jason’s betrayal has done is to have deprived Medea of the attributes and relationships that make her human; he has betrayed the very ‘civilisation’ he claims to have conferred on her.

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Euripides’ masks are humanising attributes, those things like reason, language, conventions, the multitude of modes of communication that distinguish us from gods and the non-human. They are the things that prevent individuals from merely devouring whatever is in the way, and being, like the gods, blindly selfregarding. And it is important to remember that in this context masks are not things that cover, obscure or falsify; they are themselves real and significant, like Medea’s mother-mask in that last speech. It is just as real as the anger that throws it off. And this, I think, is where Euripides differs from the moderns who have used his play as a model for the manipulation of social and moral masks. The notion of authenticity, of something under the mask that is more real than the appearance, is a relatively modern one. What is authentically human in the post-Romantic world, an inner life of self-affirmation which is expressed largely through emotional states, is exactly what characterises the gods, or the natural world, for Euripides. And what is essentially human for him has been translated into the inauthentic, the unreality of roles and stereotypes.

Note on the translation The translation of Medea that follows was done for a specific production of the play. Given the setting of that production, in a more or less modern, eastern European peasant community, references to royalty (principally variations of tyrannos, and occasional uses of anax and basileus) have been modified to ‘master,’ ‘chief,’ ‘first family,’ etc. In other respects the translation is an attempt, as far as is possible, to marry speakability with a clear rendition of the Greek.

EURIPIDES’ MEDEA

The Characters Medea Nurse attendant to Medea Tutor to Medea’s two sons Creon King of Corinth Aegeus King of Athens Messenger Medea’s two Sons Chorus of Corinthian Women

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Scene: Corinth NURSE If they’d never gone; if that ship had Never slipped the dark Symplegades For Colchis; if the pines of Pelion were Never cut for oars for the hands of heroes Swayed by Pelias’ word on a golden fleece; Medea would not have sailed to Iolchos, heartstruck for Jason. She Would not have pressed Pelias’ daughters To kill him, nor fled to Corinth with her Man and her children, a stranger, but welcome, And all obedience to her husband – Compliance in a wife is a great thing. But now, what she most loved, she hates; She and her children are betrayed by Jason, who beds, for political purposes, The daughter of Creon, our King. She howls through the house, miserable, Dishonoured, vowing this and that, calling The gods to witness what sort of Promises he made. She eats nothing, Collapses in pain, tears never stop ever since She found him out. She can neither raise Her eyes nor lift her face from the floor. For her friends, it’s like talking to stone, or The tide; or she’ll bend her lovely neck and Moan for the father and the home she betrayed For the man who holds her in such contempt. Now the poor thing knows what it means Not to forsake your homeland. She hates her babies – can’t look at them. I’m scared of what she might be thinking. …………………………………………* She can be frightening, a dangerous enemy. But that’s enough. The boys have finished their Exercise. They know nothing of this – Young minds know nothing of pain.

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TUTOR Old lady, what are you doing out here, Wailing so horribly to yourself? How Will Medea take being left alone? NURSE O, venerable tutor, this honest slave Suffers in sympathy for her mistress. I had to come out, just to tell what She suffers to the earth or to heaven.

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TUTOR So the poor woman still weeps? NURSE You’re fortunate – her grief’s newborn, not half grown.

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TUTOR Poor wretch – if I can say so of a mistress. She knows nothing of what’s to come. NURSE What? Well, old man. Don’t stop there. TUTOR Nothing. I wish I hadn’t spoken. NURSE By your beard, don’t hide this from me. I can keep my mouth shut, if I must. TUTOR Near the holy spring of Peirene some Old men sat at draughts. I heard one say That Creon intends to drive these children Out of Corinth, along with their mother. It may be true. I don’t know. I hope not. NURSE Will Jason let the children suffer because He has a difference of opinion with their mother?

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TUTOR Old ties die and are left behind – He’s no friend to this house. NURSE O god, then we’re lost, if there’s yet a new Disaster before we’ve solved the old one. TUTOR This is not the time to tell her. Hold your tongue.

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NURSE Oh, my children. Do you hear what your father is? No. No, I must not curse. He’s my master. But he’s guilty. He hurts those he loves. TUTOR Who isn’t? Have you just discovered that? We all put ourselves first, sometimes Rightly, sometimes just for what we can get. He’s lovestruck. He doesn’t care about them. NURSE Go inside my dears. It’s all right, really. Keep them away, don’t let them Near her while she’s like this. I’ve seen her watch them, bull-eyed. She’ll do something. She won’t let go, I know it, not before she’s crushed somebody. Let it be her enemies, not her friends.

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MEDEA A cry from inside. Please, teach me how to die. NURSE There she is. Oh, my dear boys, her Heart is moved, and so is her anger. So inside, quickly, don’t go near, Don’t let her see you, stay away from Her rage – she’s dangerous and she’s determined.

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Go now! Inside now! Yes, dark clouds groan and then There’s lightning. What will she do? Insulted, her rage is unstoppable.

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MEDEA Oh, and I should weep for what I bear. Children, your mother is hated and you Are cursed. May you, your father And all this house be crushed. NURSE My lady, yes, yes you suffer, but must Your children suffer for their father’s sin? Why hate them? I’m sick to think what Might happen to them. There’s a strange temper In princes – they make, they don’t take commands. Their anger can’t be moved. I’ve learned to Live humbly – oh, let me grow old in peace. Moderation is better, whether you say it or do it. Power brings nothing, only greater pain When the gods are angry against a house. CHORUS I heard her voice. I heard this unhappy woman From Colchis cry out. Still she frets. Old woman, tell me. I heard her cry From outside the door. I get no pleasure When this house suffers. It is dear to me. NURSE This is no ‘house.’ It’s gone, finished. The man is held in a princess’ bed; The woman’s life melts away in her Chamber, and not a word Of comfort from anyone. MEDEA Oh, let heaven’s fire strike my head! What do I gain by living? No, no, let me leave behind

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The life I hate. CHORUS Zeus and Earth and Light, Do you hear the song Of a suffering wife?

strophe 150

Why, lady, lie in that Fearful bed? Why Do you want to die? Don’t pray for that. If your man’s desire is Another bed – so it will Be. Don’t scar yourself.

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Zeus is your advocate, Don’t pine and waste For a bedmate. MEDEA O Themis, Artemis, see What I suffer, in spite of Magnificent oaths that Bound the cursed man. If I could see him, his girl, his Whole house ground to a pulp For this unprovoked crime. Oh, my father, my city, I left You in shame and a brother dead.

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NURSE Do you hear what she says, how She cries out to Themis, to Zeus, keeper of oaths? Anger like this comes To no small end. CHORUS Will she come out

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To speak, to hear us? If she could leave this Apalling anger, this Pride, I’ll be her friend. But you, go in, Bring her out, quick Before she hurts someone there. This grief is too powerful. NURSE I will, yes. But she won’t be moved. It’s a hard favour. If one of us Goes near she glares like a Mothering lion or a crazed bull. You’d not be wrong to say men of Old were less than wise, were stupid To find songs for feasts, for Banquets, for festivals, but Nothing in their songs and strings For the bitterness and pain that Bring death and disaster down on us. Ah, if men could heal with singing – But why sing when you’re Content and filled with food. CHORUS She mourns and moans in Shrilled-voiced grief against The betrayer of her bed. She calls to Themis, daughter Of Zeus and witness to her Injustice and the promise That drew her to Greece from A foreign shore, at night through Narrow straits to the open sea. MEDEA My ladies of Corinth – I have Come out, lest you grow censorious. People can be, I know, proud, inside Or out, while those who tread quietly

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Are defamed for indifference. But They are wrong, those eyes that, Not seeing the inner man, condemn At a glance. Quite wrong. A foreigner must, of course, conform, As should the citizen whose stupidity Is an irritant to others. Events, however, have taken me By surprise. They destroy me. Life has no more pleasure, my friends. I wish to die. He well knows he Was all things to me – this husband Who has turned out so evil. Of all living and sentient things We women are most wretched. We must first buy, at great cost, A husband, then enslave our bodies To him. From one wrong to another More painful. It’s a question – Will he be good or will he be bad? Divorce is frowned upon for Women; denial impossible. And a newcomer must have Second sight, being unschooled, How best to behave to this bedmate. Should we succeed in this exacting Task, and he quietly bears the yoke, we Are envied. If not, we’re better dead. A man, bored within, will find Satisfaction without. We must look to one only. They tell us we’re safe and snug at Home – they must endure in battle. Oh no. I’d stand three times before the Line, rather than bear one child. But you and I are in a different case – You have your city, your father’s House and the comfort of friends. I am alone, stateless, insulted by My husband, snatched from a Foreign land, motherless, brotherless,

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No kin to turn to. So – I ask this of you. Should I find Some means of justice against His wrongs, you will remain silent. In the face of violence and war A woman is fearful; but touch her Marriage, nothing is more deadly. CHORUS Yes, I will. He deserves your revenge – Hardly surprising after your suffering. But I see Creon, our king. He’ll be Here with yet another decision. CREON You. Still sulky and bad-tempered, Medea? I’m to tell you, you must Go, and take your children with you. Without delay. It’s up to me to Enforce this, and I’ll not go home again Until you’re well beyond our border. MEDEA Oh. Am I so utterly abandoned in my Suffering? The enemy’s in full sail And I’ve nowhere to land. Can I ask you, Creon, as ill-used as I am, Why you banish me? CREON I’m afraid of you. One shouldn’t hide the truth. I fear the harm, the terrible harm you’ll do My daughter. I’ve reasons enough. You’re Clever, skilled in evil; you’re banished From the marriage bed and enraged; and So I hear, you threaten your husband, his bride And her father. But I’ll pre-empt you. Better to put you down now, woman, Than go soft and regret it later.

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MEDEA As ever, Creon, my unfortunate reputation Catches up with me. A smart man should Never teach his children to be too clever; You neglect your own business and your Neighbours hate you. Show them something New and the stupid ones think you’re useless And a fool; the bright ones, or those who think They are, get angry if you’re thought to be Better than them. Don’t I know it. I’m clever, so some hate me, the rest Just resent me. I’m not, after all, that bright. You’re afraid of me, then. What can I do To you? How could I – and I’m only A woman – harm a king? But then, Have you done me any harm? You gave Your daughter to the man you wanted. Yes, I hate my husband. But you, I think, Behave prudently. I bear no ill will for that. Let them marry and let them prosper – and Let me stay. I’ll be quiet. I’ll accept defeat. CREON I hear your kind words, but dread to Think what you’re really plotting. I trust you even less than I did. Your Quick-tempered woman, or man, is easier To deal with than your quiet, clever one. So you’re out, as soon as possible, and No more speeches. I’m adamant. No scheme Of yours will keep you here nor Make you other than a liability to me.

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MEDEA Please, in the name of the bride, of your daughter. CREON You waste your breath – there’s no turning me. MEDEA You cast me off – feel nothing?

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CREON I feel for my house, not for you. MEDEA Oh, now how I think of my homeland. CREON As do I, but my daughter comes first. MEDEA Yes. Yes, love is the downfall of us all.

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CREON I suppose, depending on the circumstances. MEDEA O Zeus! And you won’t forget who caused all this. CREON Will you leave, and take my troubles with you. MEDEA I have troubles enough of my own. CREON Very shortly I will have you forcibly removed.

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MEDEA No, no, please. I only ask you… CREON You continue to annoy me, woman. MEDEA I’ll go. I’ll go. It’s not that I want. CREON Then why resist? Why do you not move? MEDEA One day – just one day. To think, to

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Plan this exile – for my sons, since their Father makes no provision for them. Have some pity. You’re a father, You have a father’s feelings. For me, I don’t care if I’m exiled, but I weep for them, for what they will bear. CREON It’s not in me to play the tyrant – I’ve been tripped by conscience before. Though I can see it’s a mistake, lady, All the same, you shall have it. But I tell you, If tomorrow the holy light of the sun touches You or your sons in our territory, you will die. This word you can rely on. So – You may stay for this one day. There’s Nothing for me to fear in that. CHORUS Oh, this is piteous. Where do you turn? A foreigner? What house, what country can you find? It’s a wild sea the gods set you on, Medea. MEDEA Yes, it’s all bad. Who would deny it? But you mustn’t think it will remain so. There are trials yet for these newlyweds, And no small pain for their nearest. Do you think I’d fawn on that fellow For nothing, for no purpose? Not a word, not a finger’s touch – he’s A fool. He should have got rid of me, But he lets me stay one day, and I’ll destroy all three of them – Father, daughter and my man. Yes, death has many roads – I Don’t know, my dears, what to choose. Will I torch the house and bride-bed? Will I tiptoe to the bedside and Gut them with a blade? Mmm.

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There’s one thing. If I’m caught, In the house or in the act, I’m dead, And they will have the last laugh. The straight way is best, my way – I’ll poison them. So, they’re dead. But who will have me? What place is safe, what house secure, Who would take me in? No-one. I’ll wait, and should some bastion of support Appear, I’ll box cunning and kill them quietly. But if fate deprives me of all else, I’ll take the knife, I’ll steel myself, And I’ll kill them, though I die too. O mistress, my most revered, my chosen one, Hecate, my hearth-dweller, none Will rejoice in my pain. A marriage Bitter and baneful I’ll give them, And they will rue my exile. Come, then. Spare nothing, Medea, No plot, no craft, move to The moment and try your mettle. You see the situation. You can’t be Laughed at by the sons of Sisyphus, you, Daughter of a king and grandchild of the Sun. You know, don’t you. We are women, Not much good for good, but Oh so clever at all things else. CHORUS Now streams will flow up to their sacred source And all we have known is turned about As men deceive in the name of the gods And the stories of our lives reverse – So will the honour of women rise up And the shrill of their slanders cease. Now all the old tales of faithless girls Will fade forever from our songs – Yet the god of song never gave to us That lyric inspiration Or we’d echo back the songs of men

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For time speaks even-handedly.

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Fevered with love You sailed from your home Through the double rocks To the open sea – But now from this foreign place With no husband, no bed You are driven out With no redress.

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Oaths are hollow From all Greece shame has flown – And you’ve nowhere to go Not your father’s house While another queen rules In your bed And your home.

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JASON I’ve seen your rages before, lady, and know What they lead to. You might have stayed Here, in this house, had you been Reasonable and accepted good counsel. But no. You rant, so you’re expelled. This does not move me. You can abuse Me as long as you like, but after what You’ve said of the royal family, you’re Fortunate to get off with exile. God knows, I tried to cool their Anger, but you will not let up with This foolish abuse. So you’re expelled. Even so, I can’t deny my own. I’ve thought about you, my dear, And conclude that you and the children Shall not leave penniless or in need. Exile is hard. You hate me, I know, But really, I bear you no grudge. MEDEA You…excrescence! I’m at a loss

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For anything else to describe you. You have come. This most hateful Little man has come. It’s not courage, It’s not daring to stare down those You’ve betrayed. It’s the greatest Sickness known to man: shamelessness. But I’m glad you’ve come – what I have to say will lift a load from Me, but not, perhaps, from you. I will begin right at the beginning. I saved you, as every Greek who Sailed the Argos knows, when you Were sent to master, to yoke the fireBreathing bulls and sow death in a furrow. And the dragon, unsleeping, coiled About the golden fleece, I killed, so Held up the torch to your reputation. With rather more enthusiasm than good sense I betrayed my father and followed you to Iolchos. Pelias I had murdered, horribly, By his own daughters, his house utterly destroyed. And for all this, you contemptible man, You betray me and take yourself a new wife – After I’ve given you sons! Had you none, I might have understood your desire to remarry. But there’s nothing left in an oath, is there? I don’t know if you think the gods are finished, That we all live under some new dispensation, But you must know you’ve not been straight with me. Oh poor little hand you held so often, oh knees That you clasped, how we are soiled by this… Man, in whom we mistakenly placed our hopes. Well then. Let’s pretend we’re friends – Do I really expect anything from you? All the same, I’ll ask, and that will expose you. Where do I turn now? Can I go home to My father’s house, when I betrayed him? To poor Pelias? What a welcome there, When I killed him? Those are the facts. My friends hate me, I have harmed Those I should not have, and earned

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Their enmity for your sake. And haven’t You made me blessed among the women of Greece – What a wonderful husband you are, and so Trustworthy, for pity’s sake. If I’m thrown out, Bereft of friends, just me and my abandoned Children, the shame is yours, bridegroom, that Your sons and your saviour are reduced to beggary. O Zeus, why are the signs so clear for us To tell the real from the counterfeit gold, But when it comes to men there is nothing On the outside to show what’s within? CHORUS It’s a fierce and bitter anger when Loved one turns on loved one. JASON It seems I must be careful what I say; But like a good seaman I’ll unfurl the sail And ride out your storm of words and abuse. Since you make such a towering edifice of Your service, let me tell you, it was Aphrodite, And she alone, who saved my voyage. Oh, you are subtle. To recount how Love forced you to rescue me would be Offensive. So I won’t labour the point. The help you gave was…helpful. But you got for your efforts rather more Than you gave, as I will point out to you. First, you left a barbarous land for Greece, Where you know justice, where force gives way To law. All Greeks know of your wisdom, Your reputation – at the ends of the earth No-one would speak your name. For myself, I’d forgo gold, or a Voice sweeter than Orpheus’, if only Fortune should distinguish me. However, enough of my trials: but you Did raise them. As for your slanders Against my royal marriage, I will demonstrate Just how reasonable it is; that I do it

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For the sake of you and the children. Don’t interrupt! I arrived from Iolchos, Helpless and dogged by misfortune, so what Could be more fortunate than to stumble on A chance to marry the daughter of a king? It’s not, as you will harp on it, that I found Your bed distasteful, or was smitten with Desire for a younger wife; nor was I moved To strive for innumerable children; those we Have are sufficient, and I’m happy with them. It was, and this is most important, so that we should Live well and want for nothing – a poor man, I know, is a pariah – and that the boys might Be brought up in a manner worthy of my breeding. And, yes, to provide brothers for them, knitting Us all together in prosperity. Really, do you Want more children? By enhancing my own Prospects, I thought to enhance theirs. Is that so ill-advised? And you would agree, If you were not jealous. You women think If sex is fine, all is fine, but when something Goes wrong in bed, war is declared on All that’s fine and beautiful. Surely there must Be some other way to replenish ourselves, Without women; life would be so free of trouble.

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CHORUS You argue plausibly Jason. All the same, I think you are wrong to treat your wife like this. MEDEA No doubt I’m rather different from most. But I think a plausible criminal incurs the Heaviest debt. He wraps his twisted intentions In fine words, then cuts you down, pitilessly. But he’s not so clever. You have the nerve To put that specious argument to me? You’re destroyed by a word. You should, Had you meant well, have tried to convince me And not slunk off to marry in secret.

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JASON I’m sure you’d have been a great help if I’d told you. Look, even now you’re as Evil tempered, as choleric as ever.

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MEDEA That’s not it, is it. You’re getting on a bit, and A barbarian wife is no longer respectable. JASON Now you understand this – I’m doing this For no woman, but, as I said before, For you and for the children, to give them Royal brothers and a secure home.

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MEDEA Your happy life I find painful And your generosity makes me sick. JASON Oh, you’ll change your mind and come to your senses. Good things won’t seem so bad, and you won’t need To pretend to be miserable when in fact you’re well off.

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MEDEA You insult me! You have somewhere To turn. I’m cast out into the desert. JASON Your choice; there’s no-one else to blame. MEDEA Was it? Did I marry then abandon you? JASON You cursed the royal house most viciously. MEDEA Yes, and I’ll be a curse to your house.

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Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II

JASON I’ll not discuss this any further. Just Tell me if there is anything at all I can Do for you or for the children – I really Want to help. Letters of introduction, perhaps, To whoever might be useful to to you. It is utterly stupid to refuse, woman; There’s much more profit in curbing your temper.

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MEDEA I want nothing to do with your ‘helpful’ friends, Nor anything from you – so don’t bother. There’s nothing to be had from the gift of a traitor. JASON Yes. Then let the gods bear witness I’ve done All I can for you and for the boys. But There’s no pleasing you – you stubbornly repel Any kindness, and you will suffer the more for it.

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MEDEA Please go. You lust for your new little wife, And you stay too long out of the house. Go on – have her. But perhaps, with god’s help, This is one wedding you won’t want after all. CHORUS Rampaging Love leaves a man Neither goodness nor good name; But should she come with measured step No god gives a sweeter gift. Do not, Mistress, Let fly at me From your golden bow That inescapable shaft Anointed with desire. May I be blest by Chastity’s choice, Of all gods’ gifts the most gracious; So let not Love hurl anger and strife And the shattered heart of a bed betrayed.

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Let her honour A peaceful bed And the loves of Women with a Clear eye judge.

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My homeland, my home – Let me never be helpless, Homeless, enduring a life, Pitiful, not to be endured. Death, give me death On that day; no Suffering outstrips Being stripped of your home.

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We know, we speak At first hand, the Terror you suffer, No pity from city Or citizen – so He’s nothing to me, who Unlocks a pure heart To leave it dishonoured.

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AEGEUS Bless you, Medea. Well, how else Should one greet an old friend? MEDEA And bless you, son of wise old Pandion. Aegeus. Where have you come from? AEGEUS From the ancient oracle of Apollo. MEDEA Why would you go there? AEGEUS To ask that I might father children.

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MEDEA Oh. You’ve lived so long, childless?

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AEGEUS Some god has deemed it so. MEDEA But you do have a wife? AEGEUS Yes, yes. I wear that yoke. MEDEA So? What did Phoebus tell you? AEGEUS Too subtle for a mere mortal to understand.

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MEDEA Oh. Is it proper for me to hear it? AEGEUS Of course. It needs someone as sharp as you. MEDEA Then tell me, since you can. AEGEUS He said, ‘Do not slacken the neck of the wineskin…’ MEDEA Yes. Before you do what, or go where? AEGEUS Before I’m safely home. MEDEA Why, then, have you sailed here? AEGEUS You know of Pittheus, lord of Troezen?

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MEDEA The son of Pelops, yes. A pious man. AEGEUS I want to consult him on this oracle.

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MEDEA He’s wise and well practised. AEGEUS The most cherished of all my old allies. MEDEA Then let me wish you good luck. AEGEUS Yes. But why are you so pale, so sickly? MEDEA Aegeus, my husband is the most…evil man.

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AEGEUS What do you mean? Tell me. Tell me what’s wrong. MEDEA He betrays me. And for nothing I’ve done to him. AEGEUS What has he done? Tell me, honestly. MEDEA He raises up another woman to lord it over my house. AEGEUS He wouldn’t dare! This is appalling! MEDEA It’s true. He loved me – but not any more. AEGEUS He tires of you? He loves someone else?

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MEDEA Oh, yes, Mightily. But he’s not to be trusted. AEGEUS If he’s as bad as you say, forget him. MEDEA He’s in love with royalty and power.

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AEGEUS Oh? Who gives her to him? Come, tell me. MEDEA Creon. AEGEUS I see. You have reason to worry, my dear. MEDEA Yes, and…I’m banished from here. AEGEUS No! Who? … Words fail me.

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MEDEA Creon. AEGEUS And Jason allows it? This is very wrong. MEDEA He muttered about it, but feels he’ll just have To put up with it. But please, I beg you, let Me touch your beard, clasp your knees, for Pity – pity for what’s happened to me. You won’t see me destitute. Take me in, Please, to Athens, into your house. Then I’ll pray you have your wish for Children, for a full and a happy life. Oh, you don’t know, do you, what You’ve chanced upon. I can end your

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Childless life. I know of potions for this. AEGEUS Oh, I do want to do something for you, lady, For many reasons – for the sake of the gods, For the hope of children. As for that I’m bereft of ideas. But this I can do: If you go to Athens, I will endeavour To protect you, as I should. But, I must make this clear to you, my dear; I will not take you from this place, but Should you come to my house, yourself, You will be quite secure. I won’t give you up. But you must get yourself from Corinth – I do not wish to offend friends here.

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MEDEA Yes, of course. But you will swear To do this? Then all will be well. AEGEUS You don’t trust me? What troubles you? MEDEA I do, yes, I do. But Creon, the whole house Of Pelias, hates me. If you’re bound by an Oath, you cannot give me up. They are Your friends, they could persuade you Out of mere words. I have no power; They have all the resources of a royal house.

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AEGEUS You are indeed prudent. Well, if you Wish it, I won’t refuse you. It will, In fact, be most helpful to me; I’ll have An excuse to offer them, and it gives you More certainty. To which gods do I swear?

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MEDEA You’ll swear to the Earth on which you stand; To the Sun, father of my father; to all the gods.

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AEGEUS What do I swear to do, or not to do? MEDEA Never to expel me from your land; Never willingly, while you live, Surrender me to my enemies.

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AEGEUS I swear by Earth, and the holy Sun, by All the gods, to be true to what you ask. MEDEA Good. And if you are not, what will you suffer? AEGEUS The fate of all sinners.

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MEDEA You complete my happiness. Thankyou. I’ll get to Athens as soon as I can, but first, There are things to do, tasks to complete. CHORUS May the lord Hermes guide you; May you have what you wish for. You are a good man, Aegeus, And I honour you for it. MEDEA O Zeus, Justice, Helios himself – the way Is clear and I will prevail, and I can Hope they will get what they deserve. My plan, you see, was weak on that very Point. This good man rescues it and I Can be safely moored in the city of Athene. I’ll send a servant to Jason and beg him To come and see me. I’ll soften my words, I’ll say I’ve thought about it, that this marriage, And my betrayal, are really for the best – They are for our good, intelligently conceived.

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And I’ll beg for our sons to stay – oh, Don’t think I’d leave them here in all this Hostility merely to be insulted, but to Kill the girl, I need them. I will Send them bearing gifts for the bride, A silky robe and a golden crown. Should she accept and put on this finery, She’ll die, painfully, as will anyone who Touches it. I have potions for this too. However, I have said enough on this. It is the next thing I must do that hurts: I will kill the children – no-one Will take them away from me! When The house of Jason is in complete chaos I will go, and I will endure the guilt – I can bear To be hated, my dears, but not to be laughed at. Well? What does life profit me? There is No homeland, no home, no avoiding disaster. I made my mistake then, when I left my home And believed a Greek, whom, so help me god, I will punish. The sons he had by me he will not See alive, nor will he have sons with his new wife, For she must, in great pain, die from my poisons. Let no-one think me weak, or soft – I, In hate or in love, am of a different breed; And to such is the greatest glory.

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CHORUS In speaking you have involved us – we want To help you, but must uphold the law; We forbid you to do this! MEDEA There is nothing else to do. It’s fine for you To speak so, but you haven’t suffered as I have. CHORUS But, woman, can you bear to kill your own children? MEDEA Only to wound my husband where it most hurts.

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CHORUS And yourself where there’s most grief. MEDEA Oh yes. Enough talk – we will act. You, bring Jason here. I can trust you; You’ll say nothing of what’s on my mind, If you are loyal and if you’re a woman.

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CHORUS All the sons of Erechtheus strophe a Happy children of the gods Have long been blessed – Unvanquished in war Nourished by glorious Wisdom They step out with grace beneath bright skies And there, they say, gold-haired Harmony Was born to Pieria’s Muses. Cypris herself has tasted Cephisus’ fair stream; She breathes about her Honeyed winds, and trails Her rose-crowned hair – So, seating Wisdom down with Love, They joined together to create All the human virtues.

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How can this city Of sacred streams Take in a polluter Who kills her child? Look at the blow you strike – Look at the blood you spill – At your knees We beg, we plead, No Slaughter!

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Where can you find Strength of mind Or hand to face

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The horror – oh how Then will you see and not weep? Then when they beg will you melt Or plunge your Hand deep in blood ? You cannot!

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JASON I am here as you ask. Yes, you’re still bitter, aren’t you, But I’ll hear what you want from me, lady. MEDEA I ask you, Jason, to forgive what I’ve said. You might bear with my anger, given the love We’ve shared. I discussed it with myself, And I thought, you fool, what madness turns You against good advice? To be so hateful To royalty and a husband, who acts only In our best interests by marrying royalty And getting brothers for his sons? Drop your Anger – what is your difficulty when the gods Provide so well? I know we came as fugitives, Friendless, but don’t I have my children? I thought about it and saw my stupidity And futile anger. Now I agree with you. Your concern for us is sensible, and I’m being Silly. I should have helped with your plans, Shared a marriage, attended the bride, Rejoiced in this union. But women – We’re not positively bad; we are what we are. You should not ape our weaknesses; don’t Repay childishness with childishness. I know I was wrong before, but I’m wiser now. Oh, children, my boys. Come outside. Greet your Father, embrace him as I do. Enemies are friends; Peace has ousted bitterness. Take his hands. Oh, the future I contemplate is dark, my dears, Will you, as long as you live, reach out to me? I’m afraid, I’m filled with tears and fear. After so long my quarrel with your father is over – See? My eyes. I can’t help but cry.

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CHORUS Now, Medea, you bring fresh tears to my eyes. Please, let there be no more unpleasantness. JASON I heartily approve, Lady, and I can’t blame you. A woman would, quite naturally, be angry When a husband smuggles in another wife. It’s taken time, but now your heart is better Disposed and good sense prevails. This is The behaviour of a sensible woman. My boys, Your father has given this much thought, and, With god’s help, you will be provided for. I think, in time, you, with your brothers, Will be leaders in Corinth. When you’ve grown up. Your father, and the gods who favour him, Have it all in hand. I want to see you when You’re big and strong, bring down my enemies. But, my dear – more tears? You’re pale. Why Do you turn away? Have I said something wrong? MEDEA Nothing. I think of my children.

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JASON Be brave. I’ll look after them. MEDEA Yes. I do believe you. Oh, women will cry! JASON But why? Why so much for them? MEDEA I was their mother. When you prayed for them To live, I wondered if… Then I felt sad. I’ve said some of what I meant to say – Now I remember. The king will banish me. Yes, I understand perfectly well that’s best – Here I’d simply get in your way, and his, And some think I’m ill-disposed to them.

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I accept my exile, but please, since The children are in your hands Beg Creon not to banish them.

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JASON I doubt if I can, but I’ll try. MEDEA Then ask your wife to plead with him. JASON Yes, of course. I think she could. MEDEA She will, she will if she’s like other women. I can help. Yes, I can. I’ll send her gifts, the loveliest she’ll see; Oh, yes, yes they are. I know they are. A wonderfully fine gown and a gold coronet – Yes, and the children will take them. You, One of you, bring them out here, quickly. She’ll be so, so happy – sharing her bed With the finest of men and having this gown Handed down by Helios, my grandfather, To his descendants. Take them, my dears, Carry them, hand these gifts to the happiest Of royal brides. Yes, they are perfect. JASON You silly girl. Why give these things away? Do you think a princess wants for clothes? Or gold? Save them, don’t give them away. I’m certain, if the lady has any opinion of me, She’ll put that before expensive trinkets. MEDEA No, no. It’s said even the gods are moved by gifts, And gold works on men better than a million words. She is blessed, your princess, and the gods will Make her blessings grow. I’d give my soul, Not just gold, if she could prevent their exile.

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Boys, there. Go in to the grand house of your Father’s new bride, my mistress, kneel To her, beg to stay, and give this – it is most, Most important – into her very own hands. Quick, quick as you can. Then come back and Tell mother that you’ve done what she wished. CHORUS No more hope for their short lives, Hope no more as they go to die, for When the bride takes the gold band She takes up bitter revenge – By her own hand Her fair head is fitted with death.

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She’ll be charmed by the shining gown antistrophe a She’ll place on her head the gold-wrought crown, Her bride-band for the underworld – so Down she falls, enthralled, Death her lot, A fate she never could avoid. And you, sad groom of a royal house, strophe b You do not know The hate, destruction and death You bring down on your bride and your boys – You don’t know your own misery. With you I weep for a mother’s pain, The children you kill For the sake of your bed, For the man who wrongly forsakes you And lives with another wife.

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TUTOR Lady, your boys will not be banished. And the bride is most happy to accept Your gifts. The children are safe there. What? You’re not pleased with your good luck?

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MEDEA No. Perhaps not. TUTOR You’re out of tune with this good news? MEDEA Must I say it again! TUTOR Have I made a mistake? I thought it was good news.

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MEDEA Your news is your news. I don’t blame you. TUTOR Why do you weep and cast your eyes down? MEDEA Old man, I can’t help it! The gods And my scheming do this. TUTOR Take heart. Your children will bring you down here again.

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MEDEA Not before I’ve sent others down. TUTOR Other mothers have been parted from sons. We mortals must simply bear our trials. MEDEA Yes, I will. Now go inside and do your work. Oh, my children, my dears. You have a home, A city, where you will live always without A mother, and poor me, I’m left out. I will fly to another place, before I see You grown and happy – before I’ve seen Your brides or made your marriage beds And held high the wedding torch.

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Oh yes, I suffer from my stubbornness. Little ones, why did I rear you? Why The suffering, the harrowing effort Of giving birth to you? I had great hopes In you, that you’d look after me when I’m Old – you’d lay out my corpse with your Own hands, the respectable thing to do. Now the dream is gone. Separated from you My life is filled with pain. You will never again Look on your mother with those loving eyes; You’ll live a quite different life. Oh, god. Why do you look at me like that? Why do you smile? What will I do? I’m beaten, ladies, by the eyes of a child. I can’t do it. I’ve changed my mind. I’ll take them with me. Whatever I Inflict on their father, I inflict double On myself. No, I’ve changed my mind. Oh. What is happening to me? Do I want to be laughed at, let them off, Quite unpunished? I must face it. I’m weak, even to think such soft Thoughts. Boys, go inside. Should anyone think it unlawful to Witness my sacrifice, that is his business, But I will not hold back my hand. Oh, no. No! My heart. You can’t do this! Leave them. Spare your own children. In Athens they’ll make you happy. No! No! By all the horrors of Hell I can never, never leave my children To be insulted by my enemies. But it’s done now – I can’t avoid it. Yes, I’m quite sure. She’ll have put on The crown, the gown. The princess is dead. Well. It is a hard, hard road for me, And I will send them down a harder one. I want to see them! Give me, my dears, Give me your hands to kiss. I love your hand. I love your mouth, Your bearing, your noble eyes, and I

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Wish you happiness – there. Here, Your father has destroyed it. Oh, It is sweet to hold you – you’re so Soft, your breath smells so sweet. Oh, go away! Go away! If I look at you I’ll weaken. Yes, I do understand What it is I’m prepared to do. But I’m angry. It overpowers me. Oh yes, there lies the source of our pains. CHORUS I have pursued The windings of words Further, perhaps, than A woman should. But we have our Muse Who teaches us wisdom – Not all, but you might Discover a woman Among us whose Wits are sharp. To be without A child, I say, Is to be happier Than to have one – They do not know The pleasure or The grief – an absence Of much anguish. I see a sweet Child bloom; I see, in time, All worn down With care – how To nurture? What Legacy? And Doubt – is he, Or is he not, Worthy?

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I will speak of The last, of The worst of agonies. You scrape enough To keep his body Alive, and on He strides to Manhood – but A god intervenes And he dies.

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What do we gain When the gods inflict Unspeakable pain For the sake of a child?

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MEDEA My dear friends, I’m eager, impatient For something from in there. And here He comes, Jason’s man, out of breath – The bearer of bad news?

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MESSENGER Go, Medea! Run! What you’ve done is horrifying. Find a cart, boat, anything! Go! MEDEA Oh? Why should I do that? MESSENGER You poisoned them. The girl and Creon Are dead. You poisoned them.

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MEDEA It is sweet of you to say so. From now on I count you as a friend and benefactor. MESSENGER What? You’re insane, woman. The Royal house is outraged and when I Tell you, you’re glad? You’re not scared?

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MEDEA I could reply to that. But, my dear man, Take your time. Now, how did they die? You see, you’ll make me twice as happy If they died badly. MESSENGER When your two boys came to the bride’s Apartment, we were really pleased – we Had been upset by what was done to you. Word was that you and your husband were At peace. So we greeted the children, kissed Their hands and their hair – I was myself so Pleased I followed them to the women’s quarters. Our mistress – she, not you any longer – Before she saw the boys had eyes only For Jason. When she did see them, she Looked away and turned her cheek, which Paled. She seemed irritated by their presence. Your husband, to mollify this girlish temper, Said, ‘Don’t be unkind to your friends – Stop your anger, turn to me – your husband’s Friends are your friends. Now, please, for me, Take your gifts and ask your father Not to send the boys away.’ She saw those pretty gifts, and could not Resist. She agreed to everything, then, Father and sons had hardly gone, she took The gown and put it on. She put on the coronet And primped her hair before a mirror. She smiled at that empty image and, getting up, She strode about the room, stepping prettily, Enchanted by her presents and constantly Admiring her own fine leg. She appeared, suddenly, quite frightening – Her colour changed. She trembled and tottered, Slumped in a chair or she’d have fallen to the floor. An old lady thought she’d been Possessed by Pan or some other god, and And cried out in prayer, until she saw a White foam on the girl’s lips, her eyes roll

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And her face bloodless. She cried out again, This time in earnest. Someone rushed off For her father and another for her husband, To tell him. The whole place erupted with noise. In a moment she opened her eyes and, Conscious, the poor girl shrieked, attacked By double agony. The gold circlet on Her head shot streams of fire, and That fine gown your children gave her Ate into her delicate flesh. She leapt From the chair, on fire, shaking her head To dislodge the thing, but the gold stuck, And the fire, and the more she shook, The more it burned. She collapsed, beaten; To any but a parent, unrecognisable – not Her eyes, not that lovely face, but blood And fire dripped from her head, flesh Slid from her bones like amber from bark, Gnawed by that invisible poison. Horrible! None dared touch her. We had seen, but her father rushed in, Unknowing, and fell upon the body. He howled, embraced and kissed her – ‘Child, my child, what god destroys you? Old as I am, near to my own grave, who Takes you from me? Let me die with you, girl.’ He paused in his lament and, rising, found Himself held by the gown, which clung as Ivy clings to laurel, and he struggled, terribly. He tried to get to his knees, but she held him Down, and the harder he struggled, the more She ripped his old flesh from his bones. At last, life snuffed, he gave up his sad ghost. Horror could go no further and the corpses Lay side by side, father and daughter A sight to weep at. For you, I have nothing to say. You’ll Know how to twist your way out. Man is a mere shadow, and I can say, Quite confidently, the clever men, those who Find reasons for things, deserve to be whipped.

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None of us can be happy – you may be rich, You may be lucky, but never, never happy.

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CHORUS Today the gods strike back at Jason. Daughter of Creon, we weep, we weep for you, For your marriage, for your death.

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MEDEA My friends, yes, I see. As soon as I can I must dispatch the children and leave. No delay – that would leave them to die By less kind hands. They will die, One way or another, and since they must, Then I, their mother, will do it. Oh, Arm yourself, my heart. Why hesitate? It is terrible, but inevitable. Come, take your blade – take it – go on, To where despair begins. No weakness, No memory of love, but for this brief day Forget them. Then weep. Though you kill them, they are yet Dear to you. I am an ill-starred woman. CHORUS O Earth and far-flung rays Of the Sun, look down, look At the woman before she lifts Her murdering hand to her own, Your own, Before blood of gods Is spilt by men. Hold her, heavenly light, Drive the Fury out. For futile care And futile love Did you brave the dark Symplegades? Why does Anger turn to murder? Stain the earth with

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Blood of your own and Your house pays a debt Of grief to the gods.

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(Children off-stage: a scream) CHORUS Hear them! Hear them! She is damned! The women is damned!

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CHILDREN What can I do? How can I fly? We’ll die, brother! Brother we’ll die! CHORUS Do we go in? We must. We must try!

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CHILDREN In the name of the gods! We’re caught! We’re caught! CHORUS She is cast in iron or stone Who with her own hand Cuts down her own child. One, only one woman has Ever done this – Ino, Sent mad by the gods And driven to wander By the wife of Zeus, Plunged, poor woman, Into the sea for Such unholy killing. Her foot she stretched Over the edge, and she Joined the sons she killed. Is there a greater horror? JASON You, women. Is that murdering bitch

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Inside or has she fled? She will have to hide herself deep In the earth, or fly to the heavens If she thinks to escape some royal Justice. Has she convinced herself She can kill a king and get out? But It’s not her that concerns me – the children. She will be dealt with. I have Come to rescue the boys, should they Suffer for what she has done.

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CHORUS Jason, you don’t know how far down You’ve been dragged – or you’d have said nothing. JASON What do you mean? She wants to kill me? CHORUS She has killed them. Your boys. JASON No…no. You’ll destroy me, woman.

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CHORUS The children are dead. Believe it. JASON How? Inside? Out here? CHORUS Open the doors, you’ll see them. JASON Then open them, now! Break The locks, let me see them! And her. Her – I will deal to her. MEDEA Why do you beat at the doors? Do you look for the corpses, and me,

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Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II

Who made them? Stop it, please stop. If you want to speak to me, just say so, But you will never lay a hand on me. Helios himself, father of my father, Provides this escape from my enemies. JASON You are an abomination – to the gods, To me, to every man born, you who Can bring yourself to raise a sword Against your babies – leave me childless. You can do this and still look on the Sun, on the Earth? With this pollution? Oh, god! Now I’m sane, I can’t have been Then, when I brought you from that place To Greece, as evil as you are, when you Turned betrayer to your father and your home. The gods punish me for your sins. You murdered your brother over his Hearth then you ran to the Argo. So you began. You married me And bore children to me, and For the sake of sex, you murdered them. No Greek woman could ever have Done that. I married the quintessence Of hate, an animal, not a woman, more Savage than Tuscan Scylla. Oh, why bother? If I cursed you ten thousand times You’d be proof to it. Just go, You’re disgusting, soiled with child’s blood. What can I do but weep? I’ve lost My wife, my sons – my sons. I’ll never speak to them again. MEDEA I might have answered you point for Point if Zeus himself did not know What sacrifices I made for you. No. You can’t dishonour my bed and Go through life laughing at me. No-one, not your princess, not even Creon,

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Could drive me out without paying. Call me an animal if you wish, a ‘Tuscan Scylla’ – but I have you, Have I not, firmly by the heart.

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JASON You suffer as much as me. MEDEA True. But suffering is relieved when The smile’s wiped off your face. JASON Oh, my boys. What a mother you had. MEDEA Oh, my boys, you died from your father’s sickness. JASON They did not die by my hand.

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MEDEA No, they died by the insult of your marriage. JASON You thought that reason enough to kill them? MEDEA Oh? Do you think that a small thing for a woman? JASON To a civilised woman. You are simply evil. MEDEA They are dead, and it hurts you. JASON They live to bring down curses on you. MEDEA The gods know who began it.

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JASON And the gods know how loathsome you are. MEDEA You may rant. Your whining disgusts me. JASON As yours does me. Go, please go.

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MEDEA Oh, I want to. But what do we do now? JASON Give me the bodies to mourn them. MEDEA No. No, I will myself take them To the temple of Hera, just to make sure They suffer no insult or desecration. Here in Corinth we will establish Holy rites to atone for these killings. I will go to Athens, to Aegeus. And you, as is only fitting, will die Ignominiously, your head shattered By the hull of your own ship. So will our affair come to an end. JASON The Furies, Justice will destroy you for this. MEDEA Will the gods listen to an oath-breaker, a liar? JASON You’re unclean – an infanticide. MEDEA Go home and bury your wife. JASON Yes. But without my children?

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MEDEA This is no time to lament. Wait until you’re old. JASON Oh my sons. You were loved.

MEDEA Not by you – their mother.

JASON Who killed them.

MEDEA To punish you.

JASON If I could hold them, and kiss them.

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MEDEA Now you want to talk to them, Cuddle them. Where were you then? JASON Please, just let me touch them. MEDEA No. It is futile to ask. JASON O Zeus, do you hear how I’m used, What this child-killing bitch Does to me? What I can, I’ll do, I’ll weep, I’ll call On the gods to witness How you killed my sons How you forbid me to Touch, or to bury them. I should never have bred Them for you to destroy. CHORUS The gods deal out fate In many forms – what We thought does not Happen; the unthinkable Does. So it was here.

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*Note on lines 38-43: these are generally felt to be spurious and have been omitted. Lines 40 & 41 are uttered later by Medea (379-80) in a more comprehensible context.

INTRODUCTION: HIPPOLYTUS

Tragedy and the Theatre The theatre, says the publicity, is going to present a tragedy. What do you expect for your money? It will perhaps be something old, the effusions of a long-dead dramatist with aspirations to poetry. It won’t be very funny; at best a few moments of comic relief before serious heroes are dragged down by fate, or by the one little weakness that shows how human heroes really are. It should be both moving and uplifting. Your emotions will be assaulted, but you will be a better person for it. In all, it could be like taking a shower while someone interferes with the hot and cold taps; a cleansing ordeal. Tragedies, of course, are not merely theatrical. They happen every day outside the theatre and are no fun at all. From the point of view of an observer, however, these two kinds, the theatrical and the actual, do have some features in common. When observing an incident that could be described as tragic, as opposed to being involved in it, we are likely to respond emotionally, and then to put those responses in a context of values. Why did it happen? Was anyone to blame? What does the event tell us, or make us feel about the world we live in? Even the most arbitrary and freakish event arouses thoughts and feelings about the victims and perhaps ourselves, and if the only conclusion you can come to is that the world is an arbitrary and freakish place, while that may not be the most elegant or satisfying philosophy, it is a philosophy nonetheless. The important difference between the theatrical and the actual, or, in the old phrase, between art and life, is that in the latter you are left to your own resources and any involvement that might ensue will entail real consequences. In the theatre we know the event is not real. We know also that what we see has been carefully constructed by someone who is attempting to convince us that the figures involved could in some way be real by manipulating our responses, both our feelings and whatever thoughts we have about the way the world ticks. Which brings us via a circuitous route back to what we might expect when the playbill announces a tragedy. It is likely to be old, a picture of past ages. It is likely to put before its audience characters who may be impressive, who are in some important respect sympathetic (even Macbeth has his moments) and in whom you can believe as credible human beings whose

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suffering is significant. It will be ‘serious.’ If there are lighter moments they will be overwhelmed by darker ones, and yet, if the peformance is a good one, you may want to see it a second time. The pleasure of tragedy is a paradoxical thing. Some literary critics tell us that playwrights don’t write tragedies any more – serious plays may be anti-, post-, even meta-tragedies, but not quite the real thing. Either God, or the gods, are dead and the necessary fatalistic backdrop they provide for tragedy is irrelevant to our secular values. Or, the genre ‘Tragedy’ is redundant in the high-flying worlds of semiotic, psychological, sociological and political analysis.1 There are two questions to be considered here: firstly, how do we define ‘tragedy’? Secondly, what is its place in our theatre? The concept of tragedy has undergone many changes between the time the Greeks first thought of it and the critics have sought to kill it off. Aristotle’s account of tragedy in the fourth century BC is the first systematic attempt to describe this elusive creature, and in spite of countless other sightings and descriptions of it since, his insights still articulate something of its essence: Tragedy is, then, an imitation of a noble and complete action, having the proper magnitude; it employs language that has been artistically enhanced by each of the kinds of linguistic adornment, applied separately in various parts of the play; it is presented in dramatic and not narrative form, and achieves, through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such pitiable and fearful incidents.2

As a definition this requires considerable expansion and explanation. However, we will look at three key ideas which may provide a foundation for an approach to the idea of tragedy. (i) An imitation of a noble and complete action…presented in dramatic and not narrative form. Drama is the imitative art par excellence. Actors get up there and act out, in movement and speech, the thoughts and feelings of fictional characters, all subject to the constraints of style and convention that apply to 1 Only a few typical instances can be referred to here: George Steiner. The Death of Tragedy. London: Faber, 1961; E. Faas Tragedy and After: Euripides, Shakespeare and Goethe. Montreal: Queens UP. 1984; Catherine Belsey. The Subject of Tragedy. London: Routledge. 1985. A good defence and overview of the genre is in Raymond Williams. Modern Tragedy. London: Chatto & Windus, 1966. 2 Aristotle’s Poetics, Translated by Leon Golden and commentary by O.B. Hardison. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. 1968. 11. This translation is, perhaps, controversial, but whether the interpretation of ‘catharsis’ offered here is entirely justified or not, it points up the significance of the part that emotions play in the action of Greek tragedy, which is a necessary complement to the emotional effect on an audience.

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particular theatres at particular historical periods. This imitation may be literal or it may be stylised, it may take place in the most elementary and unadorned space, or in a purpose-built theatre with any number of sophisticated technical aids. A ‘complete action’ refers to the structure of a plot. It is not “activity, or what performers do on the stage, but something closer to ‘process’.”3 The focus here is coherence; not merely the idea of a cohesive plot with a beginning, a middle and an end, but one which allows the audience to recognise some significance or meaning as the action unfolds, however contradictory or irrational the actions of particular characters might be. A ‘noble action’ is something traditionally associated with tragedy. It may seem a bit old fashioned, and it is not necessarily the case that the characters in a tragedy are especially noble (whatever good points the characters in Hippolytus have, none of them is unblemished). Aristotle does go on to discuss the tragic hero as a figure who is impressive and sympathetic, but imperfect. However, in this context, nobility appears to refer to the action, rather than to some conception of character. The action, or ‘process’ of the play, should inspire the pleasure that is appropriate to tragedy, a pleasure which has been variously described as moral inspiration, aesthetic, spiritual or psychological insight. Whichever of these it may be, individually or combined, it is the case that even now we expect to experience something that is interesting, valuable and somewhat out of the ordinary. And this, incidentally, reflects something about the manner in which the word ‘tragedy’ is used. Technically it refers to a certain genre of plays (though it is often applied to other literary forms, particularly novels, in which characters suffer the slings and arrows of fortune), but commonly it bears an evaluative sense that reflects the idea of ‘nobility’ or ‘seriousness.’ A bad tragedy is, for most of us, not a tragedy at all, but a melodrama, from which we have withdrawn credence and do not consider to be serious. (ii) …employs language that has been artistically enhanced by each of the kinds of linguistic ornament, applied separately in various parts of the play. The tragedy that Aristotle knew was written in verse and different forms, lyric and iambic, conventionally reflected choric and spoken parts of a play. However, aside from such Greek conventions, this observation reminds us that the ‘artistically enhanced’ language of a play, whether verse or prose, is a highly wrought medium designed to manipulate the thoughts and feelings of an audience. (iii) [Tragedy achieves] through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such pitiable and fearful incidents. Whether ‘catharsis’ refers to the clarification of emotional events (as Golden translates it 3

Golden & Hardison (1968) 114.

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here), or whether it refers to the purgation or purification of the emotions themselves (the more traditional interpretation), is not really the point. Either way, there is an emphasis on emotional experience, both for the characters in the drama and for the audience. It has something to do with the significance of emotions, either experienced or observed, as they play a part in the events of the play, whether the background to those events is defined by the Greek pantheon, the Christian universe, or the modern secular world. And the significance lies in the essential part that emotions play in human experience and understanding, and reflects the kind of focus that the Greeks gave to the struggles individuals have with their emotions as they slip and struggle through a hostile world, imperfectly understood. It is this kernel around which the essential elements of tragedy and the dramatic genre in general have grown. The second major point to be made is that even if tragedy as a genre were overtaken by history and its tenets were no longer relevant to contemporary dramatists, the acknowledged tragedies of the past still maintain their power on the modern stage. This, perhaps, casts doubt on the ‘tragedy is dead’ thesis. It also suggests something about the return we expect to get as members of the audience of a serious drama. The point is a simple one – if an Oedipus, a Phaedra, a Hippolytus or Agave, while manipulated by gods who retired from active theology many centuries ago, can inspire in audiences a sense of credibility and conviction as characters, then what is essential to their success as tragic creations must be something other than the specific context of their creation. The particular strength of the stage, as the Greek tragedians used it, is the realisation of character, of credible psychological entities which grow out of a structured sequence of events (or plot), by focusing our interest on their thoughts and emotions and evoking some sense of value or significance. This is not the only use to which a stage can be put, but it is a particularly European one, which gives some indication about why it is that the greatest litereary art of the west is usually considered to include the dramatic tragedies, at least of the Greeks and Shakespeare. The stage, of course, is not the only venue for tragic fiction, but it is the source of a kind of writing that is conceived in theatrical space and is formally dramatic. The Greeks laid the foundation for an art form which, though modified by time and at some periods in history quite eclipsed, is alive and well in the modern theatre and among writers of dramatic texts. This is perhaps reflected by the fact that Greek tragedy can, without risk of self-parody, be easily adapted to the conditions of a modern theatre. Although the large open-air Greek stage was significantly different from the modern stage, the texts that were written for it were conceived in a manner that entails the function of dramatic space and the particular relationships between stage and audience that it embodies.

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The end, the purpose of tragedy is to give coherence to a story in which individuals experience suffering. Whether or not we, as members of the audience, are improved by this is entirely another matter, but the kind of experience that it offers is one which performers and audiences have enthused about for a long time, and no doubt will continue to do so.

The Story and the Play The Greek tragedians used the mythical sources for their places with considerable freedom. Old, strange stories of pre-historical Greece supply raw material for the dramatist to re-shape and re-focus for his fifth century BC audience. The outline of the story of Hippolytus is simple and consistent: Phaedra, the young wife of Theseus, ruler of Athens, falls in love with her stepson, Hippolytus. Theseus, in anger, has his father, the god Poseidon, kill the boy after he has falsely been accused of adultery. Phaedra commits suicide and Theseus laments when the truth is revealed. Sophocles uses the story, but his play has been lost, and Euripides, unusually, wrote two versions, the later of which has survived. The story has maintained a firm grip on the imagination of writers since, either featuring the same characters or equivalents who act out the same relationships. From Seneca in the first century AD to Bandello in the sixteenth, Lope de Vega, Garnier and Racine in the seventeenth, Zola in the nineteenth and O’Neill and Harrison in the twentieth, this triangular affair has provided material for explorations into shame, guilt, and illicit passion.4 Each version, of course, reflects its own time and the characters are given quantities of awareness and culpability that allow their authors to articulate various combinations of psychology and sin. In all cases but one, Phaedra, or the Phaedra figure, is the active agent who imposes on the innocence of her stepson, and in all but one she outlives the boy, to die filled with remorse at the end. The exception is Euripides’ play, and that this should be so is revealing. His first version (Hippolytus Kaluptomenos) presented the standard story and was not, we are told, a success with his audience. In 428 BC he presented Hippolytus Stephanephoros to great applause and more or less eternal fame.5 Although the details of the earlier version must remain conjectural, it seems fair to suggest that the changes made to the structure of the story enabled Euripides not only to give a different focus to ideas about shame and guilt, but to develop a dramatic technique that could express them. There are three key elements in the adaptation of the story which give the extant Hippolytus its unique character. 4

See A.S. Gerard. The Phaedra Syndrome: Of Shame and Guilt in Drama. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993. 5 See Barrett’s edition of Hippolytus. Oxford: OUP. 1964. 11-15 and 29-45.

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1. Phaedra does not approach Hippolytus directly to reveal her feelings. The Nurse gives the game away contrary to her mistress’ wishes. This has an effect on Phaedra’s motivation for her subsequent actions, in particular her posthumous accusation of rape. 2. Phaedra’s death before Theseus has his son killed modifies the relationship between Hippolytus and his father, and creates sufficient dramatic space to give depth to the characterisation of these figures. It creates a second sequence of action that complements the first tragedy. 3. The direct, personalised framing of the whole play by two antipathetic goddesses adjusts our perception of the action, of how the characters do what they do and why they do it. The moral burden is, to some degree, shifted from them because certain feelings and states of mind are simply given and indisputable, and the consequence is that we focus more clearly on how each of the major characters fights to maintain some sort of integrity in the world of the play. And that, we should remember, is not mythical Greece, but fifth century Athens, where the nature of moral responsibility, emotional experience and the relation between men and gods were topical.

Structure: The Principle of Juxtaposition Euripides’ reconstruction of the story is interesting from several points of view. On the one hand, the architecture of the play overrides the usual linear sequence of events so that the play appears to fall into two self-contained halves, culminating in the deaths of Phaedra and Hippolytus respectively. That, added to the framing of the play as a whole by two divinities, creates a chinese-boxlike effect. Boxes within boxes, planes of action that envelop and intermingle, yet are clearly separated and juxtaposed to create an extremely intricate kind of irony. The plot does little to contribute to any ‘tragic recognition’ on the part of the characters. Insofar as any understanding on their part does occur, it is imposed from without, rather than as, for example, in Oedipus the King, where lines of action converge in one epiphanic moment for the protagonist. On the other hand, the characters, both as participants in the story and as discrete individuals, are revealed through juxtaposition; they reflect off each other, appearing in a series of carefully arranged vignettes.

Architecture The most obvious structural feature of the play is the frame provided by the goddesses Aphrodite and Artemis. Not only do these two appear and speak in person, but all the action on the stage takes place between two statues representing them. The gods are a defining presence in all Greek tragedies,

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whether visible or not, and their appearance here has a similar significance to their direct participation in the action of other plays of Euripides (such as the Bacchae), or their gradual but invisible emergence in Sophocles’ dramas.6 What is different about the Hippolytus is the interaction between the two divinities. They are opposites who manifest their powers through the behaviour of their human subjects. Aphrodite asserts her jealousy of Hippolytus’ devotion to Artemis and unambiguously outlines the plot in the prologue. Artemis appears at the end to affirm what has happened and the reasons for it. The principles that they represent are, of course, the source of much speculation about Greek religion, society and morality, but what is important dramatically is that these principles, or characteristics, are apparent in the characters of the play; in Phaedra’s passion and Hippolytus’ devotion to an austere idea of natural virtue, though no less in Phaedra’s resistance to her feelings for the sake of social and family virtues, and in an implicit sensuality that underscores Hippolytus’ devotion. The characters are not merely puppets or alter-egos for their respective deities. But more important than their differences are what the goddesses have in common. While capable, it seems, of feeling the ‘injustice’ of neglect from their mortal subjects, they can feel no compassion or sympathy. Aphrodite will sacrifice Phaedra to exact revenge on Hipploytus: The lady Will keep her reputation, but not her life. I cannot be partial to her suffering: I must not forgo the justice due to me From one who is so hateful. (46-50)

Artemis will similarly exact justice on some poor unsuspecting acolyte of her sister goddess. And as she looks upon the mangled body of her most faithful devotee, her response is cool: “…it is not lawful for these eyes to weep.” Divine justice, the acknowledgement due from humankind to whatever universal principles the gods may represent, is impersonal and amoral, and rolls indiscriminately over the smallest and most innocent impediment. The commonality of the two goddesses is expressed through many verbal echoes and by two ironic juxtapositions involving the Chorus. The most striking example of the former is the bee image in Hippolytus’ prayer to Artemis and the Chorus’ allusion to the destructive power of Eros, “like the touch of the

6

As Oedipus reveals when explaining why he blinded himself: Apollo, Apollo brought it down: But my own hand struck me.

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wandering bee,” in the second stasimon.7 For the latter, the first instance is in the epode to the first stasimon, as the Chorus appeal to Artemis in their concern for Phaedra, immediately following Aphrodite’s opening speech and Hippolytus’ slighting of her in the prologue. The second occurs after the Messenger has told his gory tale and the Chorus quite unexpectedly launch into an evocation of the power of Aphrodite, followed then by the appearance of Artemis. And she has no more to promise than that it is her turn to initiate the next round of mischief. The structural significance of Aphrodite and Artemis lies not only in the way they frame the plot, but in the paradoxical manner that each infiltrates the action of the play. The tragedies of Phaedra and Hippolytus are two raw events that lie in twin scales, represented by the goddesses. They each weigh up their human subjects, and bring down their judgement, their ‘justice.’ They do not, however, measure them against each other and so suggest some overriding standard for the audience to judge the characters. The scales of justice that the goddesses use (appropriate acknowledgement from mortals) are detached, mechanical devices and are themselves juxtaposed to the suffering of the human actors. The values according to which they judge and condemn bear little relation to any moral scheme into which the weaknesses and strengths of the victims might fit. Euripides’ schema functions like bifocals for the audience: the long view takes in Aphrodite and Artemis, who stand behind the action, and the short view focuses on people, creating multiple perspectives that affect the audience’s responses to events as they unfold. Actions are ‘caused’ on two levels. The plot is laid out for us by Aphrodite, who is the ultimate driving force of events, but the protagonists don’t respond mechanically, or not, at least, after the initial stimulus that sets them in motion. The boxes within boxes metaphor can perhaps be extended. The two major catastrophic events are calculated shocks for both the participants and the audience – they are not entirely unexpected for the audience, but their carefully contrived visual effects underline the intention to shock. However, on the stage all the characters experience a sequence of shocks that push them in a predetermined direction before they reassert a degree of moral consciousness that heightens the anguish of their predicament. The human actors function on a moral level which is contained by the amorality of the divine actors. It is on this human level that the action is structured. The Nurse is stunned by Phaedra’s revelation, then recovers to assert her view of how to deal with the situation. Hippolytus is shocked by the Nurse’s revelation, but overcomes his initial indignation to reimpose his strict moral code on himself 7

For a detailed account of the language see Bernard Knox’s essay, “The Hippolytus of Euripides,” in Euripides: Twentieth Century Views. ed. E. Segal. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968. 90-114.

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and remain silent. Theseus is reduced to despair by the death of Phaedra, but rises again to assert his proper kingly authority. In each case a raw emotional response is transmuted into morally articulated conduct and a continuous tension is maintained between twin realities – the gods and the human world. But the conflict goes further. The human actors do not merely assert one moral view in opposition to amoral divinities, but their own values conflict, not least because these values reflect aspects of what the gods represent. Reason always seems subsequent to emotion, to what each character feels about himself or herself within the tangle of relationships that make up the world they live in. The architecture of the play creates a complex, dramatically distanced representation of emotional and moral life that Bertolt Brecht would have been proud of, if he’d thought of it.

The Characters Euripides’ method of characterisation, in this play at least, is unusual, and it reflects the manner in which he has structured the action. It might be said to be indirect, in contrast to that of Sophocles, who, in Oedipus the King for example, gradually opens up his protagonists to reveal the viscera twitching inside. In the Hippolytus we see nothing quite so unambiguous as Jocasta’s horror or the blinding glare of knowledge that overcomes Oedipus. What Euripides gives us is a series of gestures as the characters struggle to articulate their understanding of events under pressure of emotions and impulses that are beyond their rational capacities. In many respects the ‘real’ Phaedra, the ‘real’ Nurse and the ‘real’ Hippolytus are left for the audience to glean from beneath the poses or attitudes they strike in any particular situation. It is not a case of seeing through actions or words that are insincere or false because the characters themselves are in a constant struggle to understand their own feelings.8 Neither is it the case that Euripides’ characters are less substantial or convincing than those of Sophocles; they carry equal conviction and suffer as acutely, but the significance of their suffering is not built in to their own experience. Or, if understanding of truth does arise, as it does in Theseus and Hippolytus at the end of the play, it is either imposed upon them or is ambiguous. More complete insight is the privilege of the audience.

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See Christopher Gill’s discussion of Sophrosune: “The most common pattern is one which denotes a dislocation between outer act (or word) and inner mental state, or between the underlying character or capacity and action (or impulse) in a given situation.” “The Articulation of Self in Hippolytus”, in Euripides, Women and Sexuality. ed. Anton Powell. London: Routledge, 1990. 82.

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The first half of the play belongs to Phaedra. She appears in a state of shock, delirious and frantic. She emerges from this state to reassert an awareness of her feelings: What have I done? Has my mind strayed? I am mad, struck down by a god. No, no. Please, cover my face again. I’m ashamed of what I’ve said.

(239-43)

And she proceeds subtly to allow the Nurse to wring her secret out of her. She will, as she says, “contrive some good out of this shame.” The shock is too much for the Nurse who, similarly stunned, leaves the stage to return later, having had second thoughts, with a plan of campaign. Phaedra thus sets a pattern of behaviour for all the principal characters. Hippolytus suffers the next shock when the Nurse lets the secret out, and his initial flourish of anger is tempered only by the realisation that he has sworn an oath to say nothing. The sequence is from emotional shock to moral decision, an attempt by each character to do what, from his or her own perspective, is right or best. Thus Phaedra moves through phases wherein she addresses her various stage audiences by attempting to project an appropriate face or image. The motivation to reveal her secret is, in the first instance, simply given: the revelation is essential to Aphrodite’s plan. However, the manner in which it is done also reveals a complex psychology and a conflict with an equally powerful sense of her relation to her husband and children. The conflict between two impulses, two senses of ‘self’ (as lover or wife in Phaedra’s case) is absolute, and is resolved neither by the play as a whole nor any individual character who is afflicted by it. The scene has a perfectly symmetrical structure. The Nurse, in pointing out the facts of life to Phaedra, utters the name ‘Hippolytus’ and touches a nerve. She is, however, unaware of the significance of Phaedra’s reaction. Through the following dialogue Phaedra gradually reasserts some control, over herself and the Nurse, and manoeuvres her into uttering the name a second time, now absorbing the full force of its significance. The pivotal point of the action is a gesture of supplication, cleverly misused by both characters. The Nurse, in a demonstration of her devotion, grasps her mistress’ knees: PHAEDRA: For god’s sake leave me alone. Go! NURSE: No. You won’t give what you must. PHAEDRA: All right. Your suppliant hand compels me.

(332-4)

For the Nurse, the situation is not one that justifies the formal gesture of suppliance; for Phaedra, it is convenient to be ‘forced’ to comply. But, however

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dubious motivations in the immediate situation might appear, we know that both characters are merely acting out Aphrodite’s prophecy. The will of the gods is made manifest through the emotional impulses that propel mortals. Phaedra’s subsequent speech to the Chorus is a carefully constructed self-portrait, and its theme is ‘being seen.’ She must be seen to be virtuous because to destroy a reputation is to betray husband and children. She suggests a philosophy of action: it’s no good being good if no-one sees you doing good: It’s not there, In our minds that evil grows. We all have the right ideas. Just think: we see, We know what’s right, but do not do it.

(377-80)

She will “do it.” Silence has become intolerable, self-control perhaps doubtful, and so the third option, to die, is all that remains. She will set an example, save her husband and children from scandal, she will not be caught out “…as time / Confronts the virgin with her mirror” (428-9). She seems briefly to waver, to bend to temptation when offered an ambiguous magical remedy, but the Nurse’s blundering revelation to Hippolytus and his horrified reaction bring about one final rhetorical gambit. And that is, in part, what Phaedra’s death is. She arranges it so that it speaks, and her letter accusing Hippolytus of rape is an additional touch to the powerful portrait of a beautiful corpse, which gets exactly the response from Theseus that was intended, at least insofar as her innocent reputation is concerned. Hippolytus too becomes aware of this distinction between ‘being’ and ‘being seen’ as he concludes his fruitless speech of defence to Theseus: What she feared so much as to kill herself, I do not know. I can say only this: She had no virtue, but acted well; I have it and, it seems, I have not. (1032-5)

However, returning to Phaedra, we should be careful not to overdo the moral doubtfulness of her portrait. Her dilemma is real. Aphrodite has ignited a real passion in her, but her devotion to husband and children is no less real; she is willing to die for them. We seem to be in a realm of absolutes (and the presence of gods is a constant reminder) that muddy the morality of mere human beings. The image that Phaedra projects finally is that of her royal self, the chaste queen and mother. With Hippolytus’ tirade against women ringing in her ears, the decision she must make is quite clear:

Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II I think, perhaps, I can give my children An unsullied reputation, and there’s Some good fallen out for me. I will not dishonour the house of Crete, But neither can I look Theseus in the eye With this shame, not for the sake of one soul.

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(716-21)

Hippolytus’ insight may be accurate, but it is partial, and his remark indicates an interesting ethical conundrum: how can you act well and not be virtuous, or be virtuous and not act well? Further, Phaedra is only lacking in virtue (sophrosune) from his perspective, which is less a mode of behaviour than a state of being, innate and god-given. Phaedra may have had sinful thoughts and feelings, but she has done no more than confess them. But what muddies the moral water still further is her false accusation of rape against Hippolytus. Its motive, from her perspective, is virtuous – to protect a reputation that is important for the sake of her husband and children. But it is a lie which has disastrous consequences. The Nurse is a no less slippery character. She is garrulous and morally flexible, a pragmatist. From a dramatic point of view she demonstrates in little Euripides’ method of characterisation throughout. Her attempt to persuade Phaedra to reveal the cause of her distress consists of a series of rhetorical poses. She begins with her speech to the Chorus: I’ve tried everything and got nowhere. But I won’t give up, and you can Bear witness to what I’m like when My mistriss suffers. (284-7)

Then the soft, motherly routine to her charge: “Oh my love, / Let’s both forget what we said before. / Be a little more gracious…” Silence. Injured innocence: “If I have done wrong, / If I have spoken out of turn, correct me.” Still silence, and a brief, exasperated outburst followed by firm, no-nonsense pointing out of the realities of life: “…if you die, / Your children are betrayed; they will lose / Their place in their father’s house…[to] Hippolytus” (304-8). And that does the trick. The Nurse’s rebound from the shock of revelation, her second thoughts, continues this process, from truth, to half-truth, to falsehood. Her account of the power of Aphrodite rings true, and is supported by the Chorus in the fourth stasimon, but her advice on how to acknowledge it is sophistical and dangerous. Her observation that Phaedra wants “the man” is true, but it is not the whole truth. Phaedra wants to preserve her honour just as much, if not more.

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The Nurse’s help is calamitous, but her sincere feeling for her mistress cannot be denied. Her last remarks echo a recurring theme: I’m your nurse and your friend. I looked For a remedy, but, well, it didn’t turn out Quite as I thought. If it had, I’d have Been ever so wise, wouldn’t I? (697-701)

On a practical, pragmatic level the Nurse points up the same moral conundrum – is the Nurse’s friendship any less real because her actions go wrong? Is Phaedra’s virtue any less real because of the manner in which she chooses to defend it? The two other principal figures in the play display the same characteristic structure of action. Theseus is the most straightforward of the four. He enters, the quiet, wise and confident master of his world, prepared, though suitably saddened, to accept the death of his aged father. The shock of Phaedra’s death is so sudden and so shatters the image he had presented on arrival that he is reduced to a raw, barely coherent point of pain. He fluctuates from agony to anger, then is struck again by Phaedra’s letter, to react again, before he is capable of thought, by calling down a curse upon his son. Much of what follows is Theseus’ attempt to reassert his original self. He is the king, the centre of power and guardian of social and domestic order. He is a politician, a rhetorician who can turn an audience with argument; his is a highly rhetorical performance. Thus his obtuse, rhetorical questions when Hippolytus enters are not just for his son’s ears, but for the Chorus, his stage audience, and his long speech is a forensic tour de force that concludes with the necessity for him to assert his royal authority. The pattern is familiar. Shock, involuntary reaction and gradual reassertion of conscious control, or at least the appearance of it, in the form of rational argument. Theseus’ speech condemning his son is a clever performance. “How far can the mind of man go?…” (936). His baffled incredulity is calculated – it is not the bruised confusion and agony of his discovery of Phaedra’s body – and is followed by an elaborate conceit, that the gods must build another world, “to accommodate / This burgeoning vice and injustice” (941-2). He resorts briefly to abuse before taking his audience into his confidence and warning them against such men as Hippolytus. Then anticipation and rebuttal of hypothetical arguments, leading to a dramatic focus on the indisputable ‘evidence’ of Phaedra’s corpse. He concludes with an evocation of his authority and responsibility as a ruler:

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If I weaken in this, why, the Bandit Sinis Would never admit I killed him; he’d say I bragged. And Skiron’s rocks would Deny that I dealt with criminals. (987-80)

The ‘reasoned’ conclusion is fashioned by the initial emotional impulse, or, to put it another way, a consciously articulated self-image is draped over a raw emotional event. Hippolytus suffers the shock of the Nurse’s revelation, then springs back with an angry denunciation of women and a moral dilemma. He should tell his father, but he has sworn an oath not to speak. Piety wins out and he maintains his silence to the end. It does so because it is central to his conception of himself, an essence and an emotional state, as reflected in the sensuality of his hymn to Artemis in the prologue. And what he is is chaste, pious, naturally virtuous, possessed of: …that untutored gift Of natural virtue in all things At all times [that] plucks a harvest Forbidden to the tainted mind.

(78-81)

Confronted by Theseus, then, Hippolytus demonstrates the same process as the other characters, but this time in reverse; he begins self-confidently, but is reduced to confusion. His speech in reply to Theseus’ accusations is a restrained and articulate account of his self-image. Given what I am, he argues, it is not possible that I could have done this terrible thing. The subsequent dialogue, however, shows us a gradual disintegration of the image, if not of the essence. The outward show of confidence and restraint begins to crack under Theseus’ bitter obduracy and his refusal to accept what the Chorus see as true and sanctioned by sacred oath: [HIPPOLYTUS]: I swear by Zeus and the Earth itself, I have never touched your wife, Nor would wish even to think it. May I perish without a name; may Earth and Ocean refuse my carcase If I am such a sinner… CHORUS: Surely the charge has been answered With such an oath to the gods? (1025-47)

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That such an oath means nothing to his father is as much a blow as anything that has happened to the other characters. He cannot believe it: You’ll cast me out with no attempt / To examine my oath or pledge or any Oracle?” (1054-5). Here there is a kind of tragic recognition: there is simply nothing he can do, no language he can use to overcome the false image of him pressed upon his father by the eloquence of Phaedra’s corpse. What follows is touchingly pathetic and the self-confident prince is reduced to an isolated, helpless youth who struggles to leave the stage with just a little dignity. Hippolytus’ recognition of his isolation is a powerful moment, a moral prelude to the literal battering to come. With Phaedra and Theseus he shares a moment when the very core of his existence is confounded by an inexorable fact over which he is powerless. Perhaps the most ironic note in his parting speech is his evocation of Artemis, “My companion, my comrade.” The reality of his isolation goes further than he knows because this is one journey on which his goddess cannot accompany him. The chorus pick up the theme with a song that gives the pathos and sadness of the scene a slightly sardonic edge: My faith in the care of the gods Sustains me; But hope dies when I see Men’s lives Forever twisting and turning. I pray to prosper free From pain, With a mind that’s true For today But supple enough for tomorrow.

(1102-19)

The Exodos On the face of it the appearance of Artemis has two purposes. Firstly, she achieves a specific readjustment of focus back to the wider conflict in which the human actors are caught. Secondly, she tells the truth and apportions blame appropriately, which looks a bit like justice being done. By retelling the story she rounds off the plot and counterbalances Aphrodite’s interference in human affairs. But there is more to it than that. Her demeanour is detached but not disinterested, and she pushes the knife deeper into Theseus’ wound: “Does this hurt you, Theseus? Be quiet / Now. Hear more and suffer more.” She is as cruel as her sister and no less determined on revenge, however innocent or ignorant mere mortals may be.

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Her entrance prior to the appearance of a battered and dying Hippolytus is curious. Theseus has heard the Messenger, whose vivid and heartfelt account of the disaster has failed to move him. It is only by means of the deus ex machina that he is able to accept the reality of what has happened. That is the sort of evidence he simply cannot deny, and he has nothing left to do but accept his son’s forgiveness. The principal focus of the scene, therefore, is on Hippolytus and Artemis. To say that they exist on different levels is not to say much, but that is the recognition that Hippolytus almost achieves. For Artemis, the real injury is to herself, or to what she represents, not to the person of this or that particular devotee, and the victims come to recognise that the gods had written the plot. “Why,” asks Hippolytus, “can’t men curse gods?” Artemis cuts him short and concludes her visitation with promises of further revenge and an almost hurried exit: No more. I must not look upon the dead, Nor defile my eyes with the dying, And you, I see, come near it. (1437-9)

Hippolytus’ last words to her have a touch of gently understated bitterness: Holy virgin, you are going. How easily You walk away from our friendship, Our long friendship. You tell me to leave this quarrel – I’ll obey you, as always. (1440-4)

One has a sneaking feeling that Euripides might be suggesting that any resolution of conflict between these fallible human beings has to be imposed, and perhaps only ever happens in the theatre. It would be trite to attempt to draw a moral out of this, although Euripides sets up his elaborate ending in such a way that one is tempted. Nobody is blameless. Hippolytus has paid for his arrogance, his assumption that he could live a life detached from the social and emotional realities of his milieu. The vivid image of his smashed body is an ironic reflection on the beautiful lover of rarified nature who appears in the prologue, who is foolish enough to pray, “Oh, let my end of life / Be as my setting out” (87-8). And that is echoed by Phaedra’s “…as time / Confronts the virgin with her mirror. / I will not be caught so” (428-30). Inevitably she is, just as Hippolytus is foiled in his desire to preserve a childlike innocence. What Euripides has achieved is a startlingly complex picture of human existence, where ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are inextricably confused by the intervention of the realities of nature, of which passions are the most potent.

EURIPIDES’ HIPPOLYTUS

The Characters Theseus, King of Athens Phaedra, his Queen Hippolytus, his son The Nurse Attendants, to Hippolytus A Servant A Messenger Chorus of Women The Goddess Aphrodite The Goddess Artemis

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Scene: Before the palace at Trozen The stage is framed by statues of the goddesses Artemis and Aphrodite.

Enter APHRODITE APHRODITE My power and fame are known to all: I am called in heaven the Cyprian goddess. From the Pontus to Atlas’ pillars And all who see the sun between, I’ll honour them who honour me, but Trip the proud. Gods too are gladdened By respect from men. The truth of this I’ll demonstrate. Theseus’ son, The Amazon’s child, holy Pittheus’ protege, Hippolytus, Alone among the citizens of Trozen Calls me the most perfidious of gods. He spurns the bed, will not touch A wife, honours only Artemis, Sister of Apollo and Zeus’ child, As the greatest of the gods. He dallies in the forest with this virgin, While his dogs strip the land of game. This is rich company for a mortal. I don’t envy that – how could I? But for his misjudgement of me, Hippolytus will pay his due, today. It’s all but done. You see, when he left Pittheus’ house To see the mysteries at Athens, his Father’s wife, the noble Phaedra, saw him – And, oh, her heart was gripped With a terrible love. I did that. And before she left for Trozen, there By the rock of Pallas, overlooking this place, She dedicated a shrine to Cypris For her love across the sea. (Known henceforth as Hippolytus’ temple.) Theseus then left Athens to purge

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His blood-guilt for the Pallantides And sailed here with his wife, a Voluntary exile. But now, She is caught, fixed on the thorns Of her passion, near to death – In silence; her sickness known to none. This cannot last; Theseus will see it all. And the youth who resists me will die By his father’s curse, one part of lord Poseidon’s irrevocable triple gift. The lady Will keep her reputation, but not her life. I cannot be partial to her suffering. I must not forgo the justice due to me From one who is so hateful.

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Ah, but in he strides, home from the hunt; His pack in attendance, howling Hymns to Artemis. I must leave. He does not know Hell’s gates are open; That this light is the last he’ll see.

HIPPOLYTUS off stage Follow on and we’ll sing, raise A hymn to the daughter of Zeus.

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Enter HIPPOLYTUS and ATTENDANTS CHORUS OF MEN Holy, holy lady, Of seed divine; Ave, ave daughter Of Leto and of Zeus. Fairest of heavenly virgins In the golden halls of the god: Ave, ave, Olympus’ loveliest.

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APHRODITE withdraws as the hymn is sung SERVANT enters from the palace HIPPOLYTUS Lady, I bring to you this garland From an unspoiled meadow, where Neither beast nor blade intrudes: All untouched, but for the whispering Springtime bee; where Reverence guides The stream; where that untutored gift Of natural virtue in all things At all times plucks a harvest Forbidden to the tainted mind.

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Mistress, take from my adoring hand A crown for your golden hair. Of all men, it is my gift alone To walk with you, to talk and hear Your voice, though not to see your face. Oh, let my end of life Be as my setting out. SERVANT Oh, sir – it’s only gods we call master – Would you take from me some good advice? HIPPOLYTUS Of course. I’m not, I hope, a fool. SERVANT You know the law set down for mortal men? HIPPOLYTUS No. What do you mean? SERVANT We must abhor the proud and the ... exclusive. HIPPOLYTUS Indeed. Such pride is quite objectionable.

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SERVANT And there is some grace in courtesy? HIPPOLYTUS Oh, much. Great profit and little expense. SERVANT So you’d hope this holds for gods as well? HIPPOLYTUS If human laws reflect divine. SERVANT Then why do you not address one proud goddess? HIPPOLYTUS Who? Take care your tongue doesn’t trip you. SERVANT She who stands at your gate; the lady Cypris. HIPPOLYTUS I salute her from here, and stay pure. SERVANT But she is proud and honoured by everyone. HIPPOLYTUS Every man has his own taste in gods. SERVANT You have such insight, sir. Good luck. HIPPOLYTUS I acknowledge no god with nocturnal rites. SERVANT But, my son, the gods must have their due. HIPPOLYTUS We’ll go inside and eat: a loaded

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Table nicely tops a hunt. And you, Rub down the horses. When I’ve Eaten, I’ll harness and exercise them. And I’ll wish your lady a very good day.

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HIPPOLYTUS and ATTENDANTS enter the palace SERVANT Oh, mistress Aphrodite – we must not mimic Young minds – so I’ll ask you, in words Fitting for a slave, to be forgiving. If some mere youth thoughtlessly Vents his spleen at you, seem not to hear: Gods ought to be wiser than us.

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Exit Enter CHORUS OF WOMEN CHORUS By the rock of an ocean spring Where the pitcher is dipped in the stream, As she rinsed her crimson robes And spread them over the stones, There my friend First whispered of her:

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With her body worn and sick She lies within, her fair head hidden, And how for three whole days untouched Lay all the fruits of Demeter: Her desire, to die For a secret pain.

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Possessed by Pan or Hecate, Possessed by the holy mountain Corybants? Or wasting for sins of omission To wild Diktynna Who wanders wide over land and sea?

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Is your lord seduced, does he cherish instead Some other love, unknown to your bed?

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Has a traveller come from the shores Of Crete, with news Of grief to bind your soul with suffering? A sad, uncertain Helplessness invades A woman with child: My womb has known Its chill, but I called To the heavenly helper, The lady of arrows, Artemis, And she came to me.

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Enter NURSE and PHAEDRA from the palace NURSE Oh lord, when people are sick! What shall I do? What will I not do? Here’s your light, your fresh air, And your sick bed. Yet you still pull dark faces. You beg to come out, Then you nag to go back; Nothing pleases you for a moment. As soon as you have it, You want something more. I’d rather be sick than serving – At least that’s simple – now I get A double dose of agony In my head and in my hands. God, what a miserable life, There’s no end to the pain. PHAEDRA Lift me. Please, support my head. I’m so listless, weak. Take my arm. This thing on my head’s too heavy. Take it off! Let my hair fall down.

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NURSE Cheer up, child. Don’t fidget So painfully. Your affliction will Be easier with a little quiet and Good breeding. Just to live is to suffer. PHAEDRA Let me draw pure water From that dewy spring. Let me lie beneath the poplar And rest in the meadow’s tresses.

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NURSE My girl, you’re raving. The crowd can hear you. Don’t Fling such mad words about. PHAEDRA Take me to the mountains, among The pines, where hunting dogs snap At the heels of spotted deer. Oh god, How I long to shout to the hounds, To lift a Thessaly lance to my flying hair, To grip its pointed shaft.

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NURSE What is it, my love? What’s got you in this state? What’s your concern with hunting? And why should you want spring water? We’ve got perfectly good drinking water Right outside the walls. PHAEDRA Artemis, mistress of the salt-lake And the thunder of horses’ hooves, Let me be there on your strand, Under my hand a team of colts. NURSE More crazy words! You’re one moment rushing off

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To hunt in mountains somewhere, Then you’re in a passion For horses on a beach? It’ll be some divine, young lady, who can tell us Which god’s knocked your wits askew. PHAEDRA Oh, I feel so miserable. What have I done? Has my mind strayed? I am mad, struck down by a god. No, no. Oh, please, cover my face again. I’m ashamed of what I’ve said. Hide me. The tears spill over. My eyes dissolve with shame. My right mind is agony; My mad one full of horrors. I’d be better dead, knowing nothing. NURSE I’ll cover you. But when will death Hide me? I’m old and I know: I know this mortal kind of love Must be measured, should never touch The marrow of the soul; it should Slip easily on or off. Oh, that One soul must suffer for two, As mine for hers, is beyond endurance. They say too fixed devotion brings More trouble than happiness; it’s Unhealthy. Give me moderation, not excess. Any wise man will agree with me. CHORUS Old woman, you’re the queen’s confidant: We see her unhappy state, but Can’t understand this sickness. Tell us, please. We want to know. NURSE I don’t know. She won’t say.

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CHORUS Will she say how it began? NURSE The same. Nothing. CHORUS But she’s so sickly and wasted. NURSE She would be. She hasn’t eaten for three days. CHORUS Is her mind sick? Does she want to die? NURSE How do I know? But if she doesn’t eat, she’ll die. CHORUS Surely her husband can’t accept this? NURSE She hides her misery and says she’s not ill. CHORUS Can’t he see it in her face? NURSE Just now he’s in foreign parts. CHORUS Can you force her to say something About her poor, sick, wandering mind? NURSE I’ve tried everything and got nowhere. But I won’t give up, and you can Bear witness to what I’m like when My mistress suffers. Oh, my love, Let’s both forget what we said before. Be a little more gracious, leave your frowns

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And these sad thoughts, and I’ll leave Behind my hard words and speak nicely. If you have some unmentionable disorder, These ladies are here to help you. But if it’s something proper for a man to hear, Say so, and we’ll find a physician. Why don’t you speak? Silence, child, Will not help. If I have done wrong, If I have spoken out of turn, correct me. Say something! Look at me! Oh, ladies, all this effort’s for nothing. We’re no better off. Nothing we said then, Or can say now will soften her. But, understand this: though you may be more Stubborn than the sea itself, if you die, Your children are betrayed; they will lose Their place in their father’s house. Yes, in The name of that horse-riding Amazon Who gave your husband a son – A bastard in law, though he doesn’t think so. You know who I mean: Hippolytus.

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PHAEDRA Oh!! NURSE So that touches you, does it? PHAEDRA You are killing me. For the love of god, Don’t mention him again, I beg you. NURSE You see? Sane enough, but you still Won’t help your children or save yourself. PHAEDRA I love my children. Something else torments me. NURSE Oh, my child! You haven’t killed someone, have you?

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PHAEDRA My hands are clean, but my mind is soiled. NURSE Some enemy’s put a spell on you. PHAEDRA One I love destroys me. Neither of us can help it. NURSE Oh! Theseus has done some terrible thing! PHAEDRA I will never be seen to hurt him. NURSE Then what is terrorising you to death? PHAEDRA Leave me to my sin. It’s not against you. NURSE Not if I can help it. But you drift apart from me. PHAEDRA What are you doing? My arm! NURSE I’ll hug your knees and never let you go. PHAEDRA But you will suffer to know it. NURSE How more than to lose you? PHAEDRA It will kill you. It’s my honour.

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NURSE And you hide it? When I beg you for your own good?

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PHAEDRA I’ll contrive some good out of this shame. NURSE So there’ll be more honour in telling me. PHAEDRA For god’s sake, leave me alone! Go! NURSE No. You won’t give me what you must. PHAEDRA All right. Your suppliant hand compels me. NURSE Well? I’m silent. Now you speak. PHAEDRA Oh, mother, what lust overcame you! NURSE Her with the bull, child? What do you mean? PHAEDRA And you, poor sister, Dionysus’ thrall? NURSE What’s the matter with you? Why drag up your family? PHAEDRA And I, the unfortunate third, am dying. NURSE No, no. Where will it end? PHAEDRA This is an old curse.

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NURSE But you haven’t said what I want to know. PHAEDRA If only you could say what I must. NURSE I’m no magician to see in the dark. PHAEDRA What do they mean by ‘love’? NURSE Oh, dear girl, the sweetest pain. PHAEDRA The last is mine. NURSE What do you mean? You’re in love? You love some man?

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PHAEDRA Whoever he is, he’s the son of an Amazon. NURSE Hippolytus! PHAEDRA From your lips, not mine. NURSE What will you say, child? This will kill me. Oh, ladies, I can’t bear this. I can’t live. I hate the day! I’ll curse the light! I’ll fling, I’ll hurl myself, I’ll let go of life Somehow. Farewell. I am no more. When virtue loves to spite herself, Aphrodite, you are no god, but something more. You’ve ruined me, and her, and all this house!

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NURSE exits to the palace CHORUS Oh, hear, hear how she cries. I’d die before I thought such things. I pity her pain, but It is our mortal lot. Your revelation is fatal: What more can happen to you, To this house today? Oh, daughter of Crete, I can see the corrosion of love. PHAEDRA Trozen ladies, hear me. Through endless nights my mind has dwelt On life’s disasters. But it’s not there, In our minds, that evil grows. We have all the right ideas. Just think: we see, We know what’s right, but do not do it. We’re lazy, or we like something sweeter than virtue. Our pleasures are many – with time to gossip, To be idle – pleasant sins; and that Exquisite sense of shame; a two-edged Word, that both heals and cuts. That’s what I think, and won’t be charmed away. Let me tell you the wanderings of my mind. When love-struck, I thought – how will I endure it? I hid my distress in silence: there’s no Trusting the tongue; it gives good advice To others and talks itself into trouble. Then, self-control. And third – You see, I could not beat the goddess – I’ll die. It is best, you can’t deny it. I don’t want my good deeds forgotten, Or my bad witnessed by the crowd. Both the act and the thought of it are foul; And I know, I am a woman, so loathed and Condemned. May she who first brought shame

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To a husband be damned. Yes, these noble ladies Did it first. A fine example they set. I despise public chastity and private lechery. Oh, Aphrodite, how can such women Look a man in the face and not shudder Lest the dark and the very walls cry out Their sin? I’d rather die than be seen To betray my husband and my children: They must return to Athens able to speak As free men, with a mother’s reputation intact – The scandal of parents enslaves the boldest man. Life’s struggle, they say, is won only With a good heart and a clear conscience. Evil is caught out, just as time Confronts the virgin with her mirror. I will not be caught so.

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CHORUS Yes, such virtue is itself beauty, And gathers you a good name.

Enter NURSE NURSE My lady, what you said just now Gave me a terrible shock. But that Was foolish; second thoughts are wiser. You’ve suffered nothing unusual; you’ve Been struck by the fever of the gods. You’re in love. So? We all do it. And you’d die for it? It’s hard on lovers now and to come If they must perish for that. The goddess in full flood cannot be borne; If you bend she’s gentle, But if she finds you proud, you can’t Think how she’ll make you suffer. Aphrodite is in the air, she moves The waves of the sea – all things are born from her. She is the sower, the giver of seed, the love That engenders all earth-bound things.

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They know, my dear, they who have studied The arts and ancient tales, they know How Zeus loved Semele; they know how for love The shining Dawn snatched Cephalus To the company of the gods. And yet They are content in heaven, they happily Submit, I think, to the burden of love. And you refuse? Perhaps when he got you Your father should have struck a bargain, Or found some other gods, if the laws Of those we have are not to your liking. How many wise husbands, do you think, Wink at a little wifely wandering? How many fathers lend a hand To the goddess for the peccadilloes Of their sons? The wise among us, surely, Overlook what is not quite nice. We should not try too hard to be perfect; Would you beautify the rafters of the house? Yet you’d avoid the fate you’ve fallen on? And if there’s more good than bad in it, As you’re only human, think yourself lucky. Oh, my dear child, stop this silliness, This arrogance: that’s what it is, wanting To be greater than the gods. Dare to love As the god wishes. If you sicken With it, then be cured. There are spells And charms enough; cures can be found. The men might cast blindly about, but We women will find what’s necessary. CHORUS Phaedra, there is some sense for you In what she says. But you are right; Though to say so may be harder, More painful for you to hear. PHAEDRA These too-sweet words ruin men And cities. Don’t please my ear; Save my honour.

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NURSE You preach? It’s not fine words you want, It’s the man! Let’s say it now, Let us have some straight talking. If your life was not at risk in this, If you could control yourself, I wouldn’t Have gone this far for the sake Of bedroom pleasures. But now, It’s your life! Of course I’m right.

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PHAEDRA This is vile! That’s enough! Don’t dare utter such things again. NURSE Yes, vile; but better than your morality. Better to do it and live, than die Preening yourself for a name.

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PHAEDRA In god’s name, no more of your glib talk. Love has prepared my soul, But more of this plausible filth and I’ll Be swallowed up by what I must avoid. NURSE If you think so, you shouldn’t make mistakes. Otherwise, do as I say; that’s next best. I have in the house certain charms for love – I’ve just remembered – there’s no dishonour, No harm to your mind, but relief, if You have courage. But we need a token From your lover – hair or some clothing – And two things will come together to be one. PHAEDRA Do I drink it? Rub it on? NURSE I don’t know. Don’t trouble with details, my dear.

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PHAEDRA You frighten me with your cleverness. NURSE You’re scared of everything. What is it now? PHAEDRA My husband’s son might know.

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NURSE No, no, child. I’ll arrange it. The goddess will be my only helper, And for anything else, those We can trust inside will do.

NURSE exits to the palace CHORUS Eros, Eros, you distil desire into Eyes of lovers; Eros, you lead our souls to Sweet delights; But never come to me with pain Nor stepping out of time. Neither fire nor flying stars outshoot The shafts of the love god’s boy. In vain, in vain by Alpheus’ stream We slaughter; In vain by Phoebus’ temple Our beasts We butcher, if we neglect the tyrant, Aphrodite’s boy, Who holds the key to her chamber of love, Who ravages men with misery. Oechalian maid, Unwed, unbedded, Like a maddened nymph of Bacchus In blood and smoke and shackles Given by the goddess To Alcmene’s son.

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Theban wall And Dirce’s spring Witness the work of the goddess; How Semele bore a son To the flame of Zeus, A bride in death.

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Love, love whispers destruction to all, With the touch of the wandering bee. PHAEDRA Quiet ladies! Oh, no. We are ruined. CHORUS Phaedra, what is it? PHAEDRA Please, quiet! Let me listen. CHORUS Yes. Something dreadful is happening. PHAEDRA Oh no, no. I can’t bear all this.

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CHORUS What makes you cry out, My lady? What frightens you? PHAEDRA I’m lost. Oh, come, come and hear What’s happening inside. CHORUS No, you’re there. It’s for you to hear. Tell me, what is so terrible? PHEADRA The Amazon’s boy, Hippolytus, He’s abusing some servant.

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92 CHORUS I can hear, but not clearly.

PHAEDRA It’s clear enough. He protests against The pimp who betrays the marriage bed. CHORUS Oh, my dear lady. You’re... What can I do? She’s let it out, She’s betrayed you.

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PHAEDRA To help me, she’s destroyed me: Her cure makes the disease more dangerous. CHORUS What can you do? It’s impossible. PHAEDRA The only remedy I know is to die, quickly.

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Enter HIPPOLYTUS and NURSE from the palace HIPPOLYTUS Sweet mother Earth! Give me light! What have I heard? NURSE Quiet, my boy, before someone hears you. HIPPOLYTUS How can I listen to this filth and be quiet! NURSE Please, I beg you, by this hand. HIPPOLYTUS Don’t touch me! Or my clothes!

Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II

NURSE Then your knees. Oh, don’t destroy me. HIPPOLYTUS Destroy you? When you’ve said nothing wrong? NURSE But this story is not for just anyone’s ears. HIPPOLYTUS Oh, such a fine one should be heard by all.

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NURSE Child, you wouldn’t break an oath? HIPPOLYTUS My tongue swore, but not my mind. NURSE What are you doing? You’ll destroy your friends? HIPPOLYTUS You make me spit, woman. I have no friends who are criminals. NURSE Please, forgive me. We are human and weak. HIPPOLYTUS O Zeus, why did you bring to the light Of day this counterfeit thing, a woman! If we must breed, must it be Out of women? We’d load Your temples with bronze, silver And gold, as each man could afford, To buy the seeds of children, and live In domestic bliss, free of women! Do we need proof of this female scourge? The father who breeds and nurtures this Thing gives a dowry just to be rid of it. And he who takes in the baneful

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Object, happily heaps her up with all Manner of fine trash and clothes; so Squanders his happiness and his house. For an easy life, take on a ... nonentity – But what a waste of time is some Useless thing sat before the hearth. Oh, but the clever ones – keep my house Free of the woman with more wit Than she should have. Aphrodite breeds Mischief in fertile minds; the stupid Are less given to temptation. Keep your servants away from women, Give them dumb and snapping beasts To kill all conversation dead. Ladies will plot mischief for maids to do, As you, woman, would lead me To my father’s sacred bed. I’ll Purge my ears of such filth with Holy water – how can I hear this And not feel unclean? But, Woman, my piety saves you; If I hadn’t been trapped in my oath To the gods, rest assured, my father Would know. For now, I’ll leave This place until Theseus returns, And say nothing. When he’s here I’ll watch to see how you look Him in the eye – you and her. Damn you. Some say I talk of it Too much, but, oh, I despise you Women, eternally. Either let Them be taught chastity now, Or be forever trodden down.

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Exit HIPPOLYTUS PHAEDRA Then women must live in misery. One lapse, and what can we say Or do to slip the knot? I have deserved it. Oh, earth

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And light, where can I escape it? How hide this pain? Who Of gods or men would be A willing accomplice to a criminal? I’m trapped in suffering. Of all women, I’m cursed. CHORUS Oh, my lady, it’s finished. Her schemes have failed. PHAEDRA You! You are vile. You corrupt With your help. May Zeus, Our father, blast you. Did I not say – I guessed what you’d do – Did I not tell you to be silent About my shame? But you could not Contain yourself, and I will die, Dishonoured. So I must think again. He’s enraged – he’ll tell his father, Because of you – he’ll fill the world With my shame. Damn you and your Interfering, back-handed help! NURSE Mistress, you can blame my failure, But your tears overrule your judgement. I can explain, if you’ll listen. I’m your nurse and your friend. I looked For a remedy, but, well, it didn’t turn out Quite as I thought. If it had, I’d have Been ever so wise, wouldn’t I? Good wit is coupled with good luck. PHAEDRA So that’s all right, good enough for me, If you maim me and patch it up with words. NURSE We talk too much. No, I wasn’t clever.

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But, my child, you can still be saved. PHAEDRA That is enough! So far all your help And advice have been nothing but trouble. Just go, and think about your own problems. I’ll look after myself.

NURSE exits to the palace Oh, please, noble ladies, grant me this: Say nothing of what you’ve heard here.

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CHORUS By holy Artemis, daughter of Zeus, I’ll reveal none of your sorrow. PHAEDRA Thankyou. There is one thing in all this: I think, perhaps, I can give to my children An unsullied reputation, and there’s Some good fallen out for me. I will not dishonour the house of Crete, But neither can I look Theseus in the eye With this shame, not for the sake of one soul. CHORUS Oh, what can you do that’s so ... final? PHAEDRA I will die. I must think how to die. CHORUS No! Don’t talk like that! PHAEDRA And don’t you badger me. Aphrodite would destroy me, so I’ll let go my soul and gladden her day. Love is too sharp for me. But My dying might touch him, should he

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Feel too high and mighty over my misfortune. Perhaps he’ll learn what virtue really is.

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Exit to the palace CHORUS Let me haunt the cliff-tops, God-touched, feathered and floating high; Let me skim Adria’s wave And Eridanus’ waters, Where sad maidens wept their amber tears Of pity for Phaeton’s fall. Let me touch the Hesperides, Gardens of song and journey’s end, Where the holy bounds of heaven Are held in Atlas’ hands, Where Zeus made love by ambrosial springs And earth swells with gifts for the gods. O white-winged Cretan ship, You carried the girl through the lapping wave, From a blessed hearth to an ill-starred bed; Ill-omened both from Minos’ land To Athens, when the ropes were tied And she stepped ashore. Then Aphrodite struck, A terrible, soul-breaking passion, and swamped With shame, her white neck fitted with rope, There to hang from the bride-chamber’s beam, Choosing fame over shame, to ease The pain of love.

NURSE within Help! Everyone, help! My mistress has hanged herself. CHORUS It’s happened. The queen

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Is dead. She’s hanged. NURSE Why don’t you move? Hurry, A knife for the knot at her throat.

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CHORUS What can we do? Should we Intrude? Should we loosen the knot? Why? Aren’t there servants inside? It’s not safe to meddle. NURSE Please, lay her poor body straight. Oh, this is bitter housekeeping for my lord. CHORUS She is dead. They are laying out the body.

Enter THESEUS THESEUS Ladies, what is all this noise among the servants? Surely, when I return from the oracle I can expect a welcome at the door. Has something happened to old Pittheus? He’s lived long, I know, but I would be sad If he were no longer with us.

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THESEUS It’s not the old, Theseus; It’s a young death will hurt you. THESEUS My children! Has one of my children been taken? CHORUS No. Their mother is dead.

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THESEUS What do you mean? My wife? Dead? CHORUS She was hanged. She hanged herself. THESEUS What drove her to this? What happened? CHORUS That is all I know. I’ve just come To your house, to mourn. THESEUS Why this garland, then, For a pilgrimage of misery? Open the doors – unbar them! Let me see this sight. Let me die with it.

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THESEUS enters the palace CHORUS Iou, Iou, unhappy soul; Pity the sin The suffering and the act And a house brought down. Iou, Iou, soul of courage For a brutal death In an unholy moment Thrown down By your pitiless hand. Who, sad lady, Cast the shadow To black out a life?

Enter THESEUS carrying the body of PHAEDRA THESEUS This pain, this pain

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Is the worst of all. My life, my home Crushed to work out Some ancient crime. Life with no life; A rising swell Of griefs, a wave Unsurmountable. What reason, what Thing, woman, Should I grasp? She’s gone, like a bird Sped to hell. Ai, ai, ai, ai. Pity, pity my pain – The gods have settled Some long-past sin.

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CHORUS Oh, my lord, you are not alone In weeping for a wife lost. THESEUS Send me with this misery down To the dark place of the dead. You have taken my best companion; You have killed me and yourself. What, ladies, overcame her poor heart? Will someone tell me what happened, Or are all my servants an idle rabble!? Oh, pity this house, this grief Beyond endurance and words. It has destroyed me – emptied my house, My children motherless. No, no, no. You have left us, left us, my love, You, the noblest of all women To see the light of the sun, Or night’s starry sky. CHORUS Oh, this house is filled with pain.

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My eyes melt and Tears pour hot for you. What more, what more can there be? THESEUS Why a tablet in this sweet hand? What new thing can it show? Does she write to plead for her Children should I marry again? Take heart, my love. No woman Will ever come to Theseus’ bed. You are gone, but from your golden Signet your face smiles up at me. Come, break the seal – I must see this. CHORUS The god hurls down suffering On suffering. I tell you, the House of our lord is destroyed.

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THESEUS Oh, this evil multiplies. CHORUS What? Can we be told? THESEUS This ... roars abominations. Where can I escape This weight of sin? I am nothing. Oh, these words howl Such a song. CHORUS Show them. THESEUS I can no longer hold my tongue

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From uttering this evil. Oh, my people! Hippolytus has raped my wife – He has mocked the sacred eye of Zeus. O father Poseidon, you gave Me three curses – let one Be on my son, and if you’re True, this day, with no escape.

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CHORUS My lord, please, take back your curse. Believe me, you will see that you’re wrong. THESEUS No. But I’ll be rid of him from here as well. He’ll be struck one way or another; Either Poseidon will honour his word And send him straight to hell, Or the boy will wander, alone, and suck Forever on the dregs of his misery. CHORUS He’s here. My lord, Theseus, leave Your anger; think what’s best for your house.

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Enter HIPPOLYTUS and ATTENDANTS HIPPOLYTUS Father, I heard your cry and came As quickly as I could. Tell me, what is it? Oh, no. Father, your wife. She’s dead. I can’t believe... But I’ve just left her. She Was alive just now. What happened To her? How did she die? Tell me, what happened? Nothing? You can’t be silent now. It’s wrong to hide this From a friend, from me, who’s More than a friend.

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THESEUS Oh, we men are prone to mistakes. Why do you learn ten thousand tricks And search for all the answers, When the one thing you never know, You never quite discover, is how To thrust wisdom into the heads of fools?

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HIPPOLYTUS It would be a clever man to do that. But why these cryptic words, father? Has all this turned your mind? THESEUS Why is there not among men some token, Something to distinguish a friend, The true from the false? We should Have two voices, so that our lies Are contradicted by the truth, And we could not be deceived.

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HIPPOLYTUS Has someone slandered me, Blackened me for no reason? I don’t understand. Your words Are crazy, they make no sense. THESEUS How far can the mind of man go? Just what are the limits of impudence? If with each generation the impudence Of the son out-swells that of the father, Why then the gods must make another World next door to this, to accommodate This burgeoning vice and injustice. Look at him. My own son. He has defiled my bed, and the dead Bears witness to his crime. I am so far polluted by you now, You might as well show me your face. Show me! You, so very, very devout;

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Such pure, unmixed virtue. I don’t believe your boasts, or That the gods could be so stupid. You’re so proud to be a leaf-eating Orphic charlatan, a celebrant of Innumerable vaporous screeds. But you are caught! Let me warn you all: avoid such men As this; they prey on you with Holy words, and plot villainy. She’s dead, and you think That will save you? You’re a fool. In this your guilt is manifest. What oath, what arguments could Outweigh this, and acquit you? Will you say she hated you because A bastard is a natural enemy? She had a pretty poor bargain, then, To destroy what she most loved, Just to spite you. Or perhaps She was only a woman, with so much Less self-control than a man? But I know young men; I know They are no more reliable than a woman When the goddess tickles their youthful Hearts. Their very manhood encourages it. Oh, why do I struggle with your stories, when This corpse is the clearest of all witnesses? Leave this place, now; leave the holy walls Of Athens, every place under my authority. If I weaken in this, why, the bandit Sinis Would never admit I killed him; he’d say I bragged: and Skiron’s rocks would Deny that I dealt with criminals. CHORUS Can no man be happy? We are Raised up, only to be cast down. HIPPOLYTUS Your vehemence is impressive, father,

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But your fine arguments will not stand up. I’m but a plain speaker to a crowd, though Better, perhaps, among the more discerning; As it should be – eloquence before a mob Is foolishness to better men. First I’ll take the point with which You thought to trap me and leave me speechless. Look all around you, over earth and sky, And though you might deny it, you’ll find No man more virtuous than me. I know to revere the gods above all things; And I do not consort with criminals, nor any Who would ask or offer tainted favours; I do not, father, mock my friends Behind their backs. And I am clean Of that with which you charge me; I am to this day pure in body; I know nothing of this act, but words And pictures, and these my Virgin mind finds distasteful. But you will not believe my chastity. So. Then you must demonstrate how I fell. Was she the most beautiful Of all women? Or perhaps I hoped, In taking your heiress, to take your crown? I’m not such a fool. What pleasure Does power hold for the wise? Not much – Unless your mind is turned by it. For myself, I’d be happy to prevail in Our Greek sports, and equally happy to Take second place in the city, if I can enjoy the best company: To act as you please is a far greater Pleasure than exercise of power. I have only one more thing to say: If I had a witness to my character, and If she were alive to witness my defence, Then you would find out the criminals. I swear by Zeus and the earth itself, I have never touched your wife, Nor would wish even to think it.

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May I perish without a name; may The earth and sea refuse my carcase, If I am such a sinner. What she feared so much as to kill herself, I do not know. I can say only this: She had no virtue, but acted well; I have it and, it seems, I have not.

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CHORUS Surely the charge has been answered With such an oath to the gods? THESEUS And surely you know he’s a charlatan, Who shames his father then musters all His smooth talk to overcome me.

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HIPPOLYTUS You amaze me. If you were my son And had presumed to touch my wife, I wouldn’t banish you: I’d kill you. THESEUS You would say that, but you won’t die so easily. You have just proposed your own sentence: Miserable men prefer a quick death, but You will wander, an exile in strange lands, Scratching up the dregs of life, forever. HIPPOLYTUS What will you do? You’ll give me no time To prove anything – just throw me out? THESEUS From beyond the Pontus and Atlantic, If I had power to do it. I despise you that much. HIPPOLYTUS You’ll cast me out with no attempt To examine my oath or pledge or any oracle?

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THESEUS This tablet is proof without all that; Your circling birds mean nothing to me. HIPPOLYTUS Oh god – why shouldn’t I speak? If I keep my oath I’m damned. But no. He’d never believe me, I’d break my holy word for nothing.

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THESEUS Your holy word sickens me to death. Get out. Now! HIPPOLYTUS Where can I go? Who would take in A fugitive accused of this? THESEUS Whoever enjoys entertaining guests Who defile his women and his house. HIPPOLYTUS No – I could weep that You’d even think this of me. THESEUS A little late to lament. You should have thought of that Before you impudently defiled your father’s wife. HIPPOLYTUS Oh please, let these walls speak and Witness whether I could be like that. THESEUS Very good – an appeal to dumb witnesses; But that silent fact condemns you. HIPPOLYTUS Oh, give me another self To watch myself weep at this.

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THESEUS You were always better at self-worship Than doing your duty to your father.

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HIPPOLYTUS Mother, you gave me a bitter birth – I’d wish no friend of mine to be a bastard. THESEUS Get rid of him! Did you Not hear what I said? HIPPOLYTUS Touch me if you dare! You, You do it yourself, if you have the heart. THESEUS Oh, I will, if you refuse to obey me, With no compunction at all. HIPPOLYTUS Then it must be. It’s cruel to know the truth And to know I can say nothing. Oh, beloved daughter of Leto, My companion, my comrade, I’m banished From Athens. Farewell, then, to The land of Erechtheus, to Trozen, To the place of my happy youth; I salute you and see you for the last time. And you, who were my companions here, Say your goodbyes and see me out. Though my own father will not believe it, You’ll see no man more innocent than me.

Exeunt HIPPOLYTUS and ATTENDANTS CHORUS My faith in the care of the gods Sustains me; But hope dies when I see Men’s lives

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Forever twisting and turning.

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I pray to prosper free From pain, With a mind that’s true For today But supple enough for tomorrow. Faith fades When I see Athens’ bright star Cast out in anger. O sands of our city’s shore; O mountain groves where he ran In holy Diktynna’s hunt.

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No more Will you mount Your brace of quick steeds; And quiet the lyre In your father’s house; Artemis’ groves left ungarlanded, And no virgins will vie for your bed.

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Through tears I’ll endure your fate, And a mother’s Wasted suffering – Oh, I hate The gods and The hand-holding Graces Who sent you Innocent from home.

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Enter MESSENGER MESSENGER Women, where can I find the lord Theseus? If you know, show me. Is he inside?

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CHORUS Here he is. MESSENGER Theseus, I bring sorry news for you, For all the citizens of Athens and Trozen. THESEUS Well? What new disaster Can strike my cities?

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MESSENGER Hippolytus is dead, or very near. He sees the light still, but The balance of his life teeters. THESEUS And who did this? Not some jealous husband, Whose wife he forced as he forced mine? MESSENGER His own chariot, and your curse, The prayer you called down from Your father on your son. THESEUS O Poseidon, my true father, You hear my prayer. How did he die? Tell me, how did justice drop Her trap on the thing that shamed me? MESSENGER On the sea’s edge we groomed And combed our horses, and We wept. We wept because we heard Hippolytus could walk this land No more, that you had exiled him. He joined us, singing this same song, And he was followed by countless Boys, his friends and peers. But soon he stopped his tears and spoke:

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Why do I weep? he said. I must Obey my father. Harness my horses; I no longer belong here. Every man moved, and before You could say it, the colts Were harnessed and ready for him. He took the reins from the rail And placed his feet in the stall, But first raised his arms in prayer: Zeus, destroy me if I’m guilty. Whether I live or die, make My father know he wrongs me. He touched the horses with his switch And we all moved with our prince Along the road to Argos. We came to a deserted place, beyond The confines of this land, a small Outcrop into the Saronic sea. And then the earth roared Like the voice of Zeus, a deep And horrifying rumble; the horses Raised their heads and pricked their ears; We shook with fear and wondered Whence it came. We looked along the beach And saw a wave, an unnatural wave, Fixed to the heavens; it blotted out All Skiron’s shore and hid The isthmus and Asclepius’ rocks, And swelled and seethed and spouted And rushed toward the chariot. It broke and threw before it A monstrous bull whose roaring Filled the world and echoed horribly. The horses bolted terror-struck; but Our horseman prince gripped the reins And held them, pulling like a sailor On his oar. They gripped the fire-forged Bit between their teeth and turned, Oblivious of driver, of harness or of car; And if once he steered them to the softer ground, The bull appeared and turned them,

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Maddening them with fear. So crazed, And with the silent bull beside the car, They were borne toward the rocks Until the beast took it down. In the confusion of flying wheels and axles, The unhappy driver, hopelessly entangled, Was dragged, his lovely head smashed Against the rocks, his body ripped. He cried out, terribly: Stop – don’t Let my own horses kill me! My father’s Curse! Will no-one save the best of men? We were willing enough, but far behind. Eventually, I don’t know how, he broke Free of the tangled thongs. He breathed still, just. Horses and monster both had vanished. I am, my lord, a mere palace slave, But I cannot, will not believe The boy is guilty, not if the whole race Of women were hanged, or if every tree on Ida were a tablet covered with words. I know his worth.

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CHORUS So, it has come about. There is no escape from fate. THESEUS As I hated him, your story Gratifies me. But in respect To the gods, since he was my son, I’ll neither gloat nor grieve. MESSENGER What do we do? Do we bring him? What do you want us to do? Please, don’t be hard on him. THESEUS Bring him in and let me see him deny That he defiled my bed. I have words To refute him, and this work of the gods.

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Exit MESSENGER CHORUS Cyprian goddess, You guide unbending hearts Of gods and men, With your bright-winged son You engulf them. Over land and the singing sea Your golden wing Bewitches maddened hearts – Beasts of mountain Beasts of sea All fed by the earth All seen by the sun And all men. Aphrodite, One queen over all.

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Enter ARTEMIS ARTEMIS Royal son of Aegeus, hear me. I am Artemis, daughter of Leto. Theseus, why, wretch, do you rejoice In the unholy death of your son, Persuaded as you were, without proof, By your wife’s lying words? Your delusion is plain. You should, From sheer humiliation, hide yourself Beneath the earth, in Tartarus, Or lift your feet from the mire and fly. You have no part in the lives of honest men. Theseus, hear the reality of your crime. I will ameliorate nothing; I will hurt you. I am here to show you how upright Your son was – that he died for honour. I will show you the frenzy and, perhaps, The nobility of your wife, and how The goddess, who is most hateful to us Who rejoice in chastity, goaded her lust.

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She resisted the Cyprian, but was undone Unwillingly by her nurse’s schemes. That woman Revealed the sickness to your son, but bound Him with an oath. As was only proper, He was unaffected by the blandishments Of this creature, but even when so wronged By you, his pledge remained unbroken, so Pious was he. Your lady feared exposure, and Destroyed your son with a lying letter, Which you, it seems, believed.

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THESEUS No, no ... ARTEMIS Does this hurt you, Theseus? But quiet Now; hear more and suffer more. Did you not have from your father three Infallible curses? And one you unleashed On your son, like an enemy. Your father, Too, was bound to honour his word. So, you have wronged us both – you waited For neither pledge nor prophecy nor for time To see, but in haste you killed the boy.

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THESEUS Oh, lady ... ARTEMIS You have done a terrible thing. Even so, You may find forgiveness. The cause is Aphrodite’s anger, but divine custom Forbids opposition to another’s whim; We must bide. Did I not fear Zeus, I would never have endured this shame And allowed the murder of the most Beloved of men. But your ignorance Mitigates your crime, and the dead woman Destroyed what proof you may have believed. This tragedy is yours, but I too have suffered. We do not like it when pious men die;

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Though the impious we destroy utterly. CHORUS He’s here – his young body And his fair head battered. This is an unhappy house, Twice stricken by the gods.

Enter HIPPOLYTUS supported by ATTENDANTS HIPPOLYTUS I’m maimed by my father’s unholy curse. My head is shot with pain, My brain throbs. Please, Let me down. Oh! My own horses – I fed them And they killed, they murdered me. Oh, for god’s sake, take care, man! Touch me gently. Who’s on this side? Move me, help me. I’m cursed. By my father, wrongly cursed. Zeus, Zeus, do you see this? I’m pious, devout, I’m chaste above all And I’m off to hell. This life is destroyed; My piety wasted on men. Oh! Pain, more pain! Let me go, let death heal me. Kill me. Use your sword, Stab me to sleep! Oh, father, your curse – Some old blood-guilt Has come upon me – But why? I was never guilty. What can I say? How Can I be rid of this pain? Please, let the darkness Of Hades soothe me.

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ARTEMIS Poor boy, you are shackled to your fate. Your nobility has killed you.

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HIPPOLYTUS I know the divine fragrance – even In this pain I know it, and it eases me. Artemis, goddess. ARTEMIS Of all the gods, you loved me most. HIPPOLYTUS Do you see me mistress? Do you see my misery? ARTEMIS I do. But it is not lawful for these eyes to weep. HIPPOLYTUS Your huntsman, your servant is gone. ARTEMIS Even in death you are dear to me. HIPPOLYTUS You’ve no groom, no guard for your shrine. ARTEMIS As Aphrodite contrived it. HIPPOLYTUS Oh, I know the god who killed me. ARTEMIS You were disrespectful and she hated your chastity. HIPPOLYTUS There are three she has destroyed. ARTEMIS You, your father and his wife.

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HIPPOLYTUS Ah yes, my father suffers too. ARTEMIS He was caught by her scheming. HIPPOLYTUS Father, you... THESEUS My life, boy, is finished. HIPPOLYTUS I grieve more for you than for what you did. THESEUS Let me die, not you.

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HIPPOLYTUS Poseidon’s gift to you was a bitter one. THESEUS Oh, that I had never uttered it. HIPPOLYTUS Why? As angry as you were, you’d have killed me. THESEUS The gods had turned my mind. HIPPOLYTUS Why can’t men curse gods? ARTEMIS Enough. Not even in that darkness Below the earth will Aphrodite’s Rage against your body and your Good and pure soul be unavenged. I will exact justice on another; One of hers will feel my dart. To you, as recompense for all these wrongs,

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I will give the greatest honours in Trozen. Before they marry, maids will crop Their hair for you, and you will reap A harvest of their tears. Virgins In their sorrow will sing of you, And celebrate the love of Phaedra. You, son of Aegeus, take your son, Embrace him. You killed him Without knowledge, as any man might When dazzled by the gods. Hippolytus, do not hate your father – It was your lot to die thus. No more. I must not look on the dead, Nor defile my eye with the dying, And you, I see, come near it.

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Exit ARTEMIS HIPPOLYTUS Holy virgin, you are going. How easily You walk away from our friendship, Our long friendship. You tell me to leave this quarrel – I’ll obey you, as always. It’s dark. Father, take my body, lay me straight.

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THESEUS Oh, no. What will you do to me? HIPPOLYTUS I can see the gates below. THESEUS You leave me, and my hands are fouled... HIPPLOYTUS No. I release you from that. THESEUS Do you? I’m cleansed of your blood?

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HIPPOLYTUS As Artemis is my witness. THESEUS Even to me you are noble. HIPPOLYTUS Pray for your true sons. THESEUS Don’t forsake me. Hold ... HIPPOLYTUS I have. I have. Cover my face. THESEUS Oh, Athens, see the man you’ve lost. I mourn him, and I will remember, Aphrodite, all that you have done. CHORUS There’s grief shared, The shock and The heaving tears, for The greater the man, the Greater the grief.

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INTRODUCTION: HECUBA, THE LOGIC OF REVENGE

As Beckett’s Waiting for Godot approaches an end (or at least as the text does) Estragon and Vladimir consider the possibility of hanging themselves: ESTRAGON: Why don’t we hang ourselves? VLADIMIR: With what? ESTRAGON: You haven’t got a bit of rope? VLADIMIR: No. ESTRAGON: Then we can’t. Silence VLADIMIR: Let’s go. ESTRAGON: Wait, there’s my belt. VLADIMIR: It’s too short. ESTRAGON: You could hang on to my legs. VLADIMIR: And who’d hang on to mine? ESTRAGON: True.1

Having each other may not be much, but not having each other is immeasurably worse. And while these two stand waiting, together, Beckett moves on to his next play, and one step further. Hamm’s and Clov’s game of living (ie, experiencing feelings in relation to each other) has reached its endgame. Clov stands by the door, dressed for a journey, and Hamm contemplates the situation: “You cried for night,” he chants, “it falls: now cry in darkness. (pause) Nicely put, that.”2 However nicely it might be put, the meaning is clear, and stark, and not very nice at all. This might all seem a long way from Euripides’ depiction of the agonies of an enslaved Trojan queen. There are, however, at least a couple of significant parallels between Beckett’s dramatisation of consciousness and emotional interplay in a universe that is unknowable and indifferent, and Euripides’ portrayal of a woman stripped of meaningful relationships in a universe that can be positively malevolent. Firstly, the action is generated 1 2

Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot. London: Faber, 1965. 93. Samuel Beckett. Endgame. London: Faber, 1964. 52.

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through what one might call the structure of tragedy; that is, human experience and values, with all their inherent frailty, are pitted against what is not human and is, at best, indifferent to them. Secondly, in the nature of the case, the cards are stacked against humanity – neither Beckett’s void nor the ageless laws of the Greek universe are subject to the consciousness of time, at the very least – and an odour of inevitability pervades the scene. Beckett shares with the Greeks, and with Euripides in particular, a single-minded pursuit of the logic of a situation in which its emotional characteristics are pared, without anaesthetic, to the bone. Hamm’s words, quoted above, look very like a syllogism, and, given the premises, the conclusion that Hecuba (or, for that matter, Medea or Dionysus) comes to is equally compelling. At the centre of the drama, then, are human experience and values; the continuity, that is, of consciousness and feeling – in a word, identity – that bestows some sort of value on a life. And this arises out of that very human capacity to have feelings that involve others, and to see oneself in a significant relation to them. Beckett’s expression of this is in the emotional interplay of his characters and their sense of loss, pain, and meaninglessness at the prospect of isolation. The Greek expression of this is the concept of philia. The word covers a range of relationships, through personal, familial, social and political. It is an essentially human characteristic that is the foundation of a whole range of human institutions. In Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus Oedipus assures his daughters that there is “one word will lighten your toil – love (to philein).”3 And he, as a father, has been the living embodiment of it for them. Ta mochthemata, the toils, the tribulations of life are mitigated (luei) by this word. They are bound together as philoi, whereas the two brothers who have broken this bond and the obligations that go with it are cast outside its ambit – they are echthroi, enemies, at least as far as Oedipus is concerned. On a different level Haemon, in the Antigone, deprived of his bride, is deprived of his humanity: “He glared like a wild beast and spat in his [father’s] face,” before drawing his sword and stabbing himself. He can’t reply to his father’s belated plea (kouden anteipon), but simply lashes out, having been driven to a state beyond the scope of human speech.4 Creon, for his part, has betrayed the bond of philia with his son and unleashed something savage and uncontrollable. It is this betrayal of what is human and the roles and institutions that manifest it that is a particular focus of Euripidean tragedy. Phaedra is attacked 3

OC 1617. In the messenger’s speech in OC (1586-1666) a clear distinction is made between to philein as the characteristic human relation and eunous (to be well-disposed, 1662) as are the gods who grant their favours to Oedipus. 4 Antigone 1231-39.

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by Aphrodite and in order to protect her name as mother, wife and queen she destroys Hippolytus. And he, by denying a god and detaching himself from normal social intercourse, has made himself vulnerable. Theseus’ anger, his blind, self-regarding emotion (very like that of Aphrodite), destroys his philos, and he ends the play with a consolation prize of forgiveness, but alone, bereft of wife and son. Agave and her sisters, stricken by Dionysus, desert their conventional posts and in their madness destroy their philos, and Pentheus denies his own humanity by denying Dionysus and so challenging a god. Medea is progressively stripped of her roles as wife, mother and queen by Jason’s betrayal, so submerging her humanity in divine rage. Parallels between Medea and Hecuba have long been obvious, but there are two elements that need to be stressed. First is the rigour with which the plots are played out. After Medea’s intentions are made explicit in her famous speech to the chorus, everything that happens subsequently is focused on Jason’s punishment and the necessity of revenge – given what Medea is, vengeance will be had (as, given what Dionysus is, Pentheus will be punished). Secondly, there is the nature of Jason’s punishment. He is not personally destroyed, but the inhabitants of the world that make him what he is, a father, a husband and a leader, are, and he’s left, as Hamm might say, to cry in the dark. It’s poetic justice, but not humane justice, and from the point of view of those who are possessed of such human frailties as philein and eleos for innocents caught up in the process it might be thought to be, as Cadmus says to Dionysus, a bit extreme (epexerchei lian). The overriding sense of necessity that is evident in both plays derives both from dramatic technique and from the concept of reciprocity – helping friends and harming enemies. Reciprocity works on two levels, as an ethical phenomenon, reflected in certain institutions, such as xenia and the obligations of supplication, and as something like a natural phenomenon, wherein those who ‘overreach’ are brought down by the gods. The gods don’t feature directly in Hecuba, but their mark is left as clearly as that of Dionysus in the Bacchae.

Rhetoric and Emotion Hecuba has long been criticised as a play of two halves, in which Polyxena holds the half-time lead, but loses in the second spell. Her noble stand, in the face of her mother’s fruitless pleading, her touching farewell and Talthybius’ tear-squeezing account of her sacrifice, certainly dominate the first half of the play. But once dispatched Polyxena, is completely overshadowed by Polydorus and Hecuba’s revenge for his murder. However, to see this as a structural flaw is to misread Euripides’ characteristic mode of juxtaposition. The prologue clearly sets up such a structure by having the shade of Polydorus effectively couple his

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tragedy with that of his sister. Having explained his own demise, he announces that of Polyxena, then turns the focus onto his mother, who “will see two corpses” (45), and who emerges from her tent, fearful and tearful, but as yet unaware of the depths to which she has still to fall. She and the chorus are the two constant features of the play and between them we get two perspectives on the action. The chorus give us the wide view, the effects of slavery and the aftermath of war, and Hecuba the close view, through the deaths of her children. If Polyxena’s death appears irrelevant to the horrors of the second half of the play, that is because, as Judith Mossman says, it “provides not a causal link, but a parallel for consideration.”5 These structural characteristics make Hecuba a complex play to articulate, more so, perhaps, than a first acquaintance with the text suggests. The most immediate impression is of a relentless piling up of one torment after another, a sentiment that Hecuba herself expresses plainly enough through the misery of slavery and captivity and the horrors of dark dreams, to the torture of Polyxena’s sacrifice and the shocking discovery of Polydorus’ corpse. And the only constant through all of these is the betrayal that brings them about, which itself explodes like a bloated carcass all over the stage in the final scene. Countering this movement is Hecuba’s apparent transformation from frail, frightened old woman to avenger. These two currents provide the immediate dramatic thrust of the play, the element that most characterises the theatrical experience. Within this dynamic, however, the structure of juxtaposed elements serves two principal purposes. Firstly, and most immediately, it generates dramatic irony, which intensifies emotions and directs the dramatic rhetoric of the action. Secondly, and on a more general level, it opens up space for the contemplation of complex ideas; this is, after all, a play about justice and the possible forms it might take. The first and most obvious element is the context provided by Polydorus’ prologue. The ghost’s forecasting reveals Polyxena’s death, but not the manner of it, and takes us as far as Hecuba’s discovery of her son’s body. Nothing is said about revenge, but a tale of such explicit and uncompromising betrayal perhaps implies some kind of reciprocation. Actions always have consequences, especially if we learn about them at the commencement of a plot; it’s a reasonable expectation. Further, we learn what Hecuba doesn’t know, so when she appears, frightened, frail and beset by vague fears, the pathos is heightened and the dramatic focus is thrust forward to her discovery of what we know. Her lament in response to the chorus’ news has a characteristic theme:

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Judith Mossman. Wild Justice: A Study of Euripides’ Hecuba. Oxford: OUP, 1995. 206.

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Who fights for me? What family? What city have I? Man gone. Children gone. Which way Do I go? Where am I safe?

(159-62)

Family and city gone, the slave has no bearings, no protector, no identity. All she has is a consciousness of deprivation which is only intensified by her daughter’s determined, almost grateful, acceptance of her fate, and sympathetic awareness of what it means to her mother. Polyxena’s lament (197-210) merely serves to reinforce Hecuba’s isolation. If Hecuba is reduced to helpless misery at the news of Polyxena’s fate, the entrance of Odysseus appears to galvanise her. Her agon with Odysseus is a finely tuned piece of rhetoric, carefully set up in the preceding dialogue. Her body may be aged and frail, but her mind is not, and we are given a glimpse of what we must assume to be a Hecuba of old; a woman of intelligence and authority who can construct a formidable moral argument. That her previous history with Odysseus as the suppliant is is a fairly obvious contrivance doesn’t seem to matter.6 The picture her long speech (251-95) projects is one of dignity, logic and a firm grasp of justice. The first half (to 271) is firm in tone, almost admonishing the man, and is about justice. But it is a human notion of justice, in which, while accepting the necessity of Achilles’ demand (the fact that she is powerless in the face of it), she asks for it to be satisfied fairly – that one who is guilty in deed should pay the price (Helen) rather than one who is merely guilty by association (Polyxena). The second half exhibits a change of tone and direction, but remains formal. Having appealed to the logic of justice, Hecuba then strikes a suppliant’s pose and asks for the pity and respect she might expect from one, not only in a position of power, but under an obligation to respond. Odysseus’ reply is clever but trite. His acknowledgement of his reciprocal obligation – that he is prepared to save Hecuba but not her daughter – only sharpens the pain. He upholds the letter of the law, so to speak, but in rejecting Hecuba’s plea for pity and respect violates the spirit. In this he behaves like a god, outside the range of human feelings and values, and significantly seems not to hear her warning that “the strong should not misuse their power, nor should they think always to be so fortunate” (281-3). His overweening sense of power and superiority put him beyond any argument or emotional appeal. The force of the agon has been to contrast the moral probity of the two characters in a situation where the unwritten law of reciprocity is the common premise for argument. The ‘barbarian,’ as he calls her, ironically presents the civilised and humane argument, and the sophisticated Greek politician merely 6

The incident appears to have been invented by Euripides – in the Iliad only Helen recognises Odysseus – for an obvious purpose in the moral scheme of the play.

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behaves as the mouthpiece for an uncompromising denizen of the underworld. Further, the scene underscores the futility of even the finest of arguments, or most heartfelt appeals, in the face of power that has detached itself from human values. Which brings us to the sacrifice of Polyxena. Talthybius’ messenger speech is not subtle, and the brief preceding dialogue establishes for it a firm foundation of pathos. Talthybius is the antithesis of Odysseus – all heart and sensitivity to the suffering of those around him. This, coupled with Hecuba’s pathetic greeting: “Oh, you dear man. The Greeks have decided / To kill me too? Please, tell me that. / Quick. Come on. Lead me off” (505-7), launches his account of Polyxena’s heroic end as an unashamedly sentimental assault on the emotions. Even the army is affected, and the son of Achilles himself is momentarily pricked by the girl’s heroic gesture: “In a moment of pity / He hesitated. Then slit her throat” (565-6). Two points arise out of this. First is the nature of this emotional onslaught. The event is savage, unjust and contrary to all natural human feeling. Talthybius is almost overwhelmed by it and the whole Greek army is moved; all those who had murdered, raped and pillaged back in Troy are rough diamonds after all. Moreover, mixed in with all this sentiment are the ritual, the formal assembly and its good order and, more especially, the beauty, even grace, of the killing, which evoke a kind of aesthetic pity, wherein the beauty and pathos of the form obscure the reality of the content. Even Hecuba is affected by this. Her response is restrained, even philosophical, the pain eased a little by “this report of your nobility” (591). As an audience, we too are caught up in Talthybius’ emotional slipstream, and if we are appalled, we can feel quite pleased with ourselves for being so. The second point is its juxtaposition with the discovery of Polydorus. We know that after the death of Polyxena, Hecuba has more to come, that her touching resignation and show of humility are yet to be severely tested. The revelation is sudden and brutal, and the shock palpable, and though Hecuba has had a premonition of her son’s death, it is not to be compared with the chorus’ warning and the subsequent opportunity, however futile, to resist her daughter’s. There is nothing pretty about the death of Polydorus and the betrayal that brings it about is even more crass than that which put paid to Polyxena. The emotional consequence, therefore, is ungarnished with sentiment – it is frenzied and vengeful: Oh, my boy, my boy. Aiai, I feel, I feel The frenzy rise Out of vengeance

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(684-8)7

What we have is a different emotion from the earlier instance. Rather than the rhetorical lead given by Talthybius, we have Hecuba and the chorus. The former expresses her agony directly, in words, but almost beyond them – rhythms and repetitions carry the burden, and we are brought much closer to the sensation of loss than previously. The latter, while sympathetic as one would expect, are carefully placed to express their incredulity and shock (as Agamemnon does later) at the motive for murder: CH: Oh. He was murdered for gold? HEC: Unspeakable, unnameable, unthinkable Unbearable, unholy! Justice between friends? You cursed man – with no pity you Hacked him, you carved him with your knife. (713-20)

There’s pity for the victim, but it’s a more naked and harsh emotion than that of the earlier episode. It is pity flavoured with disgust and anger, and its impetus is forward, to action rather than to acceptance and resignation. If the play does fall into two halves, it is at this point, at the entrance of Agamemnon, that it appears to do so, rather than after the death of Polyxena.8 It’s at this point that the plot goes beyond the prognostications of the prologue. What we have seen so far are two instances of personal disaster, each with the same essential ingredients: loss of a child, betrayal, cruelty and their concomitant evocation of emotion for the victims, alive and dead. The second instance, however, evokes a different quality of emotion, less conventional and restrained, but still, for the audience, within the ambit of their superior knowledge. We all knew that Hecuba was going to lose two children, and we have been given the opportunity to see and to some degree share the two experiences. Euripides’ method has been to suck us in, to have us line up behind Hecuba and be appalled for her at the death of her daughter. We can admire the girl’s heroic death and her mother’s heroic resignation. Expectations are raised, of course, for an even more intense experience as the next revelation 7

The Greek is perhaps more specific in its suggestion of the nature of the frenzy that overcomes Hecuba: …katarchomai nomon / bakcheion. The ‘bacchic song’ that she learns refers back to a reference to Cassandra as a god-possessed seer (676) and forward to Polymestor’s lament for his children, who have been “Abandoned to Bacchants / Ripped open, sacrificed, meat / For dogs thrown out / On a hillside” (1075-78). 8 That Hecuba leaves the stage after her long reply to Talthybius (628) is a structural redherring. The stasimon that follows (a relatively short one) focuses on pain and the repetition of pain, going a step or two further than Hecuba’s thoughtful response to the news of Polyxena’s death and prefiguring her response to what happens next.

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approaches, and we are not disappointed. This time we are confronted with something quite different, which projects us forward into a place for which we have not been so prepared. The plot, which up to this point had been laid out for us, and which included Hecuba as a passive victim, is now passed into her hands.

Revenge The plot, in both senses of the word, belongs to Hecuba once she has made up her mind to act. It has long been noted that the sequence of asides that she indulges in after the entrance of Agamemnon is unusual in Greek tragedy9. It is most certainly a bold innovation and it signals a crucial turning point in the play, from passive to active. It is a moment that has been prefigured in Hecuba’s earlier responses to events. Each time there has been the portrait of a woman emotionally stunned, then reasserting her conscious self, the Hecuba who would have identified herself as queen and mother. The speech following Talthybius’ narration is a clear example. Here, however, the power of raw emotion is such that the reassertion of consciousness is taken beyond the capacity of human feelings and the capacity of human roles, as queen, mother, or anything else, to contain. The theme of Hecuba’s speech to Odysseus was justice: that it should be more discriminating between the innocent and the guilty, that it should be fair as well as just. Justice remains the theme of the second half of the play, but justice on a different level. Here there is no appeal to human, or humane, justice, but to laws which govern even the gods. It is never in doubt that revenge is lawful in those terms, and that the justification of it is felt need;10 that is, the emotional logic and momentum of the scene we have just witnessed. What Hecuba cannot know as she makes up her mind is whether Agamemnon will allow her to fulfil this need. The Greeks here are like gods, and their minds are 9

As far as I am aware the only other instance of anything that looks like a soliloquy in Greek tragedy is that of Ajax, prior to his suicide in Sophocles’ play. Gods and ghosts in prologues can address an audience directly, whereas human figures appear to address someone or something in the stage world. Even the Nurse in Medea, on stage alone as she speaks the prologue, is not expressing private thoughts solely for the theatre audience – she is overheard by the Tutor who asks why she ‘wails to herself.’ 10 I use this expression because what is happening is not susceptible to rational or moral justification, other than the sense (and it is a feeling) that justice, or life in general, should be even-handed – an eye for an eye. The notion of ‘felt need’ also seems sufficient to account for the retaliation of gods, throughout Greek tragedy, for whatever they deem to be an injustice, however slight, on the part of a human being, and however out of proportion from any rational point of view.

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largely unknowable to their Trojan captives, and the success or failure of an appeal, like that to any god, appears arbitrary, or depends on some factor beyond the limited knowledge of the human appellant. Agamemnon is persuaded, not actively to pursue justice, but to look the other way. First he must dissociate himself from any harm that might come to Polymestor, and like some lesser god defer to the interest of the Greek army, the source of all power. Secondly, he does not appear to take seriously the possibility that Hecuba, a mere woman and a slave, could actually do anything to her enemy, in spite of the examples she gives of deadly feminine guile. And although he claims to feel some pity (850) for Hecuba’s plight, it seems a rather detached sort of emotion. ‘Pity’ consists of a recognition that Polymestor’s crime should be paid for (retribution here is less a moral principle that a sense of what is ‘natural’), and a sense of being well-disposed to his favourite concubine’s mother. He behaves like a god, though not a very impressive one, and in allowing Hecuba to proceed he lets loose a god-like retribution. Innocent individuals who may be caught up in the process matter only insofar as they contribute to retribution, thus the fate of Polymestor’s sons is sealed. Divine justice, as Euripides presents it, is not only blind but clumsy. Related to justice is the notion of necessity. The word (anagke) resonates through the play, and even concludes it. “Necessity is hard” (1295) the chorus lament as they depart to a life of servitude along with Hecuba and the other women. Here they submit to it, whereas moments before they were its agents. Necessity, then, works on a number of different levels.11 On one level it simply refers to the power of the Greeks over their captives and is expressed through the character and motives of individuals who wield power. Odysseus is immovable, as the prologue suggested he might be. Agamemnon is persuadable and for a brief time the subjects of necessity become its agents on a higher level. Behind the action of the play itself lies the whole backdrop of the Trojan war, which, as retribution for a violation of xenia, reflects in large Polymestor’s violation of the laws of hospitality and the retribution he will necessarily suffer. And, like the innocent women of Troy, his innocent sons will be caught up in the process. It is a process, a natural process (though it looks like a moral or a legal one) wherein a disruption of nature’s equilibrium is put right, just as, for example, Oedipus paid a price to put right an imbalance caused by his unwitting patricide and incest. What Hecuba does is to be seen in this context as one swing of the pendulum of endless reciprocation. The murder of the children and the blinding 11

For a clear account of the conflation in Hecuba of an older sense of anagke with concrete connotations of force, or of the power of the strong over the weak, and a later sense referring to the impersonal power of fate, see J. Gregory. Euripides and the Instruction of the Athenians. Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, 1991. 90.

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of Polymestor are not only her personal revenge for his treachery, but the blind lashing out of the Trojan women for the betrayals they have suffered. The placing of the third stasimon (906-51) makes this clear; the chorus sing of their betrayal and shattered lives, and curse the woman who bought it all about, as a prelude to the entrance of Polymestor and his boys. And the pendulum continues to swing in the exodos through his prophecy of the fates of Agamemnon and Cassandra. What is so shocking about the second half of the play is not just child murder and the grotesque, and surprising, blinding of Polymestor. It is that Euripides has created a relationship between stage and audience (ie, the intense feeling he has aroused for Hecuba as a victim) and then challenged it. This is a common ploy of his, to evoke feelings, which have moral overtones, for or against a character, then to challenge them by putting that character into a situation that reverses the moral thrust.12 Euripides allows the emotional momentum built up by the discovery of Polydorus’ body to propel Hecuba to a point beyond the constraints of human values and the emotions, like pity, that are their foundation. Hecuba’s debate with herself on Agamemnon’s arrival reflects more than mere indecision. Questions of identity are involved. In this volatile situation, where all norms of conduct and communication are suspended, how should she present herself? With cool, queenly dignity, or as a desperate suppliant? Which one is Hecuba? And what is he? Just another hostile Greek? The only thing she can be sure of is that he holds the power and that without his acquiescence she is unable to exact rightful revenge (timorein) for her children. This is the driving force, the need that is expressed in the lines preceding Agamemnon’s appearance. Regal dignity, which we have seen glimpses of earlier, is a meaningless fantasy here – there is nothing left for her to be a queen over.13 Her only remaining connection to the world that once made her what she 12

There are numerous examples throughout Euripides’ plays. Hippolytus is perhaps the most elaborate example, in which Phaedra, presented sympathetically in the first half of the play, commits the least forgivable crime with her false posthumous accusation of Hippolytus, in an attempt to preserve her ‘virtue’. Hippolytus, presented unsympathetically for much of the play, is quite suddenly exposed as vulnerable, innocent and sympathetic when his father refuses to listen to him. Pentheus, in the Bacchae, prig and oppressor, turns the moral and emotional tables on his oppressor in the end. 13 This empty form, the suggestion of a hollow ‘ghost-queen,’ is prefigured in the chorus’ first stasimon (444-83). They sing in the 2nd and 3rd verses of dancing with Delian girls in praise of Artemis, and being chosen to weave Athena’s peplos in Athens, but the reality is in the last verse, as Mossman points out (91): … I’m named A slave in a strange

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was is her one living child, Cassandra, and she is Agamemnon’s concubine. She might, in her long speech to him, refer to the body of Polydorus as “your brother-in-law” (kedesten sethen 834) but that is mere rhetoric and she is not his mother-in-law. As far as any meaningful relation is concerned, Cassandra is as dead as her other children. Her choice, then, is bleak. She can pretend to be a queen and suffer in silence or she can take her chances. Agamemnon’s generous offer of “freedom” (754) subtly mocks Hecuba’s plight; she could be rescued from slavery into a totally disconnected, emotionally and spiritually frozen existence with no future and a consciousness taunted by memories. Revenge, in human terms, may be a consolation prize, but given her state of moral and emotional nakedness and an emotional impetus that has become detached from anything humanly meaningful, it’s hardly a real choice at all. The dramatic climax of the play is pure animal savagery, underscored by a plethora of animal imagery, verbal and visual. Even Agamemnon is provoked and so condemns Polymestor to a slow death on a desert island, before turning for home with the hope that all will be well; only, of course, to suffer the same animal savagery when he gets there. Two elements require comment: the emotional and moral reversal of the conclusion, and the nature of Polymestor’s punishment. Hecuba, after all her tribulations, is not simply a blind, desperate, trapped animal, unaware of what she is doing. She is not, for example, like Haemon, in Sophocles’ Antigone, blind, enraged and beyond self-control. Euripides appears to have had a particular interest in the effects of emotional shock, in which an individual is reduced to raw emotion, expressed in language that relies more on rhythm and texture than on semantic reference, to be followed by a gradual reassertion of self-consciousness and awareness of the stage world, and concluding with an action. Awareness, any ensuing action and any argument or justification that might be offered for it are, as one might expect, determined by the emotional character of the original shock.14 After her discovery of Polydorus, Hecuba’s inner debate is a reassertion of self-consciousness and an awareness that revenge is the only thing she has left. So the woman, the same character who used her faculties to Place, my life in Asia Left behind to haunt Some western hall. 14 This, too, is a frequent Euripidean mode. The plot of Hippolytus, for example, is built around a series of such shocks and reassertions, the most graphic being that following Theseus’ discovery of the body of Phaedra. He moves through a clear sequence from raw emotion to moral argument that reflects his anger and to an assertion of his identity as ruler of Athens – see especially his agon (936-80), which has many elements in common with that of Hecuba against Polymestor (1187-1237).

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challenge and persuade Odysseus for one purpose, applies them to Agamemnon for another, and in the exodos applies her reason and intellect to a justification of her savage revenge. The theatrical conundrum that this raises is that an audience, pulled into a sympathetic relation to the victimhood of the character, must now take those responses into a situation in which a carefully contrived and deliberately horrific act of revenge is perpetrated and then defended. The difficulty, for an audience, is that such calculated behaviour suggests a level of moral responsibility that is very difficult to square with the sympathy evoked by earlier passivity and helplessness. Hecuba is aided in her task by the presentation of Agamemnon as rather weak and self-interested, though sensitive enough to be shocked, as were the chorus before, by the revelation of Polymestor’s motive for murder, and the presentation of Polymestor as a sneaking hypocrite whose mouth waters at the prospect of gold. Even so, the remorseless consummation of revenge, especially after we have been led to believe that the villain is likely to be killed, and the pitiless reception of the victim, disrupt the pattern of moral expectation. We might reasonably expect only an eye for an eye, a death for a death, whereas Polymestor, left with nothing more in the world than physical agony and a last vision of his children being murdered, perhaps suffers something worse than death.15 The effect is to challenge ethical presumptions that have been shaped by the emotional rhetoric of earlier parts of the play and to highlight the horror of a world devoid of human value. In the final scene of the play Euripides has exploited the audience’s sense of ‘felt need,’ the instinctive response to Hecuba’s plight so carefully wrought by the dramatic rhetoric, and brought it out into the light of argument. Where we had been at one with the protagonist, we are now, after the shock, separated off from her, who clearly has no misgivings about what has happened. The effect is to make one aware of one’s own responses – did I really go along with that? The nature of Polymestor’s punishment should, by this point, be selfexplanatory. It is a ‘poetic’ gesture, not only in the obvious reciprocity of a child for a child, but in that he has all connection with the human world cut. Everything that has given meaning to his life has been removed, and the gouging of his eyes, while rather more drastic than Hamm’s handkerchief, has a similar purpose – all he has left is his consciousness so that, pricked with pain and memories of what is irretrievably lost, he can cry in the dark. He still howls, makes frightening noises (his Dionysiac prophecies) and so will suffer further 15 We should also remember that our modern squeamishness was not necessarily shared by Euripides’ original audience for whom public displays of judicial mutilation may not have been so unusual. See Anne Pippin Burnett. Revenge in Attic and Later Tragedy. Los Angeles: California UP, 1998. 169. This does not, however, rid us of the notion that punishment might be unfair or excessive in any particular case.

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punishment in the absolute isolation of a desert island. He, too, can snarl into the void. A brief coda on the prophecy of Hecuba’s metamorphosis and death. In spite of (perhaps because of) an immense amount of scholarly argument these remain something of a mystery. There are three key elements: she is transformed into a ‘blazing-eyed bitch:’ she climbs the mast of her ship and falls (jumps?) into the sea; her grave will be a ‘mark for sailors.’ Just what these things might have meant to a fifth century Greek audience is speculative. And to a modern one? Some suggestions. Firstly, on the face of it the metamorphosis into a savage animal feels appropriate enough. Polymestor and Hecuba indulge in a dog fight and the blazing-eyed bitch and her pack savage the beast who attacked her (or her pup). In one sense Hecuba’s revenge has reduced her to the level of her antagonist (that is, I think, the point of the moral tension of the exodos). There is surely no dispute that she has been driven beyond reasonable endurance. Secondly, the ‘blazing-eyed’ epithet gives Hecuba a supernatural quality. While she is less than human in her blind anger and savagery, she is more than human in her, albeit brief, exercise of the power of necessity, as the gods in any number of Euripidean plays prove themselves to be. The justice she achieves has the qualities of divine justice, which is why, as an audience, we find it difficult to handle. Thirdly, as a ‘mark for sailors’ (who contend with capricious natural forces all the time) she is a reminder that the primeval force that drives her kind of justice is to be respected, as Pentheus belatedly discovered. And again, as the exodos demonstrates, we mere mortals find it difficult to accommodate these things into any moral scheme we might wish to live by.

THE HECUBA OF EURIPIDES

Characters Ghost of Polydorus

Son of Hecuba

Hecuba

Sometime Queen of Troy

Polyxena

Daughter of Hecuba

Woman Servant Chorus of Captive Trojan Women Odysseus

A Greek General

Talthybius

Envoy of the Greeks

Agamemnon

Leader of the Greek army

Polymestor

Ruler of Thrace

Two sons of Polymestor

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Scene: The coast of the Chersonese opposite Troy The Greek text used is Christopher Collard’s edition in the Aris & Phillips Classical Texts series (Aris & Phillips: Warminster, 1991). An * in the text indicates the elision of lines considered doubtful in the Greek text. GHOST OF POLYDORUS I come from where the dead hide, through Dark gates, where Hades lives apart from other gods. I am Polydorus, son of Cisseus’ daughter Hecuba, and of Priam, and when Troy Trembled at the points of Greek spears, He sent me secretly to the house of Thracian Polymestor, his friend – he Who cultivates that fertile plain, and governs With his spear his horse-loving people. And secretly, too, my father sent with me a hoard Of gold, so, if Troy should fall, surviving sons Might not live in want. And as the Youngest of Priam’s sons, too young For arms and armour, he sent me. For as long as our boundaries held and the walls Of Troy stood firm, for as long as Hector Prevailed in arms, so long was I nurtured By my father’s friend, growing like a young tree. Oh, Miserable! Hector died, and so did Troy. His hearth-place smashed, my father killed On the god-built altar, slaughtered by Achilles’ Murderous son, then he, our ‘friend,’ Kills me for gold and throws the corpse Into the swelling sea – just to keep the gold! I lie now on the shore, now in the salt sea, In and out with the surge, unwept, unburied. I deserted the corpse and hover now over Hecuba, my mother. For three days here, Ever since that unfortunate woman was Brought from Troy to the Chersonese. The Greeks all wait idly by their ships On the Thracian shore. Why? The son of Peleus, Achilles, appears above His grave and prevents the whole Greek army

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From steering a straight course home. He demands my sister Polyxena be taken And sacrificed, a blood-offering to his tomb. He will have it – he’ll lack no gift from his friends – And today it is my sister’s fate to die. So my mother will see two corpses, of Two children – me and my unlucky sister. I’ll be discovered bobbing at the feet of a Serving woman, then I can be buried. I asked the powers below for a grave and To fall into my mother’s arms, and I will have what I wanted. I’ll go. She comes from the tent of Agamemnon, trembling from her dreamVision of me. Oh, mother, I see today A slave of kings – as miserable as you Once were happy. The gods destroy you, Balance your good fortune with bad.

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HECUBA Lead an old woman out, my girls, Help another slave, Trojans, Once your queen. Take it, hold my old arm, Let yours be my stick To speed old legs. Bright Zeus! Black night! Oh, why in the night am I Shaken by fears and phantoms? O Mistress Earth, mother of darkWinged dreams, I’ll defy Your night visions. ….. Gods of Earth, save my son, My house’s only anchor. He is there in snowy Thrace Shielded by his father’s friend. There will be something new. There will be lamentation among the ladies.

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My heart pounds as never before – It won’t stop. Oh, when might I see Helenus, With his god-like mind, or Cassandra, So they can tell my dreams?

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I saw a spotted fawn slaughtered in the bloody jaws Of a wolf, ripped without pity from my lap. It frightens me. Achilles’ ghost Stood over his tomb and claimed as a prize A much-suffering Trojan woman – I beg you, Oh god! Don’t let it be my child.

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CHORUS I slipped out, Hecuba, from the Master’s tent – where it’s my lot To be a slave, driven from Troy At the point of a Greek spear. I’ve nothing to soften your suffering, but Bad, bad news. For you, lady, I am a Sad messenger. It is said, in full assembly, The Greeks resolved to make sacrifice Of your daughter to Achilles. You know When he appeared in golden armour over His tomb, he held back the sea-craft, even As the sails strained at the stays, And he howled, ‘Where do you go, Danaans, leaving my grave unhonoured?’ Quarrels broke out, opinion divided Among the Greeks – some for the sacrifice, Some not. Agamemnon strived for you, Loyal to the bed of his Bacchic seer. But Theseus’ sons, scions of Athens, both So eloquent, agreed Achilles’ tomb be Crowned with young blood, and never Would they put the bed of Cassandra Before the spear of Achilles. The argument was in the balance Until that slippery, sweet-talking Demagogue, Laertes’ son, persuaded The army not to deny the best of all Greeks for the sake of killing a slave,

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Nor let it ever be said, he said, of the dead Who stand beside Persephone that Greeks Were ungrateful to Greeks who died For Greeks on the plains of Troy. He’ll be here, Odysseus, in a hurry to rip The child from your breast, to remove Her from your old arms. Go! Go to the temples, the altars, throw Yourself at the knees of Agamemnon! Call down gods of heaven and earth – Let your prayers intervene, or you’ll see The girl thrown down on the tomb, Stained with blood flowing dark over The gold band round her throat. HECUBA What to cry? What sound? What tears are there For the misery of miserable age And unbearable slavery? Oh, Who fights for me? What family? What city have I? Man gone. Children gone.Which way Do I go? Where am I safe? What god will help? Your news, woman, Your news will kill me. Kill me! I hate the light. My sad feet, let My sad old feet lead me There – oh, come out, girl. Hear me, hear me. Oh, child!

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POLYXENA Mother. Mother, why do you cry out? Why do you frighten me, Like a bird from its nest? HECUBA Oh, child.

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POLYXENA Why do you speak like that? It’s bad. HECUBA Oh, your life. POLYXENA Tell me. Don’t hide it. You scare me. You scare me, mother, With this crying out.

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HECUBA Child, child of a sad mother. POLYXENA What do you want to tell me? HECUBA They’ll sacrifice you. The Greeks All together on the tomb Of Peleus’ son.

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POLYXENA What do you mean? Say it. Say it again, This horrible thing. HECUBA I heard it girl, it’s been Announced, the Greeks Have voted on your fate. POLYXENA Oh my poor mother. What else, what else Will they afflict you with? It’s hateful, unspeakable. Some power does this. I won’t be here, I won’t Share the misery of your Old age. You’ll see me,

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Like a whelp, a mountain heifer, Pathetic, torn from your arms, Throat cut and dispatched to Hades, to the dark earth, Where I’ll lie among the dead. ….

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CHORUS Odysseus is here, Hecuba, and in a hurry, With something new for you. ODYSSEUS Madam, I think you know the army’s Mind, and what has been determined. But, I’ll repeat it all the same. The Greeks have decided to sacrifice your Daughter, Polyxena, on the grave of Achilles. We are appointed to fetch and to Escort her. Achilles’ son will preside over This rite. You know what to do. She will Not be dragged away, nor will you wrestle With me, but you will acknowledge your strength And your unfortunate situation. You were Wise to be prudent, given that. HECUBA Oh, yes, there’s a great contest here, Filled with groaning and not without tears. And I didn’t die where I should have, And Zeus won’t kill me – he keeps me alive To see greater evil, feel heavier sorrows. But if slaves may enquire of free men Without offence, I should ask a question Of you and listen to your answer. ODYSSEUS Yes, ask. I don’t mind the time. HECUBA You know when you came to Troy

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As a spy, in shapeless rags, blood dribbling From your eyes to your chin?

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ODYSSEUS I do. And I was deeply touched. HECUBA Helen recognised you. And she told only me? ODYSSEUS I remember walking into great danger. HECUBA And abjectly you grasped at my knees?

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ODYSSEUS My hand, cold as death, on your dress. HECUBA So, as my slave, what did you say? ODYSSEUS To avoid death, anything, everything. HECUBA Did I save you and send you away? ODYSSEUS And so I’m here to see the sunlight. HECUBA Is what you plan to do, then, not despicable? You admit the treatment you had from me, But won’t reciprocate – you mistreat me? You are a graceless breed, the popular politician; I don’t wish to know the likes of you, who’d Strike down friends just to pleasure the masses. With what sophistry were they led To vote a death sentence for a child? What necessity required human sacrifice Rather than the customary cow? Or

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Is this Achilles’ revenge against his Killers? But she’s done nothing. It’s Helen he should have chosen – She led him to Troy and killed him. Perhaps beauty is the criterion, the most Beautiful prisoner. But that’s not us. Helen has that accolade and will be Found no less guilty than we are. That, I contend, is only just. Now listen to what I require in return. As you say, you grasped my hand, touched My aged cheek – now I reach out to you And ask for, beg for charity, not to Tear my my child from me, and not to Kill her. Enough have died. In her I can forget my misery – she Is all my comfort – my city, my nurse, My staff, my guide. The strong should not Misuse their power, nor should they Think always to be so fortunate. I was once, but no more. One day Has destroyed all my happiness. Oh, my noble friend, respect me, pity me. Go to your army, tell them not to kill Women, the very ones they snatched From their altars, out of pity, then. You have laws for slaves and freemen Alike, about the spilling of blood. You Can persuade them, without even trying. Even a weak argument gains strength From one such as yourself.

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CHORUS No-one, hearing that, could be so hard, So impervious, they would not weep. ODYSSEUS You should learn, Hecuba, not to let your Anger offend one who means well. I am, quite seriously, prepared to Save you, as you saved me. But, I will not

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Resile from anything I’ve said – that Troy, Defeated, should give up the girl for sacrifice, As required by the army’s foremost man. It’s a cause of trouble in many a city when a Noble and zealous man is given no more Than his inferiors. To us, madam, Achilles Is such a worthy – he died for Greece most Bravely. It would indeed be shameful to Respect him in life, but not in death. So. What, then, would one say, should The army again be mustered for battle? Do we fight, or look out for our own skins, Now we see that the dead are not honoured? For myself, I’d be prepared to live quite Meagrely, from day to day, but I would wish To see my tomb honoured – that’s a lasting gift. You say you suffer pitifully. Listen to me. We have old women and old men who Suffer no less miserably than you; We have young wives, bereft of their Fine young men, who lie in Ida’s dust. You must put up with it. If our customs For honouring brave men are awry, we Will be found wanting. But you barbarians Neither know your own friends, nor admire Those who die nobly. So, may Greece prosper, And you get what you deserve.

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CHORUS Slavery is cruel, suffering endless, violence unfair. HECUBA Oh my daughter, my words are lost in the empty Air; but you, if you have more skill than Your mother, to save your life, sing Like a nightingale, and for pity grasp Odysseus’ knees (you have a case – He has children too) make him take pity on you. POLYXENA I see, Odysseus, you hide your right hand

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And turn your face – I might touch your cheek. Don’t worry. For me, you’re safe from the suppliants’ God. I’ll go with you because I must, and Because I wish to die. If I did not I would seem Cowardly and far too fond of life. Why should I live? My father was king of all The Phrygians. That I was born to. I was bred with hope to be the bride of a Prince, and no small rivalry for me, to See at whose hearth I’d finally sit. I was a mistress, a sad one, among women, The constant gaze of young and old, like A goddess, except that I’m mortal. Now I’m a slave. The very strangeness of The name makes me love death. Then, I might get some savage master who buys me For a piece of silver – the sister of Hector, One of a job lot – forced to make bread, To sweep, to work the loom. To be Touched in the bed of some bought slave – Me – once thought fit for king. Oh no. I’ll dismiss the light from my eyes While I’m still free, and give myself to Hades. Lead me away, Odysseus, and do it. I see no hope nor any reason to hope That I might prosper. Mother, please, Don’t say or do anything to stop me – Let me die before this indignity happens. If you haven’t tasted shame, you’ll bear With it, but the yoke hurts. Death is happier – living is only pain. CHORUS Noble birth is a mark of distinction itself, But glory grows with the deserving of it. HECUBA My girl, your words are noble, but they hurt. If the son of Peleus must be satisfied, and for You, Odysseus, to avoid censure, don’t Kill her, take me to Achilles’ pyre,

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Knife me, as hard as you like. It was Paris, my son, who killed him. ODYSSEUS It wasn’t you, old woman, the ghost Of Achilles asked for. Her.

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HECUBA Kill us both. Then there’ll be Twice the blood he asked for. ODYSSEUS She’s quite enough – we mustn’t add one death To another. And I wish we didn’t need hers.

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HECUBA I must die with her. ODYSSEUS Oh? I didn’t know I’d acquired a master. HECUBA I’ll cling to her like ivy. ODYSSEUS No. Be persuaded by those wiser than yourself. HECUBA I won’t let her go!

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ODYSSEUS And I won’t go without her. POLYXENA Mother, be persuaded by me. And you Odysseus, show some sympathy for a Mother’s feelings. Poor woman, don’t fight A strong man. Do you want to be rudely thrust In the dirt, the indignity of your old arms pushed And pulled by younger ones? To suffer that? No. It’s not right. Oh, dear mother. Hold me.

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Kiss me. Now I see the sun for the last time. And that’s my last goodbye. Mother. Oh mother. I’m going to die. HECUBA Oh child. I pity you. I’m a wretched woman.

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POLYXENA In Hades I’ll be apart from you. HECUBA What can I do? Where can I die? POLYXENA My father was free but I’ll die a slave. HECUBA And I, my sweet, am seen for a slave. POLYXENA I’ll have no husband.

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HECUBA All my children gone. POLYXENA What do I tell Hector or my father? HECUBA Tell them I’m the most miserable of all. POLYXENA This breast that sweetly fed me. HECUBA It’s not right you die now. POLYXENA Farewell mother, and farewell to Cassandra.

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HECUBA Others fare well, not me. POLYXENA And my brother in Thrace. HECUBA If he lives. I don’t know. Everything is cursed. POLYXENA He does. And he’ll close your eyes.

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HECUBA I have died already. POLYXENA Lead me out, Odysseus. Cover my head. My mother’s heart faints before I die, And so does mine. O light! I can call your name, but only until I meet the knife on Achilles’ tomb. HECUBA I feel faint. Oh, my daughter, touch me, Give me your hand. Don’t Leave me childless. CHORUS Wind, sea wind, You drive swift ships Over swelling seas – Where do you blow my sorrows? Whose slave will I be? What house? In a Doric or a Phthian cove Where, they say, Apidanus Father of beautiful waters Feeds the plain. Or despatched in

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Sorrow by sea-stroking Oars to an island, A pitiful life, shut in, Where the palm and the bay First grew And held out their shoots For Leto’s glory; will I Join Delian girls to sing In praise of Artemis’ bow And her golden band?

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In the city of Pallas Will I yoke to a glorious Chariot Athene’s mares, Working them with Threads of many colours On a saffron robe? Or stitch the race of Titans whom Zeus laid Low with his double fire?

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O my children, Land of my fathers Choked and smoking, Razed by spears of Greeks, I’m named A slave in a strange Place, my life in Asia Left behind to haunt Some Western hall.

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TALTHYBIUS Ladies, where will I find her, Who was once queen of Troy? CHORUS Here, Talthybius, she lies in the dust, Wrapped in her cloak. TALTHYBIUS O god, what can I say? Do you watch over us,

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Or is that all wrong? Are we overseen by Blind chance? Is this not the gold-decked Queen of Troy? The bride of blessed Priam? Now her city is destroyed by war, and She lies there, a slave and childless, her Head fouled in the dirt. Oh, god. I’m old, but I’d want to die before I came to this. You poor woman – Stand up, raise yourself, lift your head.

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HECUBA Who? Who won’t leave me alone? Why move my misery? TALTHYBIUS Talthybius, envoy of the Greeks. HECUBA Oh, you dear man. The Greeks have decided To kill me too? Please, tell me that. Quick. Come on. Lead me off. TALTHYBIUS I’ve come to tell you your daughter Is dead and must be buried. I’m sent by The two sons of Atreus and the men of Greece. HECUBA What do you mean? You haven’t come for me – You’re just here with the bad news? Oh. You’re dead, girl. Snatched from your mother. Another one gone. How can I bear it? How did you do it? Respectfully? You Slaughtered her savagely, like she was The enemy? Tell me. I won’t Like it. But tell me! TALTHYBIUS Now I’ll weep again for your girl. I’ll cry as I did then when she was Killed at the graveside.

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The whole Greek army was on parade For the sacrifice. The son of Achilles took Her hand and stood her on the mound. I was Right there. Hand-picked youths attended, Should she struggle unduly. Then he, Achilles’ son, raised a golden bowl in his hands To pour a measure for his dead father. He Signalled to me for quiet. I stood and spoke: ‘Silence, you Greeks. Silence, all of you.’ The whole lot of them went still. Then he spoke: ‘Son of Peleus, my father, take from me This offering to raise the dead. Come, Drink this pure, dark blood, a gift from Me and from the army – be kind to us, Release our ships, loose the ropes and Let us all go home from Troy.’ So he spoke, and so the army prayed. He drew out from its sheath a goldHandled knife, and nodded to a young Man to hold the girl. She saw this. And she said: ‘You Greeks destroyed My city. I want to die. Don’t touch me. I give you my neck happily. Leave me. Let me die freely. By the gods, let me. I’m royal, and won’t suffer the name Of slave among the dead.’ They just roared. Agamemnon told The youths to leave. They did. You don’t ignore him. She heard it, Then she grasped her gown and ripped It open, from shoulder to loins, exposing There breasts as perfect as a work of art, And she knelt and she spoke the most Heart-wrenching words: ‘See, young man, My breast, if you wish to strike it, or, if you Must, my throat.’ In a moment of pity He hesitated. Then slit her throat. Blood Gushed. Even dying she contrived to fall Elegantly, hiding what should be hid from the Eyes of men. She gave up her ghost. Then the Greeks all got busy. Some

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Threw leaves over the body; some Brought pine-logs for a fire, and anyone Who didn’t was abused: ‘You stand there With nothing, no dress or trinket for the girl? You give nothing for courage like that?’ Now I’ve told you. I see you’re both Cursed and blessed in your children.

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CHORUS The gods bring down this horror On Priam’s house and my city. HECUBA Of all the evils upon me, my daughter, I don’t know which one to look at. If I touch one, it grabs hold of me, then Another misery calls out, and another and Another. I can’t wipe from my mind your Suffering and not mourn it. But this Report of your nobility eases the pain. It’s amazing. Even bad earth, with a little Help from the gods can carry a good crop, Yet if there’s something wrong, good soil Gives bad fruit. But among men, nothing Changes: the bad are simply bad and the good Remain so, by nature incorruptible. Is it blood or upbringing? Yes, that Teaches virtue. Yes. One can learn To measure the bad against the good. Yes. Aimless thoughts. Take this message to the Greeks. Make sure No-one of that mob touches the child. So many soldiers are a rabble; anarchy Among sailors spreads like fire, and if You don’t join in you’re abused. You, woman, take a vessel and bring sea-water To bathe my girl for the last time, A bride, yet not, so a virgin, yet no more. I’ll wash, lay her out as she deserves. Oh, how? Find something fitting. From the women Here with me. Perhaps someone’s purloined

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Something of her own without their knowing. Oh, my home. A house once happy. Priam, so wealthy and blessed with Children, and me, old, how we’ve come To nothing, stripped of pride. We swell up, Puffy with wealth or fame. They’re nothing. Mere wishful thinking, things to boast about. He’s happiest who for each day Nothing bad actually happens. CHORUS Disaster my fate And pain Since Paris first Cut Ida’s pine And sailed the swelling sea For Helen’s bed, The loveliest woman ever to shine In the sun’s golden light. Ineluctable cycle Of pain On pain, from one Man’s madness a Common curse and Simois’ Land destroyed, when on Ida a herdsman judged Between three of the Daughters of gods Bringing war and slaughter and My house destroyed. And there, too, by Sweet-flowing Eurotas A Spartan girl laments And a grey-haired mother Head in hands Tears her cheek with Bloody nails For the children who have died.

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SERVANT Where is Hecuba? Where is she Whose misery is unsurpassed?

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CHORUS What horrors do you shout about now? There’s no rest from bad news. SERVANT I bring more grief. It’s hard now For anyone to say anything good. CHORUS She’s here. She’s heard you.

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SERVANT Oh, lady, you suffer yet more than I can Say, you are destroyed, though still you see The light – with no child, no husband, no home. HECUBA That’s not new. You mock what everyone knows. Why do you bring the body of Polyxena here, when It was said all the Greeks were so keen to bury her? SERVANT She doesn’t know. She mourns her Daughter. She has no grasp of this.

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HECUBA Oh, no. Not my god-struck Cassandra? SERVANT She lives. You’ve not yet wept for this one. Uncover the body and see if it shocks you. HECUBA Ah, I see my son. Dead. Polydorus. Safe in Thrace No longer. I can no longer live. Oh, my boy, my boy.

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Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II

Aiai, I feel, I feel The frenzy rise Out of vengeance Out of vengeance.

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CHORUS You know what happened to him? HECUBA Beyond belief. I see a New one, always another and Another and another and another And never a day without tears.

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CHORUS Oh, we all suffer this. HECUBA Child, my child, Why? Why? Why? Why? Who’s done this?

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SERVANT I don’t know. I found him on the shore. HECUBA Washed up, or murdered?

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SERVANT The surf brought him in. HECUBA No, no, no. I saw in a dream The dark wings beat All round you, boy And shade you from god’s light. CHORUS Who did it? Did your dream tell you that?

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HECUBA My friend, my friend from Thrace, Where his father sent him secretly.

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CHORUS Oh. He was murdered for gold? HECUBA Unspeakable, unnameable, unthinkable Unbearable, unholy! Justice between friends? You cursed man – with no pity you Hacked him, you carved him with your knife. CHORUS Oh, my poor lady. Some power weighs down On you. Quiet! Agamemnon comes. AGAMEMNON Hecuba, why do you wait to bury your daughter? Talthybius reported your demand that none Should touch her, and none have. Yet you linger. You astonish me. I’ve come to fetch you myself. Everything progresses well – if anything In this business can be said to be ‘well’. But… who’s this? A Trojan corpse? This Wrap tells me the body’s not Greek.

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HECUBA Oh, no. Hecuba, when I say you, I mean myself. What shall I do? Throw myself at his knees, Or just suffer in silence? AGAMEMNON Why do you turn your back to me and weep? Tell me what’s happened? Who is he? HECUBA And if he pushed me away thinking me a slave And an enemy, I’d suffer even more.

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Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II

AGAMEMNON I’m no mind-reader. If I don’t hear it, I can’t know what you’re thinking. HECUBA Perhaps I’m over-estimating his hostility, When he’s not hostile at all.

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AGAMEMNON If you don’t want me to know, that’s fine. I don’t want to hear. HECUBA Without him I get no revenge for my children. Oh, why keep turning it over and over? I must be bold and take my chances. Agamemnon, I beg you, by your knees, Your chin and your good right hand. AGAMEMNON What do you want? Freedom? I can do that for you easily enough.

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HECUBA Oh, nothing, sir, that you might be thinking. AGAMEMNON Then what help do you ask for? HECUBA You see the corpse I weep tears for? AGAMEMNON Yes. I have yet to learn more. HECUBA I gave birth to him. I bore him. AGAMEMNON You poor woman. Which of your children is he?

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HECUBA Not one who died defending Troy. AGAMEMNON You had another son beside them?

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HECUBA In vain, so it seems. You see him. AGAMEMNON And where was he when the city fell? HECUBA His father sent him away, fearing for his life. AGAMEMNON Where? HECUBA Here. Where he was found, dead.

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AGAMEMNON To Polymestor, who governs here? HECUBA And with a hoard of gold – most deadly gold. AGAMEMNON Then who killed him, and what happened? HECUBA Who do you think? His Thracian host. AGAMEMNON Oh. For the gold? HECUBA Quite. When he heard of Troy’s disaster. AGAMEMNON Where was he? Who brought the body?

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Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II

HECUBA She did. She stumbled on him in the surf. AGAMEMNON Was she looking for him? HECUBA She went for water to bathe Polyxena.

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AGAMEMNON So his host killed him and dumped him. HECUBA Carved up and tossed in the waves. AGAMEMNON I can’t imagine what you must suffer. HECUBA There’s nothing left to suffer. AGAMEMNON My god. Has any woman ever suffered like this? HECUBA No, unless it’s Fortune herself. But hear why I beg you. If you think God sanctions what has happened to me, I’ll put up with it. If not, you can be my Avenger against this unholy … friend, Who, with this sacreligeous act, snubs His nose at gods of heaven and earth – he, so Often a guest at my table, first among friends. We are slaves and weak. But the gods Are not, and neither is the law over them. It’s by the gods we live in justice or not. And if under your watch this law should be Corrupted, and guest-killers get away with it, Defying the gods, there’s nothing left for men. Out of respect, and out of pity, for me You should condemn what has happened.

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Stand back and take a look at me, like a Painter, put my suffering in perspective. Once a queen, I’m now your slave; once A mother, I’m old and childless; homeless, Utterly, utterly bereft. Oh, You turn away from me? I can do nothing? Why do we struggle to learn so many things, But not persuasion, a skill we can buy; That power over men, to get what we Want? What hope of success is there? My children are dead, I suffer the shame Of captivity, my city burns. And – Perhaps it’s irrelevant to mention love, But I’ll say it anyway – you sleep With my daughter, Cassandra. What Value do you put on that, my lord? Will she have any thanks for her Fond embraces? Will I? Listen. You see this corpse? You do it a favour, you do one for a Brother-in-law. And one more thing. Oh, if my arms, my hand, my hair, my feet Could speak, or by some miracle all, In tears, grasp your knees and press My words upon you. Oh, master, most Illustrious of Greeks, be persuaded, give an Old woman your hand for retribution – even If she’s nothing, give it anyway. It’s a good man’s Duty to serve justice and punish wrongdoers.

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CHORUS It’s strange how it falls out, how Necessity makes friends of enemies And enemies of your one-time friends. AGAMEMNON I do feel pity for you, your son, all that’s happened. Hecuba, for pity I give you my hand, and I could wish, for the sake of the gods and Justice, to do something for you – but

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If we could avoid my appearing to the army To be involved in a plot to kill this Thracian for Cassandra’s sake? You see, This is what disturbs me. The army counts Him as a friend and the dead boy an enemy. If he’s precious to you, that’s not the army’s Concern. Think about it. I wouldn’t hesitate To share, to help in this, but… If I should compromise the Greeks? HECUBA Ah. Is there no-one free, who’s not a slave To money, to chance, to the mob, or subjects His mind to the letter of the law? Since you’re afraid and yield to the mob, I’ll release you from your fear. If I can Plan something for this killer, just Bear with me – you needn’t be involved. And if the Greeks do become exercised and Help the Thracian when something happens, Just get in the way, subtly, for my sake. For the rest, be brave. I’ll handle everything.

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AGAMEMNON How? What will you do? Take a knife In your old hands and kill the barbarian? Poison him? Who’d help you? HECUBA The tents hide a host of Trojan women. AGAMEMNON Captive women – Greek booty. HECUBA With them I’ll have my revenge. AGAMEMNON And how could women prevail?

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HECUBA There’s a lot of them and they’re cunning. AGAMEMNON Yes. However, I have my doubts.

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HECUBA Why? Women killed Aigyptus’ sons and stripped Lemnos of its men. So? But leave that; Send this woman safely through the army For me. And you, approach our Thracian Friend and say, Hecuba, sometime queen of Troy, summons you on a matter of concern to Us both, and bring your sons who also need to Know what she has to say. Agamemnon, will You delay Polyxena’s funeral so brother and Sister both share one flame and one grave? AGAMEMNON It will be done. Though if the army should Sail I couldn’t do you this favour. For now The god sends no fair wind and they are Forced to sit there. May it all work out. It’s for everyone’s good, a man or a nation, That the vicious suffer and good is rewarded. CHORUS Troy, O Fatherland No more named among Cities unconquered Smothered beneath a cloud of Greeks Spear after spear destroying Your crown of towers razed Piteously begrimed in soot I’ll set foot on you no more. Murder at midnight. When feasted, my eyes by Sweet sleep touched And the song and the dance of sacrifice All done, my man in his

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Chamber, his shaft on its peg, Eyes closed to the fleet Gone from the Trojan shore. I bound my hair In folding bands And gazed into infinite light In my golden glass, so then to fall Down on my bed, when A sudden clamour rose to the tower And a command rang out through the town: ‘Sons of Greece, when, when Will you take the towers of Troy And go home?’

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Leaving my love-bed, Gowned like a Doric Maid, wretched, hopelessly clinging to Holy Artemis, I watched My husband die and was led Away to the sea. I Gazed back at the town But the boat sped on Cutting me off from the land of Troy And I fainted from grief.

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Curse Helen Sister of heavenly twins And the herdsman of Ida Doom-ridden Paris Whose marriage drove me from land And home – no marriage, An avenger’s torment. May she never, never, never Find her home.

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POLYMESTOR O Priam, most beloved of men, and you, Hecuba, your city and, oh, the death Of your daughter bring me to tears. No. One can rely on nothing, neither

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Reputation nor yet that disaster won’t Follow on the heels of success. The gods So confuse things, backwards and forwards, We revere them from sheer puzzlement. But why lament when it can’t help? If you’re concerned at my absence, just Hold on. I happened to be far inland when You arrived. I returned home and was just Setting out when I met your servant. When I heard what she said, I came.

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HECUBA I’m ashamed to look at you, Polymestor, In this apalling condition; I’m ashamed That someone who saw me in good times Should see me in the state I’m in now. I can’t look you in the eye, not through Any fault of yours, but it is a custom That women lower their eyes to men.

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POLYMESTOR It’s no wonder. What do you need? Why send for me? HECUBA I have something private I wish to say To you and your sons. POLYMESTOR Of course. We’re all safe enough here. You are my friend, both you and the Greek army. What is it? What can a fortunate man do for An unfortunate friend? I’m all ready to help. HECUBA First, tell me about Polydorus, who you have From my hands and his father’s at your house. Is he alive? I have more to say presently. POLYMESTOR Of course. As far as he’s concerned, you’re fine.

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HECUBA Oh, my dear man. A worthy reply.

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POLYMESTOR And what is the other thing you wish to know? HECUBA Does he remember his mother? POLYMESTOR Oh yes – he wanted, secretly, to come here. HECUBA The gold he brought from Troy is safe? POLYMESTOR Quite safe. Under guard in my house.

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HECUBA So keep it safe, and don’t covet your neighbour’s. POLYMESTOR Not at all. May I profit from what I have, dear lady. HECUBA Then you know what I wish to say to you and your sons? POLYMESTOR No. Tell me. HECUBA There is ... my old friend, as you are now my friend. POLYMESTOR What is it I and my boys should know? HECUBA The sons of Priam had gold hidden in ancient caves. POLYMESTOR You want me to tell your son of this?

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HECUBA Yes, from you. You are a righteous man. POLYMESTOR Yes. Why should these boys be here?

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HECUBA If something fatal happened to you, it’s better they know. POLYMESTOR You’re quite right. That is the wiser course. HECUBA You know the caves of Ilian Athene? POLYMESTOR That’s where the gold is? How will I know it? HECUBA By a black rock rising from the ground.

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POLYMESTOR Is there anything else you wish to tell me? HECUBA To keep safe the treasure I brought with me. POLYMESTOR Oh, where is it? Hidden under your skirts? HECUBA It’s safe inside the shelters. POLYMESTOR Where, exactly? The Greek fleet is all around us. HECUBA The women’s quarters are private. POLYMESTOR There are really no men there at all?

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HECUBA No Greeks. Only women. But come in. The Greeks want only To sail home from Troy. So, When you’ve got it all you can Go home, where you keep my son. CHORUS You’ve not paid yet, but perhaps you will. As one hurled sidelong into the flood And aside from his heart’s desire, No escape and robbed of life. When Justice and the gods Combine, there is Destruction, terrible destruction. Hope deceives you and you Are led the way to die, To Hades, poor man, to die No soldier’s death. POLYMESTOR (screams offstage) My eyes! The light! My eyes!

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CHORUS Listen, my dears, to the Thracian groan. POLYMESTOR My boys! My children! There’s murder! CHORUS Horrible things are done in there, my dears. POLYMESTOR You won’t get away, however quick you are! I’ll smash this place, you’ll Feel the weight of my hand! CHORUS Do you want to go in? It’s surely time to Come to the aid of Hecuba and her women.

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HECUBA Smash it all, spare nothing. Break the door! But you won’t put the light back in your Eyes, or see your sons, who I killed.

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CHORUS Have you done it? Have you brought the Thracian down, lady, mastered your friend? HECUBA You’ll see him in a moment, blind, Reeling blind, and you’ll see two Bodies, his boys’, who I killed, me And my noble Trojans. He’s paid me. Look, he’s coming. I must stand aside From this unstoppable Thracian fury. POLYMESTOR Where do I go? Where stop? Where’s safe? All fours like a beast – Turn here or there to Get a hand on the man-killers From Troy, who destroy me? Inhuman, inhuman. I curse them! Oh Where? They run, they cower in a corner. Oh god, if you could heal My eyes, heal my bloody eyes! Turn dark to light! Ai ai ai ai… It’s quiet. I can feel them move. Where can I take them, where Rip flesh from bone Feast like an animal, Some return for their filthy Dealing to me? Oh, where am I taken, my boys Abandoned to Bacchants, Ripped open, sacrificed, meat For dogs thrown out On a hillside?

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Where stop? Some rest? My cloak – now I’m here I’ll watch Over my boys in this murderous lair. CHORUS Miserable wretch. You’ve suffered terribly. But there’s a heavy price for what you’ve done. POLYMESTOR Where are my Thracians, spearmen, soldiers, Horsemen, the war-god’s own? Come you Greeks! Sons of Atreus! I call to you, I call, oh come Now, now, for the sake of god! Can you hear? Can no-one help? Why Are you so long? The women destroy me, Captive women! I’ve suffered horribly, horribly! Where can I turn? Go? Fly to the heavens where Orion or Sirius let loose fire From blazing eyes, or dash down To Hades’ black boat?

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CHORUS You can understand, when there’s suffering Like this, one would want to die. AGAMEMNON I heard screaming. This is no mere Mountain echo that’s roused the army; If we didn’t know already Troy’s towers Had fallen, there’d be no end of panic. POLYMESTOR Agamemnon, your voice, I know your voice. Oh, My friend, can you see what’s happened here? AGAMEMNON Oh god! Polymestor. Who’s done this? Your eyes! Who’s gouged your eyes and

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Killed your boys? Who could hate You and your children so much? POLYMESTOR Hecuba and her captive women destroyed me – No. No, it’s worse than that.

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AGAMEMNON What do you mean? Did you do as he says? You, Hecuba, you did this unbelievable thing? POLYMESTOR What? Is she near? Show me. I’ll take Her in both hands and tear her apart Till she’s just a bloody heap!

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AGAMEMNON What? What happened to you? POLYMESTOR By the gods I beg you, let me get my hands on her! AGAMEMNON Enough! Stop this savagery. Talk. I’ll hear you both and decide myself What’s been happening here. POLYMESTOR Me. I’ll speak. Her youngest son, Polydorus, Was sent by his father, Priam, to live in my House, when he suspected Troy might fall. I killed him. Hear why. Hear of my…foresight. I was afraid if the boy was left your enemy He’d muster Trojans, re-unite them, and If the Greeks knew a son of Priam lived They’d raise another expedition against them, Then plunder the plains of Thrace, doing Damage to Troy’s neighbour – the very thing, Sir, we’ve just suffered. Hecuba learned her Son’s fate and lured me here with a story About the sons of Priam having hidden

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Gold in Troy. She took me and my boys Inside, so no-one else would know about it. I sat on a couch, in the middle. The women Sat beside me, on either hand, friendly, like. They praised the Edonian weaving of my Cloak, and held it up to the light. Others Took my weapons and examined them. Mothers among them admired the children And passed them from hand to hand, As though to distance them from me. You can’t think how quickly, in all this Domesticity, they had knives from under Their clothes and butchered them; and the Others clung to me like octopuses, held My arms and legs. I tried to help the boys – If I moved my head, they grabbed my hair; My arms – I could do nothing under this mass Of women. But the last thing they did, the Worst cruelty. My eyes. They took brooches And stabbed, reduced my eyes to gore. Then They fled. I leapt, like an animal, to chase These murdering bitches, searched, beat About like a hunter. This I have suffered For you. I killed your enemy, Agamemnon. But I’ll keep it short. If anyone before now Has spoken ill of women, or is likely to say Something on the matter, let me sum it up; There is nothing on earth or in the sea that Could breed the like. We all know that. CHORUS No more of your insolence. Don’t condemn All women for what has been done to you. HECUBA Agamemnon, a man’s tongue should never Be his stronger part. If he acts well, He should speak well; but if he behaves Badly his words should make this clear; he Shouldn’t be able to hide crimes behind Fine speech. They are clever who have some

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Finesse in this – but not entirely so; they end Very badly. None of them get away with it. That’s all I mean to say. Now I’ll answer him. You saved the Greeks a double labour, and Killed my son for Agamemnon’s sake. Really? You … First, barbarians are not Befriended by Greeks, nor could they be. What was the point of your zeal? To arrange A marriage? Find some kinship? What? Afraid they might sail back and ravage your Crops? Who could you make believe that? If you were to tell the truth, you killed My son for gold and greed. Tell me, How, when Troy prospered, safe within its Walls, when Priam lived and Hector fought, Why not then, if you wished to do him a Favour, why not kill the boy when you Had him, or give him live to the Greeks? But when our lights were out, yes? When the smoke told you the city had fallen, You murdered your guest at your own hearth. Now listen to just how bad you look. If You were such a friend to the Greeks, you Should have taken the gold, which you say Wasn’t yours but his, and given it to them When they needed it and were so long From home. Even now you can’t keep your Hands off it, but persist in keeping it. If You had looked after and protected my son As you should have, you’d have some reputation; In bad times a good friend stands out, in good Times, everyone’s your friend. If you were short And the boy had money, he’d be of great value To you now – as it is, you have no friend, no Profit and no sons. All your own work. Agamemnon, if you help him, you do yourself No good – he’s neither righteous nor to be Trusted, he’s irreligious, the ‘friend’ you help Is a criminal. We might say you liked bad Company. But I shouldn’t rebuke you.

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CHORUS Yes, yes, of course. The good act is always The foundation of the good argument. AGAMEMNON I do hate having to judge someone else’s misdeeds. But I suppose I must – it would be shameful to slide Out of it now I am involved. Just so you know, It seems to me you killed your guest neither for My sake nor for the Greeks’, but to keep the boy’s Gold. What you say is merely self-serving in Your difficult situation. Perhaps for you it’s a Trifle to murder guests, but we Greeks find it Disgusting. How do I avoid condemnation if I Decide in your favour? I can’t. If you do things others Don’t like, you must endure what you don’t like.

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POLYMESTOR Beaten by women, by slaves. HECUBA Is it not justice for what you did? POLYMESTOR My children – my eyes!

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HECUBA Does it hurt? Do you think the loss of my son doesn’t hurt? POLYMESTOR You enjoy insulting me, you slut! HECUBA Why not enjoy my revenge? POLYMESTOR Not for long. When the sea … HECUBA Carries me off to Greece?

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POLYMESTOR Swallows you when you fall overboard. HECUBA And who will make me jump? POLYMESTOR You’ll climb the mast. HECUBA I’ll grow wings and fly? POLYMESTOR You’ll become a blazing-eyed bitch.

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HECUBA How do you know what I’ll be? POLYMESTOR Our Thracian prophet, Dionysus. HECUBA Who omitted to tell you what would happen to you. POLYMESTOR Or you’d never have tricked me. HECUBA Will I live or will I die there? POLYMESTOR Die. Your grave will have a name. HECUBA What then? From what you called me? POLYMESTOR Poor bitch’s grave – a mark for sailors. HECUBA So? I’ve got my revenge.

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POLYMESTOR And your daughter Cassandra will die.

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HECUBA (spits) May you have more of the same. POLYMESTOR Killed by his wife. HECUBA The daughter of Tyndareus is never that crazy. POLYMESTOR And she’ll kill him – hacked with an axe. AGAMEMNON You’re mad, man. You like pain, do you?

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POLYMESTOR Kill me then. A bath of blood waits for you in Argos. AGAMEMNON Get him out! Get him out! POLYMESTOR Does it hurt you to hear it? AGAMEMNON Shut his mouth! POLYMESTOR Yes. But it’s said now. AGAMEMNON Throw him on some desert island, since he can’t stop. Hecuba, poor woman, go and bury Your dead. Ladies, go to your masters’ Tents. I see the winds turn us toward Home. May we journey well, may our Homes be well, leaving all this.

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CHORUS We’ll go, and we’ll see what labours Our masters have in mind. Necessity is hard. 1295

INTRODUCTION: BACCHAE

The Bacchae appears to be the last finished play by Euripides. It was discovered after his death in Macedonia (406 BC) and later staged at Athens by his son or nephew, where it won first prize. The Bacchae also appears to confirm Euripides’ reputation as the ‘clever’ playwright of the ancient world, the playwright whom Aristophanes portrays as something resembling a postmodernist in a state of high excitement, whose lack of discernible values, egoladen self-consciousness of style and cryptic word-play confound all sense, from the most subtle to the most common. The portrait is unfair, but in the Frogs at least Aristophanes has hit on a pertinent point: Aeschylus produces characters and sentiments suitably highminded for tragedy, and although it may be stretching a point to say that one likes a character in any Greek tragedy, there are plenty to admire in the plays of Sophocles and Aeschylus. It is difficult to think of any to whom one can offer the appropriate alloy of sympathy and admiration in Euripides. Further, whatever the limitations he inflicts on his human characters, his portraits of the gods are even less flattering. The Women of Troy gives us Poseidon, who resembles a bear of very little brain, and a petulant Athene; Hippolytus presents Aphrodite and Artemis, who can only be described as bitchy; and the Bacchae offers up Dionysus as the quintessence of sophisticated savagery. The list could go on. Aristotle, as ever, makes some interesting observations. In spite of his limitations in the management of many aspects of his plays, “Euripides ... appears to be the most tragic of the poets,” because many of his plays have the correct (unhappy) ending.1 The compliment is, however, qualified, not only by the remark about ‘management’, but by the suggestion that this perception of Euripides derives from stage presentation, the spectacle, rather than any intrinsic qualities in the construction and writing of his stories.2 In this respect

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Sophocles’ plays, particularly Oedipus the King, are so much superior to those of Euripides. We have, then, two broad but significant observations about the tragedies of Euripides; that is, they are self-consciously clever and irreverent, and ‘spectacle’ rather than plot construction is in some way important for the responses of audiences. His plays may not conform the the moral and aesthetic ideals of these ancient commentators, but the nature of their shortcomings from this point of view strongly suggests a path to take to explore what they do achieve as dramatic literature. That their achievement, and that of the Bacchae in particular, is of a high order is axiomatic.

Spectacle, its meaning and function In some respects Aristotle is quite correct to suggest that Euripides relies on spectacle (opsis) and elements extraneous to the construction of the plot in a manner that Sophocles does not. It should be noted, however, that even Sophocles must have been aware of, for example, the super-charged emotion he could arouse by having two small, weeping daughters ripped away from a blind and bloodied Oedipus by a bureaucratically correct Creon – a spectacle worthy of the Victorian stage or the modern tabloid. Both men were playwrights, not only poets in the conventional literary sense. My contention is that spectacle, the meaning of which I will return to, is integral to the construction of the Bacchae, as it is of other Euripidean plays, in a manner that is quite different from its function in the major plays of Sophocles. Euripides’ plots do seem more contrived than the effortless progress of Fate over the lives of an Oedipus or an Ajax. But the contrivance is there for a purpose, to be seen by an audience and, when necessary, to be felt by them. The result is that character, Aristotle’s ethos, is projected, responded to and evaluated in a different way. It is not merely the case that, “Sophocles represented men as they ought to be, while Euripides represents them as they are,”3 but that an audience is encouraged to be aware of how they see and feel about the characters in front of them. Euripides’ characteristic method of achieving this is to juxtapose scenes and events so that they reflect ironically on each other, and so draw the audience into the ironic pattern of the play. This is quite a different method of creating a tragic effect from that seen in the plays of Sophocles, and it serves a different purpose. In Sophoclean drama the irony upon which tragic effect depends arises out of the interplay of distinct and different perspectives on the world of the play on the parts of the audience, on the one hand, and the characters, on the 3

Poetics 1460b 34-6.

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other.4 The audience know more than the characters involved in the action, and the direction of the plot is toward a closing of the gap. Oedipus the King is perhaps the archetypal example, in which the protagonist labours to a recognition of the reality that the audience is already aware of, and the suffering he undergoes serves to underscore and re-establish, for the audience, the tragic nature of the world. There is nothing ironic or ambiguous about the conclusion of that play, and Aristotle’s ‘pity and fear,’ though approximate as emotional labels tend to be, are left uncontaminated by other thoughts or feelings.5 And although the world of Oedipus is tragic and painful, the audience is not expected to question or pass judgement on any aspect of it. The authority of the gods is beyond question; they are simply there, providing an unexaminable context of mystery, power and inevitability in which the characters play out their lives.6 The plays of Euripides are seldom so constructed. Compare, for example, the two Athenes, in Sophocles’ Ajax, and in Euripides’ Trojan Women. What they do to their mortal victims and their motives for doing it are, from any moral angle, arbitrary and cruel. But only in the latter case are we inclined to judge the actions of the goddess, rather than acknowledge them as a morally neutral, if unpleasant, reality. Euripides’ gods are no less unpleasant nor less real as constituents of the world of his plays, but our perception of them is affected by the experience and values of the human characters. The social and moral significance of human experience is given another perspective by Euripides’ dramatic technique. The Greek theatre projects for its audience two parallel but different worlds. The stage is the world 4

Cf. T.G. Rosenmeyer’s four categories of irony - forensic, blind, structural, Fictionsironie – the second and third of which characterise most Greek tragedy, and the first and fourth, comedy. It could be argued that the Bacchae indulges in both the latter kinds. Tragedy and the Tragic. ed. M.S .Silk. Oxford: OUP. 1996. 497-519. 5 See Ismene Lada who argues that “...important strands in Greek culture privilege an emotional response to all performative enunciations of logoi; whether we are confronted with the gratifying discourse of poetry or with the implacable and truthful voice of philosophical inquiry; whether we are dealing with the explicit theatrical frame of a stage production... it is important to acknowledge that it is primarily the soul in its emotive substance which is envisaged as the first and foremost addressee of logos.” “Empathic Understanding: Emotion and Cognition in Classical Dramatic Audience-Response.” PCPC 39 (1994) 99-100. 6 It is obvious that such judgements are made from time to time, particularly by audiences whose values and experience are very different from those for whom the plays were written, as ours are from the audiences of Sophocles or Shakespeare. It is clear, however, that these judgements are not significant in our responses to Oedipus or Lear as tragedies.

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of human experience, a world of time and change, of emotions, of reason, of all the attributes of human affairs; it is the visible world. This place exists within the divine world, where it is subject to fate and the caprice of the gods, to things beyond human reason and values. What the theatre does is allow an audience to witness the interaction of these worlds from a privileged position. So we see Oedipus suffer as he learns what the gods have prepared for him, and neither he nor we question the rightness or wrongness of it. Euripides, however, shifts the balance. His characters feel as much and his gods are no less powerful, but they are less remote, and being less remote their actions remain within the orbit of moral values that encompass the human characters. In Hippolytus Aphrodite is the material cause of events, of Phaedra’s illicit passion, but the choices Phaedra makes to deal with her moral dilemma are all her own, and the goddess is diminished in the comparison. For all the horror of the Trojan Women, Hippolytus, or the Bacchae, the audience is not likely to join unquestioningly with the Chorus, as they might with that of Oedipus, and sing: Generations of man, were you ever More than nothing? What man Does more than touch delight For a moment seeming, A moment thought then gone? Oedipus, sad form of all our fate. (1188-93)

And leave it at that. The technique that achieves this shift of perspective consists in the main of the juxtaposition of stage events, of elements of spectacle which draw attention to themselves by evoking then undercutting the expectations of an audience. The spectacle referred to is rather more than the strictly scenic elements that Aristotle appears to have had in mind. In the Bacchae especially it consists of a variety of theatrical conventions, of modes of performance, the juxtaposition of dissonant moods and images, and ironic parallels and inversions. Within this structure, however, the plot progresses in a linear fashion along the path from Pentheus’ denial to knowledge of the reality of Dionysus.

Entertainment and Irony It is commonly observed that the Bacchae differs from other Greek tragedies in that the divine world is more than usually involved in the action. In most cases when the gods come on they tell us what the protagonist has done wrong, that he will come to an unfortunate end, and then they stand back to

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watch it happen. Dionysus does not do this. He tells us in the prologue about the shortcomings of the royal family of Thebes, what he has done about it so far and what he intends to do if resistance to him should continue: .... Should these Thebans Seek to force my maenads from the mountain, I will lead the girls against them. For this I have left behind my god-like Form and made myself a man. (51-54)

What is inevitable is not that Pentheus will be torn apart, but that Dionysus will have his way and his cult will be recognised in Greece. He is, after all, a god. And what is set up for the audience is a contest, the outcome of which is inevitable, while the process, the strategies, are yet to be seen. Dionysus is setting up a spectacle which he, as both chorus leader and protagonist, will manage. Such a situation creates a complex set of relationships with the various observers of this spectacle. On the one hand, Dionysus is, to the audience on the stage, what he seems – a man, a devotee of the god and leader of the pack who have come to support him. To the theatre audience, on the other hand, he is the god and the manipulator of events. To this extent the distinction is conventional, insofar as the theatre audience has more complete knowledge of the world of the play than those on the stage, and can be sure that Pentheus will make the inevitable journey from ignorance to awareness. This is the conventional structure of dramatic irony in tragedy. However, as an actor in the drama, Dionysus can draw attention to himself and generate a rather different kind of irony. His disingenuous references to “the god” in his first confrontation with Pentheus, and in his gleeful retailing of the humiliation of Pentheus to the chorus: “Then Bromius – I suppose it was him – created a phantom in the yard.” (629-30) emphasise his collusion with the theatre audience. He is presented as the comic intriguer, the wit who shares with the audience his superiority over the victims of his joke. He is an entertainer, par excellence, clever, amusing and engaging, who lifts the veil of his disguise to remind the audience of one aspect of his real self: Dionysus is the laughing god, a purveyor of merriment and fun, the god with a “laughing face” (1021) whom the chorus invoke against their humourless, strait-laced oppressor. And he does like to entertain. He puts on a show for both groups of admirers. The theatre audience look on as the chorus is terrified by an earthquake. They do not see an earthquake, but watch “a chorus enacting the

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experience of a miracle, or presenting a theatrical illusion.”7 Dionysus follows this up, for the benefit of both audiences, with a parody of a messenger’s speech, a parody for one audience and a dazzling display of his cleverness and the power of his good friend, the god, for the other. The entertainer has a whole battery of gimmicks to support his act and relentlessly pursues his comic mission from the entrance of Teiresias to that of the second messenger. By this time, of course, the comedy is wearing thin. This engagement of the audience is crucial. I have asserted that “the audience is drawn into the ironic pattern of the play,”8 and the situation just described is perhaps the boldest example of such irony at work. Irony arises out of the audience’s response by turning that response back on itself, by stretching their tolerance of what they feel for such a figure as Dionysus as the situations he contrives become more and more extreme. In modern theatrical terms the disruption is Brechtian and characteristic of Euripides’ treatment of an audience. I do not think we are dealing with ‘metatheatre’, “where theatre yields the impression of turning self-reflexively upon its own conditions of creation and performance,” 9 but with stage rhetoric, with a variety of means of manipulating an audience to respond and to understand the characters and situations that confront them10. The irony is reflexive rather than the play and the plot because it depends directly on a repositioning of the audience’s expectations and feelings. Two theatrical conventions that Euripides uses to achieve his end are the visual comic motif of dressing and parody, in particular of the tragic messenger’s speech. The latter is not, of course, a comic convention, but it is used initially as an element in the theatrical trickery that engages the audience. Both are repeated, and the repetition in a changing context generates a reflexive irony.

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Lada (1994) 121. 10 “...Euripides closed a career of increasingly manipulative and illusion-breaking treatment of dramatic conventions by presenting us in the Bacchae with yet another finde-siecle ‘theatrical’ Dionysus. Nevertheless, unlike many modern playwrights, he was less interested in a self-conscious exploration of his own drama than in the way art interprets human and divine experience for the city.” Foley (1980) 107-8.

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Dressing Dressing up is a comic convention, as many commentators have observed.11 Teiresias and Cadmus appear as two garrulous old men bedecked in ivy and fawnskins and waving their thyrsoi. They dance a sort of arthritic parody of the chorus, then, as comic figures should, stand and overhear Pentheus denounce and threaten the followers of the new god. The focus is on what they wear. Teiresias proclaims their pledge, “to take the wand, the fawnskin and the ivy crown” (175-6), and Cadmus enters, “ready, dressed for the god” (180). After his initial tirade to his servant, Pentheus sees the pair and reacts with scorn and embarrassment: Well! Another miracle. Prophetic Teiresias tricked out in fawn-skins ... and my Grandfather waving wands. It’s embarrassing. (248-50)

They are grotesquely, inappropriately dressed. So much for stage business. But Teiresias is funny in another respect as well. “The old traditions,” he informs Cadmus, “will not be brought down by argument” (201-2); then he proceeds to enter into an agon with Pentheus, replying to his threats with a parody of sophistic argument. He argues from the ‘facts,’ retailing the story of Dionysus’ origins, altering it slightly and embellishing it with spurious etymologies to give a ‘rational’ explanation of the popular form of the myth that Dionysus and the Chorus have already referred to. And he is ably assisted by Cadmus who advises his grandson simply to pretend it’s all true, even if he doesn’t believe it. There are dissonant notes in this comic spectacle: in the violence of Pentheus’ threats and in the palpable fear of the two old men. They are converts, but their faith is half-baked and its motives impure, and as proselytes for the god they are completely ineffective. However, it is the comedy that is important because the audience needs to laugh at them, at their inadequacies and powerlessness, and, of course, to remember later in the play how they laughed 11

See B. Seidensticker, “Comic Elements in Euripides’ Bacchae” AJP 99 (1978) 30320. Seidensticker’s thesis that comic elements are used to intensify tragic effect (as, eg, the porter scene in Macbeth) does not go far enough in this case. The pervasiveness of comic forms and the fact that Dionysus is a conscious manipulator of them indicate a difference in kind between the effect Euripides sets out to achieve in the Bacchae and that of other tragedies. Compare this play with ‘comic’ figures in Sophocles, such as the Corinthian messenger on Oedipus the King and the soldier in Antigone. See also, N.T. Croally. Euripidean Polemic: The Trojan Women and the Function of Tragedy. Cambridge: CUP. 1994. 237.

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at the comical old man who reminded his arrogant grandson of the fate of “Acteon, ripped apart by his own dogs because he bragged that he was better in the hunt than Artemis” (337-40). Two significant points arise out of this scene. On the one hand Teiresias and Cadmus are objects of scorn and ridicule, and seen to be so by both Pentheus and the audience. On the other hand, while the audience might enjoy the comic spectacle, the grotesqueness, as Aristotle put it, that does not cause pain,12 Pentheus clearly does not. His reaction is extreme, narrow and unrelenting; he has no apparent sense of fun to leaven his single-minded grasp of power and authority. He is not a sympathetic figure. The second dressing episode, Pentheus’ appearance in full maenadic regalia, is the climax of the entertainer’s comic performance and a calculated display by Dionysus of the totality of his victory over the opposition. Preparation for this scene has been painstaking and elaborate, beginning at the point of Dionysus’ first appearance as a prisoner. The servant leads on a rosycheeked, effeminate young man, the “beast” he was despatched to capture, whose smiling cooperation with his captor, “made it all easy. It was embarrassing” (440-1). So Pentheus cooperates, happily, with his captor in the later scene. Pentheus prefaces his cross-examination with what appears to be a brief, ritual humiliation of his quarry (451-60), which is also mirrored in the later scene. Dionysus’ casual and clever evasions of his interrogator’s questions gently undermine Pentheus’ authority and, as comedy should, make him faintly ridiculous. The episode is also a reversal of the Teiresias scene, and the audience’s sense of the inadequacy of Pentheus’ response to that spectacle is a factor in their response to what he undergoes at the hands of the god. At one level it looks like poetic justice, where the figure that the audience love to hate gets an appropriate come-uppance, which is characteristic of comedy. By this time, however, a simple conventional response to the comic situation is affected by Dionysus’ equally uncompromising pursuit of his goal. The fear of appearing ridiculous is clearly a significant cultural phenomenon that Euripides exploits,13 and it is what determines the god’s modus operandi in the play. The second confrontation between the protagonists hinges on this idea, and the tension of the scene as Pentheus succumbs is maintained by his resistance to the possibility of being made a spectacle of. It is also this underlying conception of shame that clarifies Pentheus’ ambivalence toward seeing the spectacle of his mother and sisters on the mountain. It would 12

“It [the ludicrous] may be defined as a defect or ugliness which is not painful or destructive.” Poetics 1449a 33-5. 13 See M. Dillon. “Tragic Laughter” Classical World 84 (1991) 345-55.

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“be both a pleasure and a pain” (815) to see them drunk; a pleasure in that their antics would confirm his views on the unsavoury practices of Dionysus’ disciples, and a pain insofar as the women are members of his family, the royal house of Thebes. Pentheus is not a voyeur whose peccadilloes are exposed by the god, but a figure whose identity as an upholder of aristocratic values is overcome by another identity with other values. He is ‘possessed’ by the god, as are all the followers of the cult14, and so is ‘mad’. “In his right mind,” Dionysus informs the chorus, “he would never dress up as a woman, but he will if he’s mad” (851-3). It is, therefore, appropriate that the last flickering remnant of his identity is expressed as a resistance to dressing as a woman, as Dionysus works on him through the scene. Three times his consciousness flickers as darkness descends: “I beg your pardon. Must I dress like a woman?” (823); “But ... women’s clothes? I’d be ashamed” (828); “No. No, I can’t bring myself to dress up like that” (836). And having finally accepted that he should dress up, Pentheus must still be reassured that he will be taken through the back streets of the town so that the women cannot “gloat over me” (842). All this elaborate preparation implies a comic climax wherein the archmanipulator has his way and the victim, he who has committed the sin of humourlessness, is publicly ridiculed for the gratification of the audience. And this, of course, is the pattern. However, the expected climax is pre-empted by the revelation of a greater climax to follow: I will see That every citizen laughs as he Parades through the town like a lady, Especially after his vicious threats. I’ll deck him out then send him To Hades, with his mother’s help. He will understand that Dionysus Is the son of Zeus, born a god, Most terrible, yet most gentle to man. (854-61)

At this point the two audiences have parted company. The chorus, as Pentheus appears in his saffron gown and wig, holding his thyrsus, continue to collude with the god; for the theatre audience this is much more difficult. The humiliation of Pentheus is grotesque, but not in a manner that does not cause pain. It is a mere prelude to an even greater humiliation that goes beyond any comic convention. As this scene concludes, laughter is not a release of tension that goes with the fulfilment of expectations, but is corrosive when coupled with 14

See H. Oranje. Euripides’ Bacchae: the Play and its Audience. Leiden: E.J. Brill. 1984. 82-3.

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an awareness of the full implications of what you are laughing at.15 The comedy has gone beyond the bounds of what is socially and morally acceptable to an extreme that diminishes Pentheus’ own narrow and tyrannical behaviour in the earlier scenes. It seems difficult to avoid the notion of justice, not the justice that Dionysus understands as revenge, or the blind destruction of whatever is not wholly committed to the cause, but a more moderate, humane sense of proportion. The chorus emphasise this disparity in the refrain of their song immediately following the humiliation of Pentheus: Let justice be revealed With avenging steel To hack the neck Of the godless, lawless, unjust son Spawn of earth-born Echion. (991-6)

And in the final scene Cadmus makes the point to an uncomprehending Dionysus: “We understand [our wrongdoing]. But this is harsh” (1346). Something of an understatement.

Parody: the Messengers The messenger is a significant feature of any Greek tragedy. Whether an angelos or a minor functionary among the cast of characters, this figure invariably arrives to relate important events that have happened off-stage. The form is more or less standard; that is, the messenger appears, enters into a brief introductory dialogue with whoever is on stage, then launches into a set-piece narrative describing what has happened. The messenger is never a detached or dispassionate observer, but he is always an honest one. He has feelings and a point of view, usually sympathetic to whoever has suffered the calamity he has seen. These speeches have a number of important functions. The most obvious is technical; to overcome the difficulty of staging elaborate scenes, like bulls rising from the waves, battles and the violence of murder and mutilation. Secondly, they indicate significant turning points in the plot, decisive events that determine the outcome of the story. Thirdly, they are key rhetorical elements; that is, they are a means of manipulating an audience’s response to events by presenting an emotionally coloured but honest account and thus a 15

It is an idle but pleasing speculation to think that Euripides may, in this scene, have indulged in a parody of Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae, in which Euripides dresses Mnesilochus in a saffron gown and a wig as a prelude to his being thrown to the mercies of a mob of women.

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reliable perspective. Finally, these narrative segments of a dramatic performance raise expectations, or did in their original audiences, of a particular form of entertainment: “... messenger speeches seem to have been highly appreciated by the audience, which may have led the competing playwrights to continue to incorporate them, indeed to devote much attention to them.”16 The Bacchae has three set-piece messenger speeches, and this in itself is unusual. Initially an element in the god’s entertainment arsenal, they follow a progression that turns the emotional tables on him. By the time the second messenger arrives, the emotional context has been radically changed and the audience has gone beyond the god’s control. The first of these speeches I have referred to already. Dionysus saunters on to the stage after frightening the chorus with his earthquake and proceeds to enjoy himself by telling the tale of how he humiliated Pentheus. The speech is one part of a continuous performance that begins with the earthquake and concludes with the dressing of Pentheus. It is only necessary here to reemphasise the dual rhetoric of Dionysus’ performance; that is, for the chorus this performance inspires awe and adoration, the inverse of the terror they felt a few moments before. It is a characteristic of the chorus that their emotional lives are simple, shifting rapidly from one extreme to another as the situation demands, as one would expect from the fanatical followers of a cult. But more on the chorus below. For the theatre audience, this is in part a witty parody of a tragic convention, an engaging nod and wink that reaffirms his power and control as a god (the earthquake is a harmless joke; nobody has really been hurt), and shows off his skill as an entertainer. Dionysus concludes his speech with the conventional messenger’s moral: “A wise man exercises self-control and discretion” (640-1), to be followed by the entrance of Pentheus, who is anything but calm and controlled. It is a very old comic routine and a timehonoured means by which the comic protagonist ingratiates himself with the audience, at the expense of whoever he makes a fool of. Finally, after a brief and witty dialogue (on the god’s part), Dionysus will announce, even before he has appeared, the arrival of the first messenger, then retire to watch the performance. The two principal messenger speeches are mirror images of each other and are both highly conventional in form. They are prefaced with the usual brief dialogue; they are similarly structured (arrival on the mountain, a bucolic scene, disturbance and ravages of the maenads, a moral). They differ, of course, in the nature of the characters who speak them and in the contexts in which they are delivered. Significantly, they both begin with the same joke. The first 16 Irene J.F. de Jong. Narrative in Drama: the Art of the Euripidean Messenger Speech. Leiden: E.J. Brill. 1991. 118.

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messenger, a rustic, strides on with a burst of poetic oratory: “Pentheus, Lord of Thebes, from Cithaeron I’ve come, where the glistening snow...” (660-1). The second, Pentheus’ faithful retainer, enters with a similarly poetic preface: This house, this house of Cadmus, Once most happy in all Greece. I am a slave, but even so, I suffer with my master in his fate. (1024-8)

They are both stopped short by an unsympathetic audience, who tell them, bluntly, to get to the point. And in both cases their listeners respond, from the theatre audience’s point of view, inappropriately. The innocent wonderment of the herdsman as he paints a picture of natural beauty and harmony is yet another means of engaging the audience’s sympathy. The second half of his speech, in which the maenads turn on this guileless man and his friends, who, after all, only wished to do a favour for their master, is sinister, but its darker message is coloured by the innocence of the man’s delivery. Discretion, being the better part of valour, “We fled. We ran before we were torn to pieces” (735), to watch in amazement as the herd is dismembered, villages sacked and children snatched (to suffer the same fate as the herd?). But the climax, what “was most terrible to see” (760), is that the village men “turned and ran. Men fled from women – surely some god was there” (763-4). He is there, on the stage, looking on with considerable amusement which he shares with the theatre audience at the rustic’s innocent emphasis. His final words express the common man’s view of life (and echo the sentiments of the chorus in the first and the third stasima: 417-31 & 904-11) and assert the reality of simple pleasures:

Master, whoever this god is, receive Him here. He is great, I’m told, in many ways; His was the gift of wine that eases suffering. Without wine there is no Aphrodite, and So, no other pleasure for mankind. (770-74)

The warning seems clear enough, but Pentheus fails to see it and reacts violently to what is amusing at the end of the speech, rather than to the implications of what precedes it: This bacchic insolence spreads like fire And we Greeks are greatly to blame. There can

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Be no hesitation. Go to the Electran gate, Summon our troops, horsemen and bowmen, We’ll make war on these revellers. No, It’s too much, to suffer this from women! (777-85)

In the end, of course, it is Pentheus who is the butt of the joke, not simply because he has failed to heed a warning, but because he excludes himself from the comic enjoyment of the scene that is shared by everyone else, on stage and off. After the humiliation of Pentheus, the chorus invoke the justice due to an unbeliever, to the ‘monster’ who has just left the stage, as a prelude to the entrance of the second messenger. There is no need to analyse this speech in detail; the point-by-point parallels with the earlier speech are quite clear. The second messenger is, however, a key to the emotional significance of the play. His rather stagy entrance suffers the same fate as that of his counterpart; a rude interruption. This is, I think, a calculated ploy to encourage the audience to recall the entrance of the first messenger, and so to recall feelings toward the various figures then on stage. The messenger reacts, taken aback, to the chorus’ glee at the demise of Pentheus, and is again rebuffed: MESSENGER What did you say? You rejoice at What my master has suffered? CHORUS I am no Greek, and no more Will I cower from your chains. MESSENGER Oh, so you think Thebes cannot ... CHORUS Dionysus, Dionysus rules me, not Thebes. MESSENGER Let that be. But you should be ashamed, not rejoicing. (1031-40)

The speech itself, then, begins in a low key, almost humbly, as a simple, clear statement of events, unadorned by rhetoric. And so it continues, allowing the horrors of its detail to be revealed for what they are. It is another honest, one might say innocent, narration. Whereas the audience could collude

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with Dionysus and the chorus to smile at the innocence of the first messenger, then settle down to enjoy the performance and share their disapproval of Pentheus’ inappropriate response, this time there is no such comic perspective from which to look down. The function of the introductory dialogue with the chorus is to strip the second messenger of all pretence, to make him a reliable witness, of both facts and feelings. Thus when he accepts intellectually the reality of the god and his power, he is conceding what the audience already know; but when he refuses to accept it emotionally, it is the audience who make the concession, that his feelings are the appropriate ones. And his emotional rejection has a clear moral implication. The comic distance that characterises the first speech colours, in a sense diminishes, the importance of the content of that story, and maintains a focus on the performance. Part of the overwhelming effect of the second speech, aside from its explicitness, arises from a complex interaction with its counterpart. There is a stark awareness, not only of what the latter story has to say, but of its emotional and moral meaning, and a sense that on the first occasion the real significance of an account of events that had, underneath the comic veneer, the same implications, was not taken seriously enough. To that extent Pentheus and the theatre audience have something in common.

The Chorus The Bacchae is filled with curiosities, and the chorus is not the least of them. “[T]hey do not occupy the same position, emotionally, intellectually or perceptually, between the royal family and the audience as they do in other tragedies. They stand between us and the more extreme perspective of the maddened spectators to Pentheus’ tragedy on the mountain, and their attitude, because of their exclusive allegiance to the god, comes to seem pitiless and inhumane.”17 The chorus are clearly appendages of the god, and as the action progresses they undergo the same realignments of perspective, but on a different level. Though closely identified with him, they are not identical. They are human acolytes and so are susceptible to feelings and weaknesses that do not affect their idol. Thus the part they play in the pattern of perceptions and in the manipulation of the audience’s sympathies is complementary to that of Dionysus. From an audience’s point of view there are two aspects that need to be considered: what you see and what you hear. Dionysus has two aspects: he is a god, “most terrible, yet most gentle to man” (861). He is the “smiling” god, and even at the moment of his most 17 Foley (1980) 112. See also Simon Goldhill. Reading Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: CUP. 1986. 267-74.

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terrible revenge shows a “laughing face” (1021), the same as that exhibited at his most entertaining moments earlier in the play. Visually the Chorus reflect that aspect of the god; from beginning to end they are youthful, exotic and beautiful. But just as the dark side of the god remains below the surface until conflict reveals it, so do the dark potentialities of the Chorus. Their youth and beauty is their smiling mask, in some respects a disguise that complements the disguise of their idol, and one that makes a similar appeal to the audience. Here the matter gets complicated. We know that Dionysus is in disguise because he has told us, although the character of this disguise, the sense of fun and vitality it embodies, is in fact a real aspect of the god. What we see is not so much false as incomplete, just as when, under the god’s spell, Pentheus sees him “like a bull” (920). “Now,” he is told, “you see as you should see” (923), but, though true, this image of the polymorphous god is no more complete than any other. And so with the chorus. We see their beauty, their faith and, because they really are human beings, their frailty. They are indignant at Pentheus’ arrogant refusal to listen to Teiresias and Cadmus and invoke their god as the protector of the weak: Son of Zeus, O god Who loves the feast And prospering Peace Who gives to rich and poor alike The soothing gift of wine. O god who hates the man Who has no care for the life Of day nor the love of night And who turns from the meek To the over-reacher: Mine is the creed of the common man. (417-31)

They are justifiably afraid of Pentheus’ tyrannical threats to encarcerate and enslave the women who follow the cult: Soon he’ll bind me, Bromius’ Soul-mate, he who caught and Cast the Thiasoi to Darkness. (545-9)

Their vulnerability in relation to Pentheus’ threats of violence garners sympathy for them, and this is accentuated by their status as characters within the play; that is, they cannot, as mere mortals within the fictional world, enter directly into the game played by Dionysus and the audience, as the earthquake

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scene demonstrates. As characters within the play they have the same status and engage feelings in the same way as do other characters. However, the narrowness of their vision, their single-minded devotion to the cult, is merely the inverse of Pentheus’ single-minded opposition. As the scale of sympathies shifts toward Pentheus, it must, therefore, shift away from the Chorus, and earlier intimations of the dark side of their beliefs are progressively exposed. Lyrical nostalgia and celebration of “The first of happy gods of the feast” (376) in the earlier songs are transformed into naked vengeance in the later, though tagged in the refrains of the third and fourth songs with the labels Wisdom, Honour, Beauty and, most importantly, Justice. The fourth stasimon in particular shows us the bacchants who morally, if not literally, rend their victims apart, and their rending is continued, gratuitously, when they confront the second messenger. He concludes his horrific tale with the conventional moral: “For us, humility and reverence for the gods are all we have” (1150-1). The chorus reply with an ecstatic victory dance: reverence of a sort, but hardly humility. These are the same attractive and vulnerable ladies who appealed to us earlier, and they do not have the excuse of being magically stricken by the god, as Pentheus and Agave have been. Their ‘madness’ is moral, the same incapacity to see and understand that Teiresias had earlier, correctly, attributed to Pentheus: “Your madness is like pain, but pain beyond the power of drugs to cure” (326-7).

The Gift of Sight Dionysus has been presented as the subject and the creator of spectacle. His antics are observed by a theatre audience, who finally slip beyond his control, and he has been the instigator of scenes for audiences on and off the stage; of a play within a play. Helene Foley’s summary of what this entails is admirably clear: Yet Dionysus’ ‘play within a play’ does not, like many modern ‘plays within plays,’ or like the tragic parodies of ancient comedy, function primarily to distance the audience from the drama and call attention to and question its own reality as art; instead it implicates the audience in the drama and calls attention to its own art as reality. That is, theatrical illusion demonstrates the reality of the god and illusion and symbol are our only mode of access to a god who can take whatever form he wishes.18

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A key phrase in this summary is that the play “implicates the audience in the drama,” and it is this implicating of the audience that needs to be expanded a little further. It seems unarguable that the play has, through its theatrical symbolism, established the ‘reality’ of the god as a component of human experience that is both benign and destructive, and can be manifested, as the chorus demonstrate, through human action. The play, of course, goes further than the chorus could on their own because it can put the god before us in the form of theatre, and a most important element in that theatre is the dual perspective offered by the two masks in the final scene of the play: the smiling face of the god in the epiphany and the presence of Pentheus’ tragic visage. This is an ironic juxtaposition which suggests two interpretations of the same event: tragedy for mere mortals is comedy for the divine. However, if that were all, what we would have in the Bacchae is little more than the contest that Dionysus wins with such confidence and aplomb. Unbelievers would see and acknowledge what they had stubbornly refused to acknowledge, and both audiences of the god’s spectacle would be obliged to accept the limitations of their world and “be happy one day at a time” (911). But it is not quite so simple. The audience has been implicated by means of the ironic texture of the play, as I have argued in relation to the messenger speeches, and the force of that implication is to suggest a more subtle understanding of the human condition; that is, its moral dimension. The final scene adds a further spectacle to those we have already seen, and for which we have been prepared by the second messenger’s speech. We are also given a number of interpretations of this spectacle, and what we have to ask is, not whether one interpretation more or less objectively accurate than another (is the god ‘real’ or not?), but is it an adequate account of our experiences of what we have seen and heard? Is the language of one interpretation or another an appropriate account of what we feel? And feelings, of course, are a significant element in our understanding of how we see the world. That, I would assert, is exactly what the second messenger’s speech is designed to help us to understand, not only by describing a gruesome spectacle in language we are unable to doubt, but by pitting the way we feel about it, as we have been led to feel by the messenger, against what the chorus feel. The juxtaposition is hardly subtle. And this is compounded, with hardly a pause, by the entrance of Agave with her son’s head, to be welcomed by the Chorus “as one of us” (1173). At the conclusion of the dressing scene Pentheus was ushered off the stage and Dionysus delays for a moment to invoke his maenads: Reach out your hands Agave and the daughters of Cadmus, I bring

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(973-76)

We have known from the outset that Dionysus will win; there is no real contest between a god and a man. The victory, however, is incomplete. As his mother sets about him Pentheus: ... snatched off his wig so she’d see his face And screamed, See me mother, the child You bore! I was wrong, don’t kill me, Pity me! Pity me! She foamed at the mouth And her eyes rolled back, crazed as She was by the god. (1115-23)

Pentheus has had his revelation and has admitted, has seen his mistake, but in doing so he has not simply gone over to the other side and lost himself in the general frenzy. He can recognise his mother and beg for the pity that he might reasonably expect. Agave can neither hear his words nor see his face, just as, earlier in the messenger’s speech, Pentheus was unable to see the harmony and serenity among the maenads that the messenger saw. Pentheus’ revelation has in it two truths; the :eality of the cult and the reality of compassion, a characteristic he was not noted for himself in the early scenes, but of which it is fair to say that he recognises, however briefly, the value. The appearance of Pentheus’ severed head, therefore, maintains a powerful focus through the final scene of the play. It is an object to be interpreted on two levels; that is, is it the head of a lion, a trophy, or is it the head of a victim? Does it represent justice, or the absence of compassion, some sort of moral blindness? The characters on the stage have various views which are clearly juxtaposed for the audience to see. Agave, still crazed, ‘sees’ the head of a lion, a trophy to be displayed on the palace wall. The chorus, not crazed, see the head of her son, which is for them a trophy won in the contest with their oppressor. Their humouring of Agave in her bedazzled state is a virtual repetition of the dressing scene in which Dionysus humours and toys with Pentheus when his mind is not his own, encouraging him to show off the very things he despises. The cruelty of either scene hardly needs comment. Thus when the chorus respond to Cadmus’ lament for the boy he loved with the words, “I feel pain for your pain, Cadmus, but the boy has had justice” (1327-8), we can take neither claim seriously. Of all the observers of this scene only the chorus fail to see the enormity of what has been done and still see Pentheus as the monster they declared him to be in the fourth stasimon. And just as they fail to see, so does Dionysus fail to hear when Cadmus appeals to him:

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CADMUS We beg you, Dionysus, we have been wrong. DIONYSUS You were slow to see. When you should have, you did not. CADMUS We understand. But this is harsh. DIONYSUS You have insulted a god.

(1344-7)

Agave, in her right mind, leaves the stage with an acceptance of the reality of what has happened, and a firm rejection of the interpretation offered by the god and his acolytes: Lead me to where my sisters are, We’ll leave together. But not To Cithaeron, not to Cithaeron, not That polluted place. I will not see it. Let others dance that dance. (1381-6)

Dionysus has won, but it is a pyrrhic victory. He is unable to see what the audience can see: the moral reality of what has happened. If what has happened is justice, then it is a justice that has little relevance to the lives, relationships or values of those on whom it is imposed, and Agave’s dismissal of it is an assertion of the truth, the reality of her emotional experience in a world of moral and social relationships. Such things have no place or value for the enthusiasts who “dance that dance.”

EURIPIDES’ BACCHAE

The Characters Dionysus Pentheus King of Thebes Cadmus his grandfather and founder of Thebes Agave his mother Teiresias a seer Servant attending Pentheus First Messenger a herdsman Second Messenger from Pentheus’ household Chorus of oriental women, devotees of Dionysus

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Scene: Thebes DIONYSUS I am Zeus’ boy, here on Theban soil. I am Dionysus, born of fire, of Semele, Cadmus’ child, and here By the waters of Dirke and Ismenus My shape is changed from god to man. Here I see the memorial to my mother’s Fiery death, a ruin that glows with The living flame of Zeus, a memorial, too, to Hera’s endless anger at her. But Cadmus I Praise, who keeps the place untrodden, Sacred to his daughter. It was me Who brought the vine leaves. I’ve left Behind me Lydia, the sun-filled plains of Persia, Baktria’s walled towns, and the deserts of The Medes. I have left Arabia’s riches and All of Asia, there by the sea where Greeks And foreigners mingle in towered cities. When they danced my dance, when they had Established rites to reveal my god-head, I came to this Greek town. Thebes, then, is First in Greece to thrill to my song, to Wear the fawnskin, to shake the thyrsis. My mother’s sisters, who should know better, Deny Zeus fathered me. Me, Dionysus! They say some mortal made a woman Of her, but Cadmus, cleverly, ascribed the deed To Zeus, who then, because Semele lied, Killed her. I drove the women out. They live, Witless, mad in the mountains, sporting, As they must, my regalia. Now they all, Every female in the city, mingle With the daughters of Cadmus beneath Green fir trees and the roofless rocks. This city must learn, like it or not, What it is to ignore my mysteries. I will vindicate my mother, and reveal Myself as the god she bore to Zeus. Cadmus has passed his privilege and

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Power to his daughter’s son, Pentheus, Who resists divinity, refuses my libations And fails to remember me in his prayers. I must, then, show myself a god, to him And all his people. That done, my rites Established, I’ll foot it somewhere else To be seen for what I am. Should these Thebans Seek to force my maenads from the mountain, I will lead the girls against them. For this I have left behind my god-like Form and made myself a man. Come then, my women, my worshippers From Lydian Tmolus, my companions At rest and on the march, take your Phrygian drums and rattle at this royal House of Pentheus, make Cadmus’ city see. I’ll make my way to Cithaeron’s crags To join the Bacchic dance. CHORUS From the east I flew, from sacred Tmolus, To do sweet labour, feel pleasure in pains For the roaring god, To shout his name: Bacchus! Whoever’s there, whoever, on road or Under roofbeam, hold your tongue In reverence when I sing his name: Bacchus! Blest is he who knows Blest is he who shows In holy act A holy soul Cleansed in the mountain dance. Keep rites of Mother Cybele Shakers of the wand, so With ivy wreath And leafy crown Serve the son of Zeus.

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Bacchus! Bacchus! Bacchus! Struck from his mother’s womb By the thunder of Zeus: He dropped and she died And the son of Cronos Took him, hid him, Bound in his thigh With a golden pin Far from Hera’s eye. And the Fates allowed to be born The bull-horned god, Snake-crowned, As his maenad horde. O Thebes, who once nursed Semele, in profusion crown Your head with ivy, green Bryony and berries; with Bacchant Branch of oak, with fawnskin Trimmed with strands of wool; Raise reverently the power Of the fennel rod, and dance: The world Will dance To Bromius’ tune To the mountain Leaving shuttle Leaving loom Stung by Dionysus.

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O sacred Cretan cave of Couretes O cradle of Zeus where triple-crested Corybantes found the skin-stretched drum And beat it to the Phrygian pipe; In mother Rhea’s hand it throbbed, The crazy satyrs snatched it; now I dance each other year In praise of Dionysus.

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Feet spinning, falling Out of the throng Onto the earth; Fawn-skin wrapped He delights to devour Blood of the hunted goat.

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By the god we are led To Phrygian, Lydian mountains O Bromius: And so earth flows With milk and honey and wine. Scent of Syrian frankincense His blazing torch His whirling wand Darting, dancing Stirring stragglers, and Hair flies in the wind His booming voice: Bacchant! Bacchant! Glory of golden Tmolus Sing for Dionysus Beat the drum, exalt With joy the god of joy Your Phrygian voices raised, When sweet pipes ring With holy sound, move, move To the mountain, to the mountain!

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So follow, like the giddy foal, its dam. TEIRESIAS Who is at the gate? Call Cadmus, son Of Agenor, who raised the walls of Thebes. Tell him Teiresias has come; he knows What for, he knows our pledge, an old Man with an older, to take the wand, the Fawn-skin and the ivy crown.

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CADMUS Oh my dear man, even from inside I sensed the wisdom of a wise man. I’m ready, dressed for the god: He is my daughter’s son, and we must Endeavour to enhance his greatness. But Where should we dance, where should we Stamp our feet and toss our grey old heads? As one old fellow to another, do tell me, You understand these things. Because, you Know, I should never, night or day, exhaust Myself with beating the wand. It is a joy To forget one is old. TEIRESIAS I feel it too, that youthful urge to dance.

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CADMUS Shall we take a chariot to the mountain? TEIRESIAS That would be insufficiently respectful to the god. CADMUS You are old and I am older, and I will lead you. TEIRESIAS The god will do it, with no effort at all. CADMUS Are we the only men in town to join the dance? TEIRESIAS We are the only ones who understand. The rest are ignorant. CADMUS We stay too long. Take my arm. TEIRESIAS Indeed. Arm in arm together.

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CADMUS This mere mortal, for one, would never ridicule the gods. TEIRESIAS It does not pay to be too clever about divinity. The old traditions, as old as time itself, Will not be brought down by argument, However deep or subtle the mind that tries it. Some will say, are you not, at your age, Ashamed to dance, decked out in ivy? No. The god himself does not Distinguish youth from age in the dance. No. His wish is to be honoured by all In common, for glory without distinction. CADMUS Without eyes, Teiresias, you do not see the light, So I will light your way with words. And here he comes, the inheritor of my power, Pentheus, son of Echion. He seems, Ah, agitated. What is he saying? PENTHEUS So, I happen to be away, out of The town, and I hear things, unusual Things, and vile, like women who leave their Homes for some false ‘bacchanal,’ who disPort themselves in shady glades, and dance to Honour this new Dionysus, whoever he is. They gather round their bowls of wine, then Slip into the undergrowth to gratify The lusts of men – the maenad’s ‘sacrifice’ – So Bacchus gives way to Aphrodite. Those I’ve caught are chained and locked in Common cells. The rest will be hunted down – I include my mother, Agave, and her sisters. I will gather them in nets of steel and Stop this obscene behaviour. They say Some foreigner has come, some Lydian Conjuror sporting yellow, perfumed hair,

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Flushed with wine, with the light of Aphrodite In his eye, who mingles day and night With girls, tempting them with mysteries. If I catch him here, I’ll stop His wand-waving and head-shaking by Removing the head from the body. Dionysus is the god, he says, sewn, He says, into the thigh of Zeus, but Zeus Burned up the mother because she lied; So burned him too. Should he not, Whoever he is, hang for his outrageousness? Well! Another miracle. Prophetic Teiresias tricked out in fawnskins – and my Grandfather waving wands. It’s embarrassing. Sir, you make me cringe to see you witless At your age. Take off the ivy, please. You are my grandfather. Drop that thing In your hand. Oh, Teiresias, It’s you, isn’t it? With this new god You smell profit in birdwatching and Burnt offerings. But for your grey Hairs, you would be shackled with your Bacchants for these filthy rituals. Show women the glint of wine at a feast And the occasion degenerates. CHORUS Blasphemy! Stranger, have you no respect For the gods, nor Cadmus, sower of your City’s seed; will you shame your father’s line? TEIRESIAS When a wise man argues from the facts, Good argument is no great task. Your glibness seems to indicate good sense, Yet your words indicate otherwise. Words that rise from rashness and from power Indicate a fool who is a danger to the state. This new god, whom you ridicule, will Find greatness in Greece, more than I can say. Two things, young man, prevail in men’s

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Affairs: Demeter, Earth-goddess, if you wish, Bequeathed dry food to man; then, on The other hand, the son of Semele found And gave to mortals the liquid cluster For ease of suffering, for comfort in one’s Fill of flowing wine, to sleep oblivious Of each hard day. There is no other cure For pain. He is, himself, a libation to The gods, through him is mankind blessed. You sneer at the tale of Zeus’ thigh – I’ll give you the truth. When Zeus Snatched from fire the infant god, he Took him to Olympus; but Hera Would have hurled him out of heaven. Zeus, of course, devised a god-like scheme. He snapped off a piece of earth-embracing Ether, gave it to her as a token, so Removing Dionysus from the quarrel. In time we mortals spoke of Zeus’ thigh for Zeus’ sign, his pledge to the goddess. And this god is a prophet. In bacchic frenzy There is prophecy – when god enters The body, madmen speak of time to come. From Ares, too, he takes a part – An army formed and under arms flies In fear before a spear is raised. It is Dionysus brings this madness. You’ll see his flaming torch leap the twinHeaded Delphic crags, whirling, shaking The bacchic branch, great in all Greece. Believe me, Pentheus, strength and power are Nothing among men, do not feel your Fantasies are real, but welcome, worship him, Rage in the dance and wear the crown. And Dionysus does not insist that women Are chaste – to some it’s natural. Think. Even in the bacchanal the Virtuous are safe. And you are Gratified to see the crowd at your gates To glorify the name of Pentheus. He, I think, enjoys this honour.

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So, I, and Cadmus, at whom you jeer, Will wear the wreath and dance; yes, old, But we dance, unpersuaded to rebellion. Your madness is like pain, but pain Beyond the power of drugs to cure.

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CHORUS Father, your words honour Phoebus himself, So wisely to honour Bromius. CADMUS My boy, Teiresias is quite right. Stay with us; don’t throw out the old laws. Your mind is a-flutter and you can’t think straight. Even if, as you say, there is no such god, Tell yourself there is, that his mother was Semele, And this little lie will bring honour to all the family. You know the fate of Acteon, ripped apart By his own dogs because he bragged that He was better in the hunt than Artemis. Do you want to suffer this? Come, let me Crown you with the wreath, join us in worship. PENTHEUS Don’t touch me! You carry on, but Don’t infect me with your stupidity. I will punish the man who teaches you this Foolishness. Someone go. Now! where he Does his birdwatching. Attack the place with Crowbars, smash it, throw it to the winds! That should wake him up. Someone else Scour the city for this effete little alien Who pollutes our women with strange Diseases and violates their beds. When he’s caught, bring him here In chains and we’ll stone him. That will be a revel for the town. TEIRESIAS You’re a fool, you don’t know what you say. Before you were silly, now you’re insane.

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Come, Cadmus. We will pray for him, for his anger, We’ll pray for the city, that the god might Do nothing rash. Come, take your staff, You support me and I you; it is humiliating For old men to stumble, but go we must. We are of necessity slaves to the son of Zeus. Ah, Cadmus, may Pentheus not bring down his Grief on your house – this is no prophecy, mere Fact. He’s a fool and speaks like one. CHORUS Holy power of heaven As you sweep the earth On golden wings, do You hear this Pentheus? Do you hear this Insolence to him The son of Semele The first of happy Gods of the feast? He who leads the dance And the laughing pipes, Who stifles care in Shining wine at Holy feasts, who Wraps in sleep The ivy-bearer. A tongue untamed Is unlawful Unwise Undone. A house that is whole Is calm Is quiet Content. Gods of the ether See all From heaven And wit is not wisdom So immortal thoughts

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Are quick mortality. To pursue the great And lose the less Is the way of The mad and bad. O let me come to Cyprus Aphrodite’s island, to Paphos where Love lives And charms the minds of men; Where the river of a hundred Mouths ripens the rainless plain; To Pieria where the Muses Are, Olympus’ sacred slopes. Lead me, Bromius, Lead me, god, To the Graces To Desire, To where the dance is law. Son of Zeus, O god Who loves the feast And prospering Peace Preserver of youth; Who gives to rich and poor alike The soothing gift of wine. O god who hates the man Who has no care for the life Of day nor the love of night And who turns from the meek To the over-reacher: Mine is the creed of the common man. SERVANT Pentheus, we have hunted the beast And we’ve found him. But he’s a tame Beast. He didn’t try to get away, he Held out his hands. He didn’t turn pale, he Stood, rosy-faced, grinned and said, bind me, Take me off. He made it all easy. It was embarrassing. I told him,

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It’s not my idea, Pentheus sent me. And the ladies you caught and chained up In jail, they’ve gone, got loose, and they Leap about the mountain glens Calling for Bromius, the god. All by themselves fetters fell off their feet, Bolts slipped the doors, untouched by hand. Sir, he comes to Thebes brimful of Miracles. But that’s your affair. PENTHEUS Untie his hands. He’s in the net And can’t escape. You have, stranger, A shapely body, at least for the ladies, Which is why you’re here. Long hair – You’re no wrestler – it kisses your cheek. How desirable. And skin, so fair, no sunburn Because you hunt Aphrodite at night. But first, who are you and where are you from?

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DIONYSUS That’s not difficult. Quite easy. You’ve Heard of Tmolus, mountain of flowers? PENTHEUS I have. Near the town of Sardis. DIONYSUS That’s where I’m from. Lydia is my homeland. PENTHEUS What are these rites you bring to Greece? DIONYSUS Dionysus himself instructed me, the son of Zeus. PENTHEUS Some Zeus who breeds new gods? DIONYSUS No. The one who wed Semele, here.

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PENTHEUS Did you see him, or did he come to you by night? DIONYSUS We saw each other and he passed on his mysteries.

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PENTHEUS And what form do these mysteries take? DIONYSUS They must remain a mystery to the uninitiated. PENTHEUS What boon do your worshippers get? DIONYSUS I can’t tell you that, but they’re worth knowing. PENTHEUS Very glib. Just to make me curious?

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DIONYSUS It is an abhorrence for an impious man to hear them. PENTHEUS This god you saw so clearly; what did he look like? DIONYSUS Whatever he wished. That was up to him. PENTHEUS A nice diversion. You say nothing. DIONYSUS Sense seems nonsense to the ignorant. PENTHEUS Is this the first place you’ve brought your ‘god’? DIONYSUS Foreigners everywhere dance to his mysteries.

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PENTHEUS Because they’re more stupid than Greeks. DIONYSUS Not at all. They have their customs. PENTHEUS Do you worship by day or by night?

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DIONYSUS By night. Darkness is sacred. PENTHEUS For corruption and depravity with women. DIONYSUS One can be debauched by day, you know. PENTHEUS You will be punished for these sophistries. DIONYSUS And you for ignorance and impiety.

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PENTHEUS He’s a bold little bacchant, and quick with words. DIONYSUS What must I suffer? What terrible thing will you do? PENTHEUS First, I’ll cut your pretty hair. DIONYSUS This is holy hair. I grow it for the god. PENTHEUS Give me the wand.

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DIONYSUS Take it yourself. I carry it for Dionysus. PENTHEUS You’ll be locked up and put under guard. DIONYSUS The god will let me out whenever I wish. PENTHEUS Of course. Whenever you and your ladies call out. DIONYSUS He’s here now, watching me suffer.

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PENTHEUS Where? I don’t see anything. DIONYSUS Right beside me. You are blinded by impiety. PENTHEUS Take him! He makes a mockery of Thebes, and me. DIONYSUS No! I tell you, I understand, you do not. PENTHEUS I am in authority here. Do it! DIONYSUS You know not your life, your actions, yourself. PENTHEUS Pentheus, son of Agave and Echion. DIONYSUS A name that fits the grief to come.

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PENTHEUS Go. Put him in the stable. Let him look into the dark And dance in it. Your women, your Accomplices, will either be sold off Or their hands will work my looms And leave the beating of their drums. DIONYSUS I’ll go. But what is not ordained, I cannot suffer. And Dionysus, whom You say does not exist, will punish Your insolence. Chain me, you chain him. CHORUS Dirke, maiden queen, Child of Achelöos, you Held the infant in your Stream when snatched by Zeus from Fire and wrapped up in his Thigh – and Zeus cried out – In, Dithyrambus, My male womb: I proclaim you Bacchus; so be Named in Thebes. But blessed Dirke, I with Crown and wand am turned Away – why? Oh why? And Yet you’ll find a heart-space For the name of Bromius And the joys of wine. Fury rages in him, Pentheus, earth-sprung from the Teeth of dragons, earth-born Son of Echion, a monster Not a man, a murderous Battler with the gods. Soon he’ll bind me, Bromius’ Soul-mate, he who caught and

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Cast the Thiasoi to Darkness. See, O son of Zeus, see them struggle With his force. Come, and Shake from heaven your golden Shaft to strike down insolence. Where, Dionysus, do they follow Your wand? On Nysa, the cradle Of beasts, on Corycian peaks? To wooded Olympus where Orpheus Charmed trees and all living Things? Blessed Pieria, Bacchus Salutes you and dancing will come Where swift Axios runs, and Maenads will tumble through Lydias’ Stream, O river renowned for Fair waters, fine steeds.

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DIONYSUS Hear me! Hear me! hear my voice! CHORUS Who calls? Who summons us With the voice of our lord? DIONYSUS I call once more, The son of Zeus and Semele.

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CHORUS Master! Master, our lord Has come. O Bromius! Bromius! DIONYSUS Let earthquakes shake the seat of the world! CHORUS The house of Pentheus quakes and falls! O Dionysus, adore him, adore him! Look! The columns sway and crack!

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Bromius is there! He cries out! DIONYSUS Spark the flashing bolt! Burn, burn the house of Pentheus! CHORUS Do you see! Do you see it? Fire consumes the flame Of Semele’s sacred tomb, The flame from Zeus’ bolt. Down! Hurl yourselves down And tremble. He’s here, The lord, son of Zeus Walks in this house and Brings it down around us! DIONYSUS Women of Asia, why do you Crouch in fear like this? Did you see how Bacchus shook The house of Pentheus? But come, Rise up and take heart.

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CHORUS O lord and light of all our revels, To see you lifts us from despair. DIONYSUS Did you despair then, when Pentheus trapped me in darkness?

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CHORUS How not, if our guardian’s taken? But How were you freed from this impious man? DIONYSUS With ease and without effort. CHORUS But he bound your hands with ropes?

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DIONYSUS So I humiliated him. When he thought he’d Bound me, he did not so much as touch me. He fed on hope. He found a bull in the barn And wrapped the cords round its knees and hooves. He fumed with anger, the sweat dripped down And he gnawed his lips. I sat and calmly watched. It was then that Bacchus shook the house And fired the flame on his mother’s tomb. He saw it, thought the house burned, and Rushed about, calling for water. Every Slave in the place was at it – for nothing. He gave this up when he thought I’d escaped, And pulled out his sword and rushed inside. Then Bromius – I suppose it was him – Created a phantom in the yard. Pentheus Rushed at it, stabbed it, as though it were me. But Bacchus had yet more indignities for him. His palace was flattened – a bitter return for My binding – at which he dropped his sword And collapsed. So it is when a mere man Presumes to do battle with a god. And here I am, calm, caring nothing for Pentheus. Do I hear a footstep in the house? I think He’s coming. What will he say? Let him Rage – I’m calm enough. A wise man Exercises self-control and discretion. PENTHEUS This is appalling! He’s gone. I had the man In irons and now he’s gone! You! How are you here? How? DIONYSUS Stop. Calm yourself. PENTHEUS How did you get out? DIONYSUS Did I not say, or did you not hear,

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That someone would release me? PENTHEUS Who? Yet more weird talk.

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DIONYSUS He who gave the grape to man. PENTHEUS I’ll order every tower to be bolted fast. DIONYSUS Will you? But don’t gods fly over walls? PENTHEUS Very clever – but not where it matters.

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DIONYSUS I’m clever enough when necessary. But first you should hear this man. He comes from the mountain with something To tell you. We won’t run off, I promise. MESSENGER Pentheus, Lord of Thebes, from Cithaeron I’ve come, where the glistening snow...

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PENTHEUS Your message, man. What is it? MESSENGER I’ve seen the maenads, like women possessed, Sir. They ran from here, frenzied, half Naked. Can I tell you, my Lord, what They do, the wonders I’ve seen? Can I Tell you all, or hold back my words? I fear, my Lord, you may be hasty; you may Be impatient and too much the king for me. PENTHEUS Speak, man. You’re safe. One is not angry

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At truth. The more terrible things you Say of them, the more we can punish this, Who insinuates his arts among the women. MESSENGER The herd had almost reached the hilltops Just as the sun rose, and I saw them. I saw three groups of women. The first Was led by Autonoe, the second by Agave, and Ino led the third. They lay there, sleeping, some against the fir Trunks, others resting heads on oak leaves. They lay there, modestly, not as you say, Drunk with wine or music, hunting Aphrodite in the trees. No. When she Heard our cows your mother stood and Sounded a shrill, rousing note. They rose as one, pushing the sleep from their Eyes – oh, beautiful, my lord, so orderly They were, a host of maids and matrons. First they let their hair fall down their Shoulders, then fastened up their fawnskins With snakes that licked their cheeks. And some, new mothers who had left their Babies, cradled young gazelles and wolf cubs, And took them to their swelling breasts. They decked their hair with ivy crowns, With wreaths of oak and bryony. One Struck her wand upon a rock and water Tumbled out; another pushed her reed Into the ground and the god sent up A spring of wine. And those who wished it Scratched the earth for streams of milk, And honey dripped sweetly from their wands. Had you been there, seen these things, You’d not have blamed this god, but prayed To him. Shepherds and cowherds gathered and spoke Of the wonders we had seen. One of us, A fellow quick with his tongue, said, Men of the mountains, why don’t we Hunt down Agave and do a favour for

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Our master. He seemed to talk good sense, So we hid ourselves for an ambush. The moment came for their revels to begin. They cried out, all in one voice, Bromius, Son of Zeus! And they chorused until The mountain itself and all its life Moved with them, ceaselessly. Agave came near me and I leapt out To seize her. She screamed – You hounds That run at my heel, we are hunted! Use your Wands against them! We fled. We ran Before we were torn to pieces. They set upon The herd, with bare hands they attacked them. You’d have seen one take a fat, bawling calf In her hands; others ripped heifers apart. Ribs and hooves were hurled about; they Hung in the trees, dripping blood. Raging Horned bulls were pulled down by countless Hands, by mere girls, and the flesh ripped From them before you could blink your royal Eyes. They ran, as swift as birds, it seemed, Over the cornfields by the stream of Asopus; Like an army they descended on two villages on Cithaeron’s slopes, Hysiae and Erythrae, And plundered them. They snatched the children From their homes, piled loot on their backs – Which just stayed there, unstrapped; nothing Fell off. Flames licked their hair, but they Were not burned. The people grew angry And took up their weapons. What happened Next, my Lord, was terrible to see. The spears of the men were sharp, but drew No blood, but the wands in the women’s hands Did, and men turned and ran. Men Fled from women – surely some god was there. They went back, then, to the springs the God gave them and washed off the blood, While snakes licked the drops from their cheeks. Master, whoever this god is, receive Him here. He is great, I’m told, in many ways; His was the gift of wine that eases suffering.

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Without wine there is no Aphrodite, and So, no other pleasure for mankind. CHORUS I am afraid to speak too free before a king, But I must. Dionysus is as great as any god.

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PENTHEUS This bacchic insolence spreads like fire And we Greeks are greatly to blame. There can Be no hesitation. Go to the Electran gate, Summon our troops, horsemen and bowmen, We’ll make war on these revellers. No, It’s too much, to suffer this from women!

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DIONYSUS Listen, Pentheus, do you not hear me? You may mistreat me, but I say to you, Be calm, do not raise arms against a god. Bromius will not allow you to drive the women out.

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PENTHEUS You lecture me! You escaped once, be Satisfied with that or you’ll be punished again. DIONYSUS You should make your sacrifice, rather Than rant and kick against the god.

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PENTHEUS I’ll sacrifice to him, very properly. I’ll slaughter every woman on Cithaeron. DIONYSUS You will be be beaten and disgraced when They turn back your men with their wands. PENTHEUS This man is hopeless! Will nothing shut him up?

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DIONYSUS Sir, you can still correct the situation. PENTHEUS Doing what? Prostrate myself before my own slaves? DIONYSUS I can bring the women in without weapons. PENTHEUS Really. What tricks are you up to now?

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DIONYSUS Does it matter if I save you with them? PENTHEUS It’s a conspiracy, isn’t it, to keep this bacchanal going forever. DIONYSUS I confess I did conspire with the god. PENTHEUS Bring me my weapons. And you – just be quiet! DIONYSUS Would you like to see them up there?

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PENTHEUS Indeed. I’d give a mass of gold to see it. DIONYSUS Ah. You are eager to see them on the mountain? PENTHEUS No. It would be ... painful to see them drunk. DIONYSUS Would it be both a pleasure and a pain? PENTHEUS Yes. I could hide quietly in the trees.

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DIONYSUS But they’ll find you, even if you’re very secret. PENTHEUS Yes, of course. Then I’ll go openly. DIONYSUS Shall I lead you? PENTHEUS Yes, yes. Let’s not waste time.

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DIONYSUS You should be dressed for the part, in a linen gown. PENTHEUS I beg your pardon. Must I dress like a woman? DIONYSUS To save your skin. They’ll kill any man they see. PENTHEUS You’re right. You’re not so stupid, are you. DIONYSUS It’s Dionysus who instructs us.

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PENTHEUS Then how should we go about it? DIONYSUS I will take take you inside and dress you. PENTHEUS But... women’s clothes? I’d be ashamed. DIONYSUS So, you no longer wish to look upon them, then? PENTHEUS All right. What do you want me to wear?

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DIONYSUS Mmm. First you’ll need long, flowing hair. PENTHEUS Yes, yes. Then what? DIONYSUS A long gown and your head wrapped. PENTHEUS Nothing else? DIONYSUS Oh, yes. A wand in your hand and a fawnskin.

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PENTHEUS No. No, I can’t bring myself to dress up like that. DIONYSUS Then blood will flow. PENTHEUS Oh. Yes, you’re right. We should have a look first. DIONYSUS Much wiser than chasing one wrong with another. PENTHEUS How will I get through the town without being seen? DIONYSUS We’ll take back streets. I’ll lead you. PENTHEUS Yes. Better than to have these women gloat over me. DIONYSUS Go inside. PENTHEUS Yes. I’ll think about it.

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DIONYSUS Good. I’m here to help.

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PENTHEUS I’ll go in. Yes, I can either Take arms or do as you suggest. DIONYSUS Ladies, he is in the net. He’ll be brought To the Bacchants, and he will pay with his life. Dionysus, now you must act. You are near at hand. We’ll have our revenge. We will drive him out Of his mind, to a frenzy. In his right mind He would never dress up as a woman, But he will if he’s mad. I will see That every citizen laughs as he Parades through the town like a lady, Especially after his vicious threats. I’ll deck him out then send him To Hades, with his mother’s help. He will understand that Dionysus Is the son of Zeus, born a god, Most terrible, yet most gentle to man. CHORUS Will my white foot Step the night-long Dance, my throat Be bared to The dewy sky? Will I like a fawn Feel green ecstasies Free from the net And the hunter’s call To his eager pack And speed storm-swift to Rejoice in the forest Empty of man? What is wisdom? What god-given gift has more Honour than the grip of power

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Over those you hate? There’s beauty forever. Slow but sure is Power divine to Punish the ruthless Who in madness Fail to add to The glory of gods; They hunt him on The slow, sure Feet of time. No man in thought or Act is greater than Law, and little The cost to believe The power of gods and Traditions of time, of Nature eternal. What is wisdom? What god-given gift has more Honour than the grip of power Over those you hate? There’s beauty forever. Happy is he who finds haven from storms; Happy is he who overcomes grief, and Many the means to prevail in the race for wealth and power. Many and many the hopes of men, Some to rise up and others to fall; But blessed is he who is happy one day at a time. DIONYSUS Ah, Pentheus, still eager to see what You should not and do what you must not? Come out and let me see you in your reveller’s Gear, your costume for mother-peeping. Oh look. He’s just like one of the girls. PENTHEUS I seem to see two suns up there and Seven-gated Thebes is twice itself. You, you’re Like a bull, you’ve sprouted horns, you lead me.

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Were you always a beast? Now you’re a bull. DIONYSUS The god is with you, not hostile, but Reconciled. Now you see as you should see. PENTHEUS How do I look? Do you see a Resemblance to Ino, or to my mother?

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DIONYSUS The very likeness, I’m sure. But Your hair, it’s come loose. It’s Not as I arranged it. PENTHEUS I tried some sort of bacchic dance Inside, and it shook loose.

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DIONYSUS Allow me. It’s my duty to attend You. Keep still. PENTHEUS Please do. I’m in your hands. DIONYSUS Oh, your girdle has slipped, you’re quite Dishevelled. Look, around your ankles.

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PENTHEUS Oh yes, there on my right leg. But it’s quite straight on the other one. DIONYSUS You know, we’ll be the best of friends when You see – you’ll be surprised – how sober maenads are. PENTHEUS How should I hold the wand? In my Right hand or the other, to look more like a bacchant?

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DIONYSUS Raise it in your right hand and raise Your right foot with it. I really must Congratulate you on your attitude. PENTHEUS Will I have the power to lift Cithaeron And the maenads, and carry them on my shoulders?

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DIONYSUS Of course, if you want to. Your mind Was touched before, but now you’re cured. PENTHEUS Should we take levers? Or should I tear up Mountains and heave them on my shoulders?

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DIONYSUS But you mustn’t harm the groves of The nymphs, where Pan plays his pipes. PENTHEUS Yes. Quite right. The women should not be Overcome by force. I’ll hide in the trees. DIONYSUS Your hide will hide you, and so hidden You’ll be a very secret spy on the maenads.

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PENTHEUS I’ll see them, won’t I, like birds in a bush, Caught in the pleasures of fornication. DIONYSUS Are you not our guardian against just that? You might catch them, if they don’t catch you first. PENTHEUS Come. Guide me through the heart of Thebes – I am the only man who dares do this.

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DIONYSUS You alone bear your city’s struggle. The challenge awaits you. Come, I will guide you there, quite safely. Someone else will bring you back.

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PENTHEUS My mother will. DIONYSUS An example to all. PENTHEUS That is why I go. DIONYSUS You’ll be carried back ... PENTHEUS What luxury. DIONYSUS In your mother’s arms. PENTHEUS You pamper me. DIONYSUS After my fashion. PENTHEUS I take only what is fitting. DIONYSUS You are an amazing man with an amazing Experience before you. Your fame will reach To the heavens. Reach out your hands Agave and the daughters of Cadmus, I bring This boy to a contest which Bromius And I will win. The rest we will see.

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CHORUS Let the mad dogs loose To the mountain, where Cadmus’ Daughters rage; goad them against The peeping, girl-dressed man. His Mother from the heights will see him see, Will call, What comes to Cithaeron, Searching? Who bore this thing? Not, I say, of woman’s blood, But of a lion, a Libyan gorgon. Let justice be revealed With avenging steel To hack the neck Of the godless, lawless, unjust son Spawn of earth-born Echion. In anger and injustice he’s come To the sacred rites of Semele Crazed to subdue with force What never can be put down. Death teaches humility to Mortals who would be gods. I do not begrudge the clever But I seek greater things; To revere the gods through day and night, To cast out godless law. Let justice be revealed With avenging steel To hack the neck Of the godless, lawless, unjust son Spawn of earth-born Echion. Let Bacchus be revealed as Bull or many-headed snake Or fire-breathing lion. Come Bacchus, come with your Laughing face and hurl Your noose, let the hunter Fall to your maenad horde.

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MESSENGER This house, this house of Cadmus, Once most happy in all Greece. I am a slave, but even so, I suffer with my master in his fate.

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CHORUS Well? Have you something to tell us? MESSENGER Pentheus is dead.

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CHORUS O Bromius, we see your greatness. MESSENGER What did you say? You rejoice at What my master has suffered? CHORUS I am no Greek, and no more Will I cower from your chains.

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MESSENGER Oh, so you think Thebes cannot ...? CHORUS Dionysus, Dionysus rules me, not Thebes. MESSENGER Let that be. But you should be ashamed, not rejoicing.

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CHORUS Tell us how this criminal died. MESSENGER We left Thebes and crossed the river Asopus, Pentheus, my master, and me, Led by this stranger. We got to the Rocky land near the mountain. We stopped In a grassy space, a glade, and stood, still

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And quiet, to see without being seen. The maenads sat in a little glen with Pines all round and a running stream, And all seemed happily at work. Some put fresh ivy on their wands; Some, like frisky fillies, danced and Sang together. But Pentheus couldn’t see them. He said, Stranger, I can’t see from here These so-called maenads. But I’d see The disgusting things they do If I climbed that tree on the hill. Then I saw the stranger do the most Amazing thing. He took the top of A huge fir tree and pulled it down, Lower and lower to the ground, taut As a bow or the rim of a wheel – with His hands. No mortal could have done it. He sat Pentheus on a branch and easily, Easily, so he wouldn’t fall off, let it Stand up again. Now they could see him Better than he saw them, and they did; But then the stranger was gone. A voice Sounded down from the heavens, Dionysus I’m sure, crying, Women! I bring you the man Who dared laugh at you, at me, at our Rites. Punish him! As this happened, a light, A holy fire, was fixed between heaven And earth – the air was quiet, the forest Hushed, the cries of its beasts unheard. The women heard, but confused, leapt up And stared about. He commanded again. At this The Bacchae knew their lord, and scattered Like startled doves, through valleys and over Rocks, inspired to frenzy by the god. They saw my master in the tree, and first Took stones and hurled them from a Nearby crag, then spears of fir. Others Threw their wands at him, but missed. He sat there, above their rage, but trapped And helpless. They tore at the roots with Sticks of oak, still without success.

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Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II

Agave called, In a circle now; grasp The trunk and we’ll catch this beast to keep Safe the secret dance of the god. Hands gripped The tree and pulled it from the ground. Pentheus fell from high ... so high, and groaned. He knew what was to be. First his mother Fell on him, as priestess of the slaughter. He snatched off his wig so she’d see his face And screamed, See me mother, the child You bore! I was wrong, don’t kill me, Pity me! Pity me! She foamed at the mouth And her eyes rolled back, crazed as She was by the god. She took his Hand, put her foot on his chest and Ripped off his arm at the shoulder. The strength of the god was in her. Ino tore at his other side, then The pack with Autonoe fell on, and Beneath the din he moaned With the last of his breath. They Shrieked in triumph, while one held up An arm, another a foot in a shoe, Yet more toyed with fleshless ribs, and With Bloodied hands they played ball with His torn flesh. The body lay scattered Over rocks and through the forest, Parts of it lost. His mother took his head And impaled it on her wand, Imagining she’s killed a lion, And carries it raised around Cithaeron Leaving the maenads, her sisters, to the dance. She’s here, within these walls, exulting in This hideous prize. She calls to Bacchus, Her comrade, her companion in the hunt, The prize-winner – but all her prize is tears. I’ll go. Agave is near. For us, humility And reverence for the gods are all we have. CHORUS Dance for Bacchus! Shout out the Death of Pentheus, sprung from dragon seed!

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Sing of his woman’s dress, The wand he took from here to hell, The bull that led him To destruction. And yet, you dancing daughters of Old Cadmus, you’ve turned your famous Victory to grief, to tears, and won The game with hands dipped Deep in the blood of a child. But look, and welcome her, The wild-eyed mother of this man.

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AGAVE Bacchae of Asia. CHORUS You call me, lady. AGAVE We come from the mountain With new-cut vine And blessed in the hunt.

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CHORUS We see and welcome you, as one of us. AGAVE See, you see, I’ve Snared without a net This lion cub. CHORUS Where did you catch it? AGAVE Cithaeron... CHORUS Cithaeron?

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Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II

AGAVE Killed him. CHORUS Who struck? AGAVE I struck first. My privilege. Blessed Agave, I’m called.

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CHORUS Who else? AGAVE Cadmus... CHORUS What of Cadmus? AGAVE After me, after me his daughters Fondled this beast. A happy hunt. Now you must feast with me, with me. CHORUS Poor lady, what am I to share? AGAVE It’s a young one, see? It’s a soft downy cheek Underneath the hair.

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CHORUS That hair looks beast enough. AGAVE Bacchus the hunter, He’s clever, he’s cunning, He turned the maenads on this one.

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CHORUS Our lord is a hunter. AGAVE Do you praise me? CHORUS We praise you. AGAVE So the sons of Cadmus... CHORUS And Pentheus, your son. AGAVE Will praise his mother For catching this cub.

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CHORUS A wonderful prize. AGAVE And wonderfully done. CHORUS You rejoice? AGAVE I rejoice. I have done a great thing And the prize is here for all to see. CHORUS Lady, show them the prey you’ve won. AGAVE People of high-towered Thebes, see, See this beast hunted down by The daughters of Cadmus, see it, And no Thessalian shafts or nets, But the fair and delicate hands of

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Women. See? No need for spears And darts, we took it in our hands And undid all its joints. Where is he? My father. And Pentheus, my boy? Let him raise a ladder to the wall and Fix this lion high, the one I caught. CADMUS Bring him in. Put him down. Pentheus. Yes, here. In front of the house. We searched and searched for the body; We found it in pieces, all over Cithaeron, Ripped apart and scattered. I heard What my daughters had done when with Teiresias I returned to the town, When we’d left the Bacchae behind. So I went back for the man they’d killed. I saw Autonoe, mother of Acteon, And Ino there among the trees, Both still stung to frenzy. But Agave I’m told, comes here, her mind crazed. Oh, she’s here. What an unholy sight! AGAVE Father, now you can boast, really boast You’ve bred the finest daughters of any Man anywhere. And I mean especially me. I’ve left my loom. I’ve gone to greater Things. I hunt with my bare hands. I have it here. Look. Look at it. Take it, Hang it up. Be proud, father of our Hunting. Call your friends to feast – you Are blessed, truly blessed in what we’ve done. CADMUS What you’ve done with your wretched hands Is agony beyond measure. I can’t look. This is your sacrifice to the gods, and For this you call me and all Thebes to feast? I know your suffering, and I know my own. The god is just, too just, and must destroy

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All in the house to which he was born. AGAVE Why should old men be so awkward and Scowl so much? I wish my boy could Hunt like his mother when he’s off On the chase with his friends. But no, He only fights against gods. Chastise him, Father. Call him. Let him see me. CADMUS Oh god, when you know what you’ve done, You’ll know what pain is. Better you stay As you are, and think yourself happy.

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AGAVE What is it that’s wrong? What’s this pain? CADMUS First, look up to the heavens. AGAVE There? Why?

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CADMUS Are they the same, or have they changed? AGAVE It’s brighter than before. It’s clearer. CADMUS Do you feel the same stirring in your heart? AGAVE I don’t understand this. My mind Clears. I feel a change in my mind. CADMUS Can you listen? Can you answer me? Clearly?

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AGAVE I’ve forgotten, father. What did we say before? CADMUS Into what house were you led to marriage? AGAVE But you gave me to Echion, who, They say, sprang from the earth. CADMUS Who was the son born to you and this man?

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AGAVE Pentheus. CADMUS Whose face do you see in your arms? AGAVE A lion. They said we caught a lion. CADMUS Look straight at it. That’s not hard. AGAVE What do I see? What do I carry? CADMUS Look, and you’ll know. AGAVE I see pain. Great pain. CADMUS Is what you see a lion? AGAVE No. It is Pentheus’ head.

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CADMUS I’ve wept already. Before you knew.

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AGAVE Who killed him? Why am I holding him? CADMUS Is this the time to tell the truth? AGAVE Tell me. Oh, my heart, it’s ... CADMUS You did. And your sisters. AGAVE Where? At home? Where?

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CADMUS Where Acteon was mauled by his dogs. AGAVE Cithaeron? Why was this unfortunate man there? CADMUS To see you, to insult the god and your rites. AGAVE Us? Oh. What did we do? CADMUS You were possessed. The town was possessed by Bacchus. AGAVE I know. I know now. Dionysus has destroyed us. CADMUS He was insulted. You did not see him as a god. AGAVE Father, where is his body? Where is my child?

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CADMUS I brought him. What I found is here. AGAVE Is he properly laid out? Why should he suffer for my mistake? CADMUS Like you, he failed to honour the god. So the god took us all together, Destroyed this house, and me, and now There is no son. I saw the fruit of Your womb, lady, horribly slaughtered. Oh, this house, looked to you, boy, Was held together by you, my daughter’s son. You inspired awe in the city. Seeing You see, who would insult an old man And not be punished? But now, Cadmus, Great Cadmus, who sowed the seeds of Thebes And reaped its finest fruit, is dishonoured in Exile. Most loved of men, dead, but never Dead to me, no more will your hand Touch this old chin, or will you embrace me, Boy, and say, Who is unjust, who Offends you, old man? Who disturbs Your peace? Tell me, father, he will Be punished. Now we are all, you, me, your Mother, this whole house, reduced to misery. If it’s in your mind to overlook The gods, look, look at this. CHORUS I feel pain for your pain, Cadmus, But the boy has had justice. AGAVE Father, you see how fortune Changes. [I’ve nothing left to * Do but grieve and then to die. Let me take him, let me make Him fit for a prince’s grave.

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CADMUS You will grieve and you will die, As will all the children of this house. But can you look on this, can a Mother contemplate this horror? AGAVE A last caress – that is my privilege And my duty at such a parting. Oh. With these? Dyed in guilt? With these hands! These hands! DIONYSUS Look up and see your god! See now what you would not, And know Dionysus for what he is. Thebes has mocked and laughed at me, And Thebes is punished. Your king is dead, A death weighed down with shame in just Proportion to the insult given. You, my lady, are denied The luxury of lamentation. With your sisters you will go, And with those polluted hands Scratch what life you can in exile.] Cadmus will be transformed into a Serpent, and Harmonia, your wife and Daughter of Ares, will suffer too that Savage change. The oracle of Zeus Declares you travel in an ox-cart, before A barbarian horde, and many cities Will be taken and destroyed. Your unhappy homecoming will be When at last the Shrine of Loxias Is plundered. But Ares will intervene And lead you to the land of the blessed. This is no mortal prophecy, but The word of the son of Zeus. Had you Been wiser then, you would be happy now The son of Zeus would be your friend.

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CADMUS We beg you, Dionysus, we have been wrong. DIONYSUS You were slow to see. When you should have, you did not.

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CADMUS We understand. But this is harsh. DIONYSUS You have insulted a god. CADMUS Is the anger of gods as petty as man’s? DIONYSUS Father Zeus has long ordained these things. AGAVE It is done, father. Misery and exile.

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DIONYSUS Why do you delay what must be? CADMUS Child, we are all, all of us caught up In this misery. I will live among Barbarians, and I must, because The gods have spoken, lead them against Greeks; my wife, Ares’ child, with me, A pair of serpents to lead the desecration Of the tombs and holy places of Greece. There will be no end to suffering, not Even on the restful stream of Acheron.

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AGAVE Father, I will be exiled without you. CADMUS Why, oh why do you take me in your Arms, give comfort to a sad old drone?

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AGAVE Where will I turn, driven from my home? CADMUS I don’t know. There’s small help from me. AGAVE Then I must say farewell to this, my house, My city, a fugitive from my home.

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CADMUS Go to the house of Aristaeus. AGAVE I pity you, father. CADMUS And I weep for you and your sisters. AGAVE Dionysus has destroyed our house.

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CADMUS And he has suffered from us; Thebes would not honour him. AGAVE. Goodbye. CADMUS Yes. I cannot say you farewell. AGAVE Lead me to where my sisters are, We’ll leave together. But not Cithaeron, not to Cithaeron, not That polluted place. I will not see it. Let others dance that dance. CHORUS Gods have many shapes, do

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Many things, and Not, perhaps, what you expect, But he finds a way To the unexpected. So it is here. *At line 1329 there are approximately 50 lines missing from the Greek text. The bracketed lines, following usual practice, have been added.

APPENDIX: EURIPIDES

The Life and Work of Euripides Euripides (484-406 BC) was the youngest and most controversial of the three great Athenian tragic playwrights of the classical period. In a career of almost 50 years he wrote about 65 tragedies, of which 18 have survived complete, with hundreds of short fragments of lost plays and a smaller number of ‘satyr-plays’ (humorous and grotesque pieces featuring the semi-goat followers of Dionysus). At the annual dramatic festival at Athens (part of the festival of Dionysus Eleutherus) each competing poet was required to offer three tragedies and a satyr-play. Euripides was not successful in these competitions, winning only four first prizes. He was ridiculed and parodied by Aristophanes, particularly in his Thesmorphoriazusae (411) and Frogs (405). Clearly Euripides was an unusual and unconventional dramatist. His works were found shocking, disturbingly anti-traditional and ‘realistic’ in his depiction of the heroes of myth and sceptical about the gods. This last is, perhaps, more an impression created by the apparent logic of his dramas than a reflection of his real beliefs. His characters like to argue and criticise and to test ideas. However, in his depictions of emotions and the irrational is displayed a profound understanding of the human mind, a factor which led to his being the most popular of the tragedians in late antiquity and profoundly influential from the Renaissance to modern times. There is little reliable information about Euripides’ life. He was born in the deme of Phyla (now the east side of Athens), probably to a wealthy family, though popular tradition has his mother a vegetable-seller. He apparently took no part in the political and public life of the city, unlike his more popular contemporary, Sophocles. He left Athens in 408, accepting the patronage of the King of Macedonia, possibly as a result of his unpopularity. Tradition depicts him as a lonely, bookish author, a friend of philosophers and an object of suspicion to his fellow citizens.

Introductions and Translations to the Plays of Sophocles and Euripides: Volume II

Chronology of the Plays Alcestis

438

Medea

431

The Children of Heracles 430-28 Hippolytus

428

Andromache

c.425

Hecuba

c.424

Suppliant Women

423-21

Electra

c.417 (?)

The Madness of Heracles c.417 (?) The Trojan Women

415

Ion

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Iphigeneia in Tauris

c.414

Helen

412

The Phoenician Women

410 (?)

Orestes

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Cyclops (satyr-play)

408 (?)

Bacchae (posthumous) Iphigeneia at Aulis (posthumous) Rhesus

(doubtful)

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SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY (a) Greek Texts used for translation Euripides: Bacchae. E.R. Dodds, ed. Oxford: OUP, 1960. 2nd edn. Hecuba. C. Collard, ed. & trans. Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1991. Hippolytus. S. Barrett, ed. Oxford: OUP, 1964. Medea. D.L. Page, ed. Oxford: OUP, 1938. Sophocles: Antigone. R. Jebb, ed. Cambridge: CUP, 1902. Oedipus at Colonus. R. Jebb, ed. Cambridge: CUP, 1900. 3rd edn. Oedipus Tyrannos. R. Jebb, ed. Cambridge: CUP, 1912. 4th edn.

(b) General references to Greek Theatre and Tragedy Arnott, Peter. Public and Performance in the Greek Theatre. London: Routledge, 1989. Bain, David. Actors and Audience: A Study Asides and Related Conventions in Greek Drama. Oxford: OUP, 1977. —. “Some Reflections on the Illusion in Greek Tragedy.” BICS 34 (1987) 1-14. Barsby, J. ed. Greek and Roman Drama: Translation and Performance (Drama 12). Stuttgart: J.B.Metzler, 2002. Belfiore, Elizabeth S. Murder Among Friends: Violation of Philia in Greek Tragedy. New York: OUP, 2000. Belsey, Catherine. The Subject of Tragedy. London: Routledge, 1985. Bremmer, J.M., S. Radt & C.J. Ruijgh eds. Miscellanea Tragica in Honorem J.C .Kammerbeek. Amsterdam: Amstelodami’ Apud A. Hakkert, 1976. Burns, Edward. Character: Acting and Being on the Pre-Modern Stage. London: Macmillan, 1990. Butcher, S.H. Aristotle’s Theory of Poetry and Fine Art. London: Macmillan, 1895. Cairns, D.L. Aidos: The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Greek Literature. Oxford: OUP, 1993. Carpenter, T.H., & Christopher Faraone, eds. Masks of Dionysus. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1993. Csapo, Eric, & W. Slater. The Context of Ancient Greek Drama. Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, 1995.

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—. “Kallippides on the Floor-Sweepings: The Limits of Realism in Classical Acting and Performance Styles.” In Easterling & Hall (2002) 127-47. Dedoussi, Christina. “Greek Drama and its Spectators: Conventions and Relationships.” BICS 66 (1995) 123-29. Dillon, Matthew. “Tragic Laughter.” Classical World 84 (1991) 345-55. Drakakis, John, & N. Conn Leibler, eds. Tragedy. London: Longman, 1998. Easterling, P.E., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: CUP, 1997. Easterling, P.E. & Edith Hall, eds. Greek and Roman Actors: Aspects of an Ancient Profession. Cambridge: CUP, 2002. Faas, E. Tragedy and After: Euripides, Shakespeare and Goethe. Montreal: McGill-Queens UP, 1984. Foley, Helene. Female Acts in Greek Tragedy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001. —. “Choral Identity in Greek Tragedy.” Classical Philology 98 (2003) 1-20. Golden, Leon, & O.B. Hardison. Aristotle’s Poetics. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Goldhill, S. Reading Greek Tragedy. Cambridge: CUP, 1986. Gould, John. “Dramatic Character and ‘Human Intelligibility’.” PCPS 204 (1978) 43-67. Hall, E., F. Macintosh & A. Wrigley, eds. Dionysus Since 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Third Millenium. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Halliwell, Stephen. Aristotle’s Poetics. London: Duckworth, 1986. Heath, Malcolm. The Poetics of Greek Tragedy. London: Duckworth, 1987. Kitto, H.D.F. Greek Tragedy. London: Methuen, 1961. Lada, Ismene. “Empathic Understanding: Emotion and Cognition in Classical Dramatic Audience Response.” PCPS 39 (1994) 94-136. —. “ ‘Weeping for Hecuba’: Is it a ‘Brechtian’ Act?” Arethusa 29 (1996) 87124. Lefkowitz, Mary R. Lives of the Greek Poets. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1981. Lesky, A. A History of Greek Literature. Trans. J. Willis & C. deHeer. London: Methuen, 1966. Ley, Graham. “Performance Studies and Greek Tragedy.” Eranos 92 (1994) 2945. Marshall, C.W. “Some Fifth-Century Masking Conventions.” Greece & Rome 46 (1999) 188-202. Nietszche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals. Trans. Francis Golffing. New York: Doubleday, 1956. Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy: The Technologising of the Word. London: Methuen, 1982.

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Selected Bibliography

Pelling, C.B.R., ed. Characterisation and Individuality in Greek Literature. Oxford: OUP, 1990. Rehm, Rush. Greek Tragic Theatre. London: Routledge, 1992. Rosenmeyer, Thomas. “Ironies in Serious Drama.” in Silk (1996) 497-519. Rosslyn, Felicity. Tragic Plots: A New Reading from Aeschylus to Lorca. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. Rozik, Eli. The Roots of Theatre. Iowa City: Iowa UP, 2002. Segal, Charles. “Catharsis, Audience, and Closure in Greek Tragedy.” In Silk. ed. (1996) 149-72. Silk, M.S., ed. Tragedy and the Tragic: Greek Theatre and Beyond. Oxford: OUP, 1996. Sommerstein, Alan H. Greek Drama and Dramatists. London: Routledge, 2000. Stanford, W.B. Greek Tragedy and the Emotions. London. Routledge, 1983. Steiner, George. The Death of Tragedy. London: Faber, 1961. Taplin, O. Greek Tragedy in Action. London: Methuen, 1978. —. “Opening Performance: Closing Texts.” Essays in Criticism 45 (1995) 93120. Van der Ben, N. “Aristotle, Poetics, 1449b27-28.” In Bremer, et al, (1976) 1-15. Wetmore, Kevin J. The Athenian Sun in an African Sky. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002. Wiles, David. Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning. Cambridge: CUP, 1997. Williams, Raymond. Modern Tragedy. London: Chatto & Windus, 1966.

(c) References to Sophocles and Euripides Allen, William. Medea. London: Duckworth, 2002. Barlow, Shirley A. “Euripides’ Medea: a Subversive Play.” BICS 66 (1995) 3645. Blundell, M.W. Helping Friends and Harming Enemies: A Study in Sophocles and Greek Ethics. Cambridge: CUP, 1989. Burnett, Anne Pippen. Revenge in Attic and Later Tragedy. Los Angeles: California UP, 1998. Burton, R.W.B. The Chorus in Sophocles’ Tragedies. Oxford: OUP, 1980. Bushnell, Rebecca. Prophesying Tragedy: Sign and Voice in Sophocles’ Theban Plays. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1988. Conacher, D.J. “Rhetoric and Relevance in Euripidean Drama.” AJP 102 (1981) 3-25. Croally, N.T. Euripidean Polemic: The Trojan Women and the Function of Tragedy. Cambridge: CUP, 1994.

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De Jong, Irene J.F. Narrative in Drama: The Art of the Euripidean Messenger Speech. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1991. Eastering, P.E. “The Infanticide in Euripides’ Medea.” YCS 25 (1977) 177-91. Foley, Helene. “The Masque of Dionysus.” TAPA 110 (1980) 1-30. Gellie, George. “The Last Scene of the Oedipus Tyrannus.” Ramus 15 (1986) 35-42. Gerard, A.S. The Phaedra Syndrome. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993. Gill, Christopher. “The Articulation of Self in Hippolytus.” In Powell (1990) 76107. Gregory, Justina. “Some Aspects of Seeing in Euripides’ Bacchae.” Greece & Rome 32 (1985) 23-31. —. Euripides and the Instruction of the Athenians. Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, 1991. Griffin, Jasper. ed. Sophocles Revisited: Essays Presented to Sir Hugh LloydJones. Oxford: OUP, 1999. Hall, E., F. Macintosh and O. Taplin. eds. Medea in Performance 1500-2000. Oxford: Legenda, 2000. Knox, Bernard. “The Hippolytus of Euripides.” In E.Segal (1968) 90-114. Lefkowitz, Mary R. “Impiety and Atheism in Euripides’ Drama.” CQ 39 (1989) 70-82. Love, Harry. “Oedipus at this Point in Time: Divine Will on a Secular Stage.” In J. Barsby (2002) 23-48. McCabe, Richard. Incest, Drama and Nature’s Law 1550-1700. Cambridge: CUP, 1993. Mills, Sophie. Euripides: Hippolytus. London: Duckworth, 2002. Mossman, Judith. Wild Justice: A Study of Euripides’ Hecuba. Oxford: OUP, 1995 —. ed. Euripides: Oxford Readings in Classical Studies. Oxford: OUP, 2003. Mueller, Martin. The Children of Oedipus and Other Essays on the Imitation of Greek Tragedy 1550-1800. Toronto: Toronto UP, 1980. Oranje, Hans. Euripides’ Bacchae: the Play and its Audience. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1984. Powell, Anton. ed. Euripides, Women and Sexuality. London: Routledge, 1990. Reinhardt, K. Sophocles. Trans H. & D. Harvey. Oxford: Blackwell, 1979. Roberts, Deborah. “Sophoclean Endings: Another Story.” Arethusa 21 (1988) 177-96. Seale, David. Vision and Stagecraft in Sophocles. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1982. Segal, Charles. “Violence and the Other: Greek, Female and Barbarian in Euripides’ Hecuba.” TAPA 120 (1990) 109-31. —. Oedipus Tyrannus: Tragic Heroism and the Limits of Knowledge. Oxford: OUP, 2001. 2nd edn.

248

Selected Bibliography

Segal, Erich. ed. Euripides: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Seidensticker, Bern. “Comic Elements in Euripides’ Bacchae.” AJP 99 (1978) 303-20. Winnington-Ingram, R.P. Sophocles, an Interpretation. Cambridge: CUP, 1980.