clytemnestraYou are ranging about once more, it seems, at large; because Aegisthus is not here, he who always used to prevent you from shaming your family at least outside the house. But now that he is away, you show no respect for me; and you have declared often and to many people that I am insolent and rule unjustly, doing violence to you and what is yours. I do no violence, but I abuse you because you often abuse me. Your father, and nothing else, is always your pretext, because I killed him. I know it well; I cannot deny it. Yes, Justice was his killer, not I alone, and you would take her side, if you happened to have sense. Why, that father of yours, whom you are always lamenting, alone among the Greeks brought himself to sacrifice your sister to the gods,athough he felt less pain when he begot her than I did when I bore her. So, explain this! For whose sake did he sacrifice her? Will you say for that of the Argives? But they had no right to kill her, who was mine. But if he killed her who was mine for his brother Menelaus, was he not to pay the penalty to me? Had not Menelaus two children, who ought to have died in preference to her, since it was for the sake of their father and mother that the voyage took place? Had Hades a desire to feast on my children rather on hers? Or did your accursed father feel sorrow for the children of Menelaus, but none for mine? Is that not like a father who was foolish and lacked judgment? I think so, even if I differ from your judgment. She who died would say so, if she could acquire a voice. I for my part feel no regret at what was done; and if I seem to you to think wrongly, do you acquire a just judgment before finding fault with others!
electraThis time you shall not say that I was first to say something painful and then heard these things from you! But if you will allow me, I wish to speak on behalf of the dead man and of my sister also. clytemnestra Well, I allow you! If you had always begun your speeches in such a manner, you would not have been painful to listen to.
electraThen I will speak! You say that you killed my father. What words could carry more disgrace than that, whether your act was just or not? And I will tell you that you did not kill him justly, but were impelled by persuasion coming from an evil man, with whom you are now living. Ask the huntress Artemis what action she requited when she stilled the many winds in Aulis! Or I will tell you, since we are forbidden to learn from her. My father, as I have been told, was sporting in the sacred grove of the goddess and by his footfall started up a dappled, horned stag, and when he killed it chanced to let fall a boastful word. In her anger at this Leto’s daughter detained the Achaeans, until in requital for the beast my father sacrificed his own daughter. That was how she came to be sacrificed; for there was no other means of releasing the army to go home or to go to Troy. It was for this that he sacrificed her, against his will and after much resistance, not for the sake of Menelaus. But even if he had done so to help him, for I will state your version also, was that a reason for him to die at your hands? According to what law? Take care that in laying down this law for mortals you are not laying down pain and repentance for yourself! For if we are to take a life for a life, you should die first, if you were to get what you deserve. But take care you are not putting forward an excuse that has no substance! For come, pray explain why you are doing the most shameful thing of all, you who are sleeping with the guilty one, with whom in time past you killed my father, and getting children by him, while you have cast out your earlier children who are god-fearing and born of a god-fearing father! How could I approve of this? Or will you say that this too is taken in payment for your daughter? If you do say it, it will be a shameful thing to say; for it is not honourable to mate with enemies for your daughter’s sake! But no, one cannot even counsel you, who with every manner of expression declare that I abuse my mother; and I think you more a tyrant than a mother towards us, I who live a miserable life, living always with many torments that come from you and from your mate. And the other wears away an unhappy life, far away, he who barely escaped your violence, the unfortunate Orestes. Often you have accused me of bringing him up to punish you; and I would have done so, know it, had I had the power. So far as that goes, proclaim me to all, whether you like to call me bad or loud-mouthed or full of shamelessness; for if I am expert in such behaviour, I think I am no unworthy child of yours!
chorus<Why, now, lady, at her words> I see you breathing forth anger; but I do not see you considering whether she has justice with her.
clytemnestraAnd what sort of consideration do I need to have for her, who has insulted her mother in such a fashion, and that at such an age? Do you not think she would go as far as any action, without shame?
electraYou may know that I feel shame at this, even if you do not think so, and I am aware that my actions are wrong for my age and unlike my nature. But it is the hostility that comes from you and your actions that force me to act thus against my will; for shocking behaviour is taught by shocking things.
clytemnestraShameless creature, in truth I and my words and my actions make you say all too much!
electraIt is you that say these things, not I; for you do the deed, and it is deeds that find the words.
Why, by the lady Artemis, you shall not escape the consequences of this insolence when Aegisthus comes!
electraDo you see? You are carried away into anger, when you had set me free to say what I wished, and you do not know how to listen.
clytemnestraWill you not even allow me to sacrifice without ill-omened utterance, now that I have permitted you to say all you wished?
electraI do allow you, I beg you, sacrifice, and do not blame my speech; for I will say no more.
clytemnestra(addressing an attendant carrying a tray of offerings, and later the statue of Apollo Agyieus that stands on the stage)Raise up the offering of many fruits, you who are with me, so that I may lift up to the lord here prayers for release from the fears I now suffer. Listen, Phoebus our protector, to my secret words; for I do not speak among friends, nor is it proper for me to unfold all to the light while she stands near me, in case in her hatred and with her shouting of much verbiage she should spread vain rumours through the whole city. No, listen in this fashion, for this is how I shall speak! Grant, Lycian lord, that if the visions in two dreams that I saw last night are favourable, they may be accomplished, but if they are inimical, send them back upon my enemies! And if some persons are plotting to rob me of the wealth I now enjoy, do not allow it, but grant that I may always live a life unharmed, ruling the house of the Atreidae and this kingdom, living with the friends with whom I now live, enjoying prosperity, and with those of my children from whom no enmity or bitter pain attaches to me. Hear this, Lycian Apollo, with kindness and grant to all of us that which we are praying for! The rest I think that you, who are a god, know well, even if I say nothing; for the children of Zeus can surely see all things.
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