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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Euripides' ELECTRA Complete

Translated by E. Coleridge.

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Peasant: O Argos, ancient land, and streams of Inachus, whence on
a day king Agamemnon sailed to the realm of Troy, carrying his warriors
aboard a thousand ships; and after he had slain Priam who was reigning
in Ilium and captured the famous city of Dardanus, he came hither
to Argos and has set up high on the temple-walls many a trophy, spoil
of the barbarians. Though all went well with him in Troy, yet was
he slain in his own palace by the guile of his wife Clytemnestra and
the hand of Aegisthus, son of Thyestes. So he died and left behind
him the ancient sceptre of Tantalus, and Aegisthus reigns in his stead,
with the daughter of Tyndareus, Agamemnon's queen, to wife. Now as
for those whom he left in his halls, when he sailed to Troy, his son
Orestes and his tender daughter Electra,-the boy Orestes, as he was
like to be slain by Aegisthus, his sire's old foster-father secretly
removed to the land of Phocis and gave to Strophius to bring up, but
the maid Electra abode in her father's house, and soon as she had
budded into maidenhood, came all the princes of Hellas asking her
hand in marriage. But Aegisthus kept her at home for fear she might
bear a son to some chieftain who would avenge Agamemnon, nor would
he betroth her unto any. But when e'en thus there seemed some room
for fear that she might bear some noble lord a child by stealth and
Aegisthus was minded to slay her, her mother, though she had a cruel
heart, yet rescued the maiden from his hand. For she could find excuses
for having slain her husband, but she feared the hatred she would
incur for her children's murder. Wherefore Aegisthus devised this
scheme; on Agamemnon's son who had escaped his realm by flight he
set a price to be paid to any who should slay him, while he gave Electra
to me in marriage, whose ancestors were citizens of Mycenae. It is
not that I blame myself for; my family was noble enough, though certainly
impoverished, and so my good birth suffers. By making for her this
weak alliance he thought he would have little to fear. For if some
man of high position had married her, he might have revived the vengeance
for Agamemnon's murder, which now is sleeping; in which case Aegisthus
would have paid the penalty. But Cypris is my witness that I have
ever respected her maidenhood; she is still as though unwed. Unworthy
as I am, honour forbids that I should so affront the daughter of a
better man. Yea, and I am sorry for Orestes, hapless youth, who is
called my kinsman, to think that he should ever return to Argos and
behold his sister's wretched marriage. And whoso counts me but a fool
for leaving a tender maid untouched when I have her in my house, to
him I say, he measures purity by the vicious standard of his own soul,
a standard like himself. (Electra enters from the hut, carrying a
water pitcher on her head. She is meanly clad.)

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