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Unformatted text preview:230 | EURIPIDES The 1969 Yale Repertory Theatre production of The Bacchae, directed by Andre Gregory and designed by Santa Loquasto, featured a radically modern set design. In addition to being foreign, Dionysus worship was rural. Pentheus is suspicious of the cult because it incites the women of Thebes to leave the ordered space of the city, which is under his ﬁrm control, and to revel instead in the mountains over which he has no dominion. Finally, the Dionysus cult was also a cult that appealed to the lower orders of Greece, not the elite. This division, too, is part of the texture of the play, which pits Pen- theus against an unruly mass, repre- sented by the chorus. The chorus of Greek tragedy had always, implicitly and explicitly, represented the people against the individual ruler, and in The Bacchae, Euripides uses this convention to great effect and to present a warning: if the ruler disregards the many, they will tear him to shreds. Like many other plays set in the rival city of Thebes, The Bacchae also served to gratify the democratic audience of Athens, which had long accepted the Dionysus cult and had made it part of the city's civic and religious life. Euripides essentially congratulates Ath- ens for having been more open-minded than Pentheus's Thebes. The unusual construction of The Bac- chae, simultaneously archaic and mod- ern, philosophical and ritualistic, political and religious, has intrigued audiences from its ﬁrst performance on. The play underwent a remarkable revival in the twentieth century, when playwrights and scholars developed a new interest in the ritualistic origins of theater. In recent decades, many leading playwrights and directors have produced versions of the The Bacchae, including the Nigerian Nobel Prize winner WOLE SOYINKA, whose adaptation (1973) emphasizes the multi- cultural dimension of the play, and the American playwright Charles L. Mee. Among contemporary U.S. directors who have tackled the play is Richard Schech- ner, whose production Dionysus in 69 (1968) was a central event for experimen- tal theater in the 19605. In 1978 the Japa- nese director Tadashi Suzuki created a compelling adaptation, mixing Japanese acting traditions with Western techniques. These varied interpreters were drawn to Euripides because he had turned Greek tragedy into a form that reflected the political and cultural conﬂicts of his MEDEA l 23] age. By bringing these conﬂicts to the fore, Euripides created plays that could be more easily adapted to new and differ- ent conﬂicts. Indeed, often no adaptation was necessary. The central conﬂicts depicted in his plays—attitudes toward the gods, responses to foreign inﬂuences, relations between the sexes—are as pressing and pertinent today as they were in the ﬁfth century B.C.E. His contempo- raries saw Euripides as modern, innova- tive, and daring, and he has remained so ever since. M.P., J.E.G C H A RA C T E R S NURSE JASON TUTOR, of Medea and jason's sons AEGEUS, king of Athens MEDEA MESSENGER CHORUS, of Corinthian women CREON, king of Corinth TWO BOYS, sons of Medea and Jason SCENE: A normal house on a street in Corinth. The elderly NURSE steps out of its front door. NURSE I wish the Argo2 never had set sail, had never ﬂown to Colchis3 through the dark Clashing Rocks; I wish the pines had never been felled along the hollows on the slopes of Pelion4 to ﬁt their hands with oars— those heroes who went off to seek the golden pelt for Pelias5 My mistress then, Medea, never would have sailed away 1. Translated by Diane Arnson Svarlien. 2. Jason's ship for his quest of the Golden Fleece; see introduction. 3. Medea's birthplace, across the Black Sea from Jason's homeland of lolcos, now called Volo. 4. Mountain in northeastern Greece near lolcos. 5. jason's uncle, usurper of the throne of lolcos. 232 10 I.) w 30 35 40 50 | EURIPIDES to reach the towers of Iolcus' land; the sight of Jason never would have stunned her spirit with desire. She would have never persuaded Pelias' daughters to kill their father,6 never had to come to this land—Corinth.7 Here she's lived in exile with her husband and children, and Medea's presence pleased the citizens. For her part, she complied with Jason in all things. There is no greater security than this in all the world: when a wife does not oppose her husband. But now, there's only hatred. What should be most loved has been contaminated, stricken since Jason has betrayed them—his own children, and my lady, for a royal bed. He's married into power: Creon's daughter. Poor Medea, mournful and dishonored, shrieks at his broken oaths, the promise sealed with his right hand (the greatest pledge there is)— she calls the gods to witness just how well Jason has repaid her. She won't touch food; surrendering to pain, she melts away her days in tears, ever since she learned of this injustice. She won't raise her face; her eyes are glued to the ground. Friends talk to her, try to give her good advice; she listens the way a rock does, or an ocean wave. At most, she'll turn her pale neck aside, sobbing to herself for her dear father, her land, her home, and all that she betrayed for Jason, who now holds her in dishonor. This disaster made her realize: a fatherland is no small thing to lose. She hates her children, feels no joy in seeing them. I'm afraid she might be plotting something. Her mind is ﬁerce, and she will not endure ill treatment. I know her. I'm petriﬁed to think what thoughts she might be having now: a sharpened knife—blade thrust right through the liver— she could even strike the royal family, murder the bridegroom too, make this disaster worse. She's a terror. There's no way to be her enemy and come out as the victor. Here come the children, resting from their games, with no idea of their mother's troubles. A child's mind is seldom ﬁlled with pain. [9—54] [Enter the TUTOR from the house with the two children of JASON and MEDm] 6. See introduction. 7. City in southern Greece. [SS- 5; TUTOR Timeworn stalwart of my mistressI household, why do you stand here by the gates, alone, crying out your sorrows to yourself? You've left Medea alone. Doesn't she need you? NURSE Senior attendant to the sons ofJason (,0 decent servants feel their masters' griefs in their own minds, when things fall out all wrong. As for me, my pain was so intense that a desire crept over me to come out here and tell the earth and sky my mistress' troubles. as TUTOR Poor thing. Is she not done with weeping yet? NURSE What blissful ignorance! She's barely started. TUTOR The fool—if one may say such things of masters— she doesn't even know the latest outrage. NURSE What is it, old man? Don't begrudge me that. To TUTOR Nothing. I'm sorry that I spoke at all. NURSE By your beard, don't hide this thing from me, your fellow servant. I can keep it quiet. TUTOR As I approached the place where the old men sit and play dice, beside the sacred spring v: Peirene, I heard someone say—he didn't notice I was listening—that Creon, the ruler of this land, intends to drive these children and their mother out of Corinth. I don't know if it's true. I hope it isn't. so NURSE Will Jason let his sons be so abused, even if he's ﬁghting with their mother? TUTOR He has a new bride; he's forgotten them. He's no friend to this household anymore. NURSE We are destroyed, then. Before we've bailed our boat as from the ﬁrst wave of sorrow, here's a new one. TUTOR But please, don't tell your mistress. Keep it quiet. It's not the time for her to know oﬁthis. NURSE Children, do you hear the way yourfather is treating you? I won't say, May he die! 90 —he is my master—but it's obvious he's harming those whom he should love. He's guilty. TUTOR Who isn't? Are you just now learning this, that each man loves himself more than his neighbor? If their father doesn't cherish them, because as he's more preoccupied with his own bed— NURSE Go inside now, children. Everything will be all right. [The TUTOR turns the children toward the house] And you, keep them away— don't let them near their mother when she's like this. I've seen her: she looks ﬁercer than a bull; i , mo she's giving them the eye, as if she means to do something. Her rage will not let up, I know, until she lashes out at someone. MEDEA 233 234 I EURIPIDES l05 110 US 120 125 130 [35 I40 May it be enemies she strikes, and not her loved ones! [In the following passage, MEDEA sings and the NURSE chants] MEDEA [From within the house, crying out in rage] Aaaah! Oh, horrible, horrible, all that I suffer, my unhappy struggles. I wish I could die.8 NURSE You see, this is it. Dear children, your mother has stirred up her heart, she has stirred up her rage. Hurry up now and get yourselves inside the house— but don't get too close to her, don't let her see you: her ways are too wild, her nature is hateful, her mind is too willful. Go in. Hurry up! [Exit the TUTOR and the boys] It's clear now, it's starting: a thunderhead rising, swollen with groaning, and soon it will ﬂash as her spirit ignites it—then what will she do? Her heart is so proud, there is no way to stop her; her soul has been pierced by these sorrows. MEDEA Aaaah! The pain that I've suffered, I 've suffered so much, worth oceans of weeping. 0 children, accursed, may you die—with your father! Your mother is hateful. Go to hell, the whole household! Every last one. NURSE Oh, lord. Here we go. What have they done—the children? Their father's done wrong—why should you hate them? Oh, children, my heart is so sore, I'm afraid you will come to some harm. Rulers are ﬁerce in their temperament; somehow, they will not be governed; they like to have power, always, over others. They're harsh, and they're stubborn. It's better to live as an equal with equals. I never would want to be grand and majestic—just let me grow old in simple security. Even the word "moderation" sounds good when you say it. For mortals the middle is safest, in word and in deed. Too much is too much, and there's always a danger a god may get angry and ruin your household. [Enter the CHORUS of Corinthian women from the right, singing] CHORUS I heard someone's voice, I heard someone shout: the woman from Colchis: poor thing, so unhappy. Is her grief still unsoftened? Old woman, please tell us— I heard her lament through the gates of my hall. Believe me, old woman, I take no delight when this house is in pain. I have pledged it my friendship. 8. Passages in italics indicate lyric sections that would have been sung with musical accompani- ment. ll03-I40l [I4l-l79l NURSE This house? It no longer exists. It's all gone. He's taken up with his new royal marriage. She's in her bedroom, my mistress, she's melting her life all away, and her mind can't be eased I45 by a single kind word from a single dear friend. MEDEA Aaaah! May a ﬁre-bolt from heaven come shoot through my skull! What do I gain by being alive? Oh, god. How I long for the comfort of death. I hate this life. How I wish I could leave it. [Strophe] 150 CHORUS Do you hear, 0 Zeus, O sunlight and earth, this terrible song, the cry of this unhappy bride? Poor fool, what a dreadful longing, this craving for ﬁnal darkness. 155 You'll hasten your death. Why do it? Don't pray for this ending. If your husband reveres a new bed, a new bride, don't sharpen your mind against him. You'll have Zeus himself supporting 160 your case. Don't dissolve in weeping for the sake of your bedmate. MEDEA Great goddess Themis and Artemis, holy one:9 do you see what I suffer, although I have bound my detestable husband with every great oath? as; May I see him, along with his bride and the palace scraped down to nothing, crushed into splinters. He started it. He was the one with the nerve to commit this injustice. Oh father, oh city, I left you in horror—I killed my own brother.' :70 NURSE You hear what she says, and the gods that she prays to: Themis, and Zeus, the enforcer of oaths? There's no way my mistress' rage will die down into anything small. [Antistrophe] CHORUS How I wish she'd come outside, let us see :75 her face, let her hear our words and the sound of our voice. If only she'd drop her anger, unburden her burning spirit, let go of this weight of madness. MEDEA | 235 9. Themis presided over petitions to the marriage and protected women in child- gods to ensure their reasonableness; Arte- birth. mis, the Greek name for Diana, abjured 1. See introduction. 236 | 180 185 EURIPIDES I'll stand by our friendship. Hurry up, bring her here, get her out, go inside, and bring her to us. Go tell her that we are her friends. Please hurry! She's raging—the ones inside may feel the sting of her sorrow. NURSE I'll do as you ask, but I fear that my mistress l90 won't listen to me. I will make the effort—what's one more attempt? But her glare is as ﬁerce as a bull's, let me tell you— she's wild like a lion who's just given birth whenever a servant tries telling her anything. You wouldn't go wrong, you'd be right on the mark, if you called them all half-wits, the people of old: they made lovely songs for banquets and parties, but no one took time to discover the music that might do some good, the chords or the harmony people could use to relieve all the hateful pain and distress that leads to the downfall of houses, the deaths and the dreadful misfortunes. Let me tell you, there would be some gain in that—music with the power to heal. When you're having a sumptuous feast, what's the point of a voice raised in song? Why bother with singing? The feast is enough to make people happy. That's all that they need. [Exit the NURSE into the house] 205 CHORUS I heard a wail, a clear cry of pain; 210 she rails at the betrayer of her bed, the hitter bridegroom. For the injustice she sujj'ers, she calls on the gods: Themis of Zeus, protectress of oaths, who brought her to Hellas,2 over the salt water dark as night, through the waves of Pontus' forbidding gate.3 [Enter MEDEA from the house, attended by the NURSE and other female servants.4 Here spoken dialogue resumes] MEDEA Women of Corinth, I have stepped outside 215 220 2. Greece. 3. Another name for the Black Sea, the "gate" of which is the narrow strait known as the so you will not condemn me. Many people act superior—I'm well aware of this. Some keep it private; some are arrogant in public View. Yet there are other people who, just because they lead a quiet life, are thought to be aloof. There is no justice in human eyesight: people take one look and hate a man, before they know his heart, Bosporus. the character list. [180-220] 4. Nonspeaking roles, and thus not part of 225 230 235 240 245 260 [22l-264] though no injustice has been done to them. A foreigner must adapt to a new city, certainly. Nor can I praise a citizen who's willful, and who treats his fellow townsmen harshly, out of narrow—mindedness. My case is different. Unexpected trouble has crushed my soul. It's over now; I take no joy in life. My friends, I want to die. My husband, who was everything to me— how well I know it—is the worst of men. Of all the living creatures with a soul and mind, we women are the most pathetic. First of all, we have to buy a husband:5 spend vast amounts of money, just to get a master for our body—to add insult to injury. And the stakes could not be higher: will you get a decent husband, or a bad one? If a woman leaves her husband, then she loses her virtuous reputation. To refuse him is just not possible. When a girl leaves home and comes to live with new ways, different rules, she has to be a prophet—learn somehow the art of dealing smoothly with her bedmate. If we do well, and if our husbands bear the yoke without discomfort or complaint, our lives are admired. If not, it's best to die. A man, when he gets fed up with the people at home, can go elsewhere to ease his heart —he has friends, companions his own age. We must rely on just one single soul. They say that we lead safe, untroubled lives at home while they do battle with the spear. They're wrong. I'd rather take my stand behind a shield three times than go through childbirth once. Still, my account is quite distinct from yours. This is your city. You have your fathers' homes, your lives bring joy and proﬁt. You have friends. But I have been deserted and outraged— left without a city by my husband, who stole me as his plunder from the land of the barbarians. Here I have no mother, no brother, no blood relative to help unmoor me from this terrible disaster. So, I will need to ask you one small favor. 5. Ancient Greek custom dictated that the bride's family pay a dowry to the groom. MEDEA 237 233 | EURIPIDES 265 If I should ﬁnd some way, some strategy to pay my husband back, bring him to justice, keep silent. Most of the time, I know, a woman is ﬁlled with fear. She's worthless in a battle and ﬂinches at the sight of steel. But when 270 she's faced with an injustice in the bedroom, there is no other mind more murderous. CHORUS I'll do as you ask. You're justiﬁed, Medea, in paying your husband back. I'm not surprised you grieve at your misfortunes. Look! I see Creon, 27s the lord of this land, coming toward us now. He has some new decision to announce. [Enter CREON from the right, with attendants] CREON You with the grim face, fuming at your husband, Medea, I hereby announce that you must leave this land, an exile, taking with you 280 your two children. You must not delay. This is my decision. I won't leave until I've thrown you out, across the border. MEDEA Oh, god. I'm crushed; I'm utterly destroyed. My enemies, their sails unfurled, attack me, 285 and there's no land in sight, there's no escape from ruin. Although I suffer, I must ask: Creon, why do you send me from this land? CREON I'll speak plainly: I'm afraid of you. ~ You could hurt my daughter, even kill her. 290 Every indication points that way. You're wise by nature, you know evil arts, and you're upset because your husband's gone away from your bedroom. I have heard reports that you've made threats, that you've devised a plan to harm the bride, her father, and the bridegroom. I want to guard against that. I would rather have you hate me, woman, here and now, than treat you gently and regret it later. MEDEA Oh, god. Creon, this is not the ﬁrst time: often 300 I've been injured by my reputation. Any man who's sensible by nature will set a limit on his children's schooling to make sure that they never grow too wise. The wise are seen as lazy, and they're envied so; and hated. If you offer some new wisdom to half-wits, they will only think you're useless. And those who are considered experts hate you when the city thinks you're cleverer than they are. I myself have met with this reaction. 310 Since I am wise, some people envy me, lo s: u: [265-310] [SH-356] some think I'm idle, some the opposite, and some feel threatened. Yet I'm not all that wise. And you're afraid of me. What do you fear? Don't worry, Creon. I don't have it in me 3.; to do wrong to a man with royal power. What injustice have you done to me? Your spirit moved you, and you gave your daughter as you saw ﬁt. My husband is the one I hate. You acted well, with wise restraint. 320 And now, I don't begrudge your happiness. My best to all of you—celebrate the wedding. Just let me stay here. I know when I'm beaten. I'll yield to this injustice. I'll submit in silence to those greater than myself. 32; CREON Your words are soothing, but I'm terriﬁed of what's in your mind. I trust you less than ever. It's easier to guard against a woman (or man, for that matter) with a ﬁery spirit than one who's wise and silent. You must leave no at once—don't waste my time with talk. It's settled. Since you are my enemy, and hate me, no ruse of yours can keep you here among us. [MEDEA kneels before CREON and grasps his hand and knees in supplication.] MEDEA No, by your knees! By your new—married daughter! CREON You're wasting words. There's no way you'll persuade me. 335 MEDEA You'll drive me out, with no reverence for my prayers? CREON I care more for my family than for you. MEDEA How clearly I recall my fatherland. CREON Yes, that's what I love most—after my children. MEDEA Oh, god—the harm Desire does to mortals! 340 CREON Depending on one's fortunes, I suppose. MEDEA Zeus, do not forget who caused these troubles. CREON Just leave, you fool. I'm tired of struggling with you. MEDEA Struggles. Yes. I've had enough myself. CREON My guards will force you out in just a moment. 345 MEDEA Oh, please, not that! Creon, I entreat you! CREON You intend to make a scene, I gather. MEDEA I'll leave, don't worry. That's not what I'm asking. CREON Why are you forcing me? Let go of my hand! MEDEA Please, let me stay just one more day, that's all. no I need to make arrangements for my exile, ﬁnd safe asylum for my children, since their father doesn't give them any thought. Take pity on them. You yourself have children. It's only right for you to treat them kindly. 2:; If we go into exile, I'm not worried about myself—I weep for their disaster. MEDEA 239 240 360 365 370 380 390 395 400 I EURIPlDES CREON I haven't got a ruler's temperament; reverence has often led me into ruin. Woman, I realize this is all wrong, but you shall have your wish. I warn you, though: if the sun god's lamp should ﬁnd you and your children still within our borders at ﬁrst rising, it means your death. I've spoken; it's decided. Stay for one day only, if you must. You won't have time to do the things I fear. [Exit CREON and attendants to the right. MEDEA rises to her feet] CHORUS Oh, god! This is horrible, unhappy woman, the grief that you suffer. Where will you turn? Where will you ﬁnd shelter? What country, what home will save you from sorrow? A god has engulfed you, Medea—this wave is now breaking upon you, there is no way out. MEDEA Yes, things are all amiss. Who could deny it? Believe me, though, that's not how it will end. The newlyweds have everything at stake, and struggles await the one who made this match. Do you think I ever could have fawned on him like that without some gain in mind, some ruse? I never would have spoken to him, or touched him with my hands. He's such an idiot. He could have thrown me out, destroyed my plans; instead he's granted me a single day to turn three enemies to three dead bodies: the father, and the bride, and my own husband. I know so many pathways to their deaths, I don't know which to turn to ﬁrst, my friends. Shall I set the bridal home on ﬁre, creeping silently into their bedroom? There's just one threat. If I am apprehended entering the house, my ruse discovered, I'll be put to death; my enemies will laugh at me. The best way is the most direct, to use the skills I have by nature and poison them, destroy them with my drugs. Ah, well. All right, they die. What city will receive me? What host will offer me immunity, what land will take me in and give me refuge? There's no one. I must wait just long enough to see if any sheltering tower appears. Then I will kill in silence, by deceit. But ifI have no recourse from disaster, I'll take the sword and kill them, even if [357-401] 4l0 415 420 430 455 [402—436] MEDEA it means my death. I have the utmost nerve. Now, by the goddess whom I most revere, Hecate,6 whom I choose as my accomplice, who dwells within my inmost hearth, I swear: no one can hurt my heart and then fare well. I'll turn their marriage bitter, desolate— they'll regret the match, regret my exile. And now, spare nothing that is in your knowledge, Medea: make your plan, prepare your ruse. Do this dreadful thing. There is so much at stake. Display your courage. Do you see how you are suffering? Do not allow these Sisyphean snakes7 to laugh at you on Jason's wedding day. Your father is noble; your grandfather is Helios. You have the knowledge, not to mention woman's nature: for any kind of noble deed, we're helpless; for malice, though, our wisdom is unmatched. CHORUS [Strophe l] The streams of the holy rivers are ﬂowing backward. Everything runs in reverse—justice is upside down. Men's minds are deceitful, and nothing is settled, not even oaths that are sworn by the gods. The tidings will change, and a virtuous reputation will grace my name. The race of women will reap honor, no longer the shame of disgraceful rumor. [Antistrophe 1] The songs of the poets of old will no longer linger on my untrustworthiness. Women were never sent the gift of divine inspiration by Phoebus Apollo, lord of the elegant lyre,8 the master of music—or I could have sung my own song against the race of men. The fullness of time holds many tales: it can speak of both men and women. [S trophe 2] You sailed away from home and father, driven insane in your heart; you traced a path between the twin cliffs of Pontus.9 6. Goddess of magic or enchantment. 7. Derogatory reference to the Corinthians. Sisyphus was an early king of Corinth known for his cruelty; to be linked to Sisyphus was thus an insult. See also note 8, p. 266. 8. Apollo, god of the sun, was often ﬁgured with this stringed instrument. 9. An ancient region along the southern coast of the Black Sea. l 24| 242 I EURIPIDES The land you live in is foreign. Your bed is empty, your husband gone. Poor woman, dishonored, 440 sent into exile. [Antistrophe 2] The Grace of oaths is gone, and Reverence flies away into the sky, abandoning great Hellas. No father's dwelling unmoors you now from this heartache. 445 Your bed now yields to another: now a princess prevails, greater than you are. [Enter JASON from the right] JASON This is not the ﬁrst time—I have often observed that a fierce temper is an evil 450 that leaves you no recourse. You could have stayed here in this land, you could have kept your home by simply acquiescing in the plans of those who are greater. You are now an exile because of your own foolish words. To me 455 it makes no difference. You can keep on calling Jason the very worst of men. However, the words you spoke against the royal family— well, consider it a gain that nothing worse than exile is your punishment. As for me, 450 I wanted you to stay. I always tried to calm the king, to soothe his fuming rage. But you, you idiot, would not let up your words against the royal family. That's why you are now an exile. All the same, 465 I won't let down my loved ones. I have come here looking out for your best interests, woman, so you won't be without the things you need when you go into exile with the children. You'll need money—banishment means hardship. 470 However much you hate me, I could never wish you any harm. MEDEA You are the worst! You're loathsome—that's the worst word I can utter. You're not a man. You've come here—most detested by the gods, by me, by all mankind. 475 That isn't courage, when you have the nerve to harm your friends, then look them in the face. No, that's the worst affliction known to man: shamelessness. And yet, I'm glad you've come. Speaking ill to you will ease my soul, 480 and listening will cause you pain. I'll start [437—480] 490 500 505 510 SIS 520 [481—520] MEDEA I at the beginning. First, I saved your life— as every single man who sailed from Hellas aboard the Argo knows—when you were sent to yoke the ﬁre-breathing bulls, and sow the deadly crop.l I killed the dragon, too: the sleepless one, who kept the Golden Fleece enfolded in his convoluted coils;2 I was your light, the beacon of your safety. For my part, I betrayed my home, my father, and went with you to Pelion's slopes, Iolcus with more good will than vvisdom—and I killed Pelias, in the cruelest possible way: at his own children's hands. I ruined their household. And you—you are the very worst of men— betrayed me, after all of that. You wanted a new bed, even though I'd borne you children. If you had still been childless, anyone could understand your lust for this new marriage. All trust in oaths is gone. What puzzles me is whether you believe those gods (the ones who heard you swear) no longer are in power, or that the old commandments have been changed? You realize full well you broke your oath. Ah, my right hand, which you took so often, clinging to my knees.3 What was the point of touching me? You are despicable. My hopes have all gone wrong. Well, then! You're here: I have a question for you, friend to friend. (What good do I imagine it will do? Still, I'll ask, since it makes you look worse.) Where do I turn now? To my father's household and fatherland, which I betrayed for you? Or Pelias' poor daughters? Naturally they'll welcome me—the one who killed their father! Here is my situation. I've become an enemy to my own family, those whom I should love, and I have gone to war with those whom I had no reason at all to hurt, and all for your sake. In exchange, you've made me the happiest girl in all of Hellas. 1. Aeetes, king of Colchis, challenged Jason with a series of tasks during his quest for the Golden Fleece; among these were the require- ments that he harness two ﬁre-breathing bulls, plow with them, and sow dragons' teeth that sprouted warriors he then had to kill. 2. The Golden Fleece was guarded by a pow- erful serpent, see introduction. 3. Thus in a position of supplication. 243 244 525 v: m L" m v: Q 555 I EURIPIDES I have you, the perfect spouse, a marvel, so trustworthy—though I must leave the country friendless and deserted, taking with me my friendless children! What a charming scandal for a newlywed: your children roam as beggars, with the one who saved your life. Zeus! For brass disguised as gold, you sent us reliable criteria to judge. But when a man is base, how can we know? Why is there no sign stamped upon his body? CHORUS This anger is a terror, hard to heal, when loved ones clash with loved ones in dispute. JASON It seems that I must have a way with words and, like a skillful captain, reef my sails in order to escape this gale that blows without a break—your endless, tired harangue. The way I see it, woman (since you seem to feel that I must owe you some huge favor), it was Cypris,4 no other god or mortal, who saved me on my voyage. Yes, your mind is subtle. But I must say—at the risk of stirring up your envy and your grudges— Eros5 was the one who forced your hand: his arrows, which are inescapable, compelled you to rescue me. But I won't put too fine a point on that.~You did support me. You saved my life, in fact. However, you received more than you gave, as I shall prove. First of all, you live in Hellas now instead of your barbarian land. With us, you know what justice is, and civil law: not mere brute force. And every single person in Hellas knows that you are wise. You're famous. You'd never have that kind of reputation if you were living at the edge of nowhere. As for me, I wouldn't wish for gold or for a sweeter song than Orpheus'6 unless I had the fame to match my fortune. Enough about my struggles—you're the one who started this debate. As for my marriage to the princess, which you hold against me, I shall show you how I acted wisely and with restraint, and with the greatest love toward you and toward our children—Wait! Just listen! 4. Another name for the Greek goddess Aphrodite. 5. God of love. [521-564] 6. Orpheus received a lyre from Apollo, upon which he played music of unparalleled beauty. m \I o \n \l u- 580 595 600 605 610 [565-612] When I moved here from Iolcus, bringing with me disaster in abundance, with no recourse, what more lucky windfall could I ﬁnd (exile that I was) than marrying the king's own child? It's not that I despised your bed—the thought that irritates you most— nor was I mad with longing for a new bride, or trying to compete with anyone— to win the prize for having the most children. I have enough—no reason to complain. My motive was the best: so we'd live well and not be poor. I know that everyone avoids a needy friend. I wanted to raise sons in a style that ﬁts my family background, give brothers to the ones I had with you, and treat them all as equals. This would strengthen the family, and I'd be blessed with fortune. What do you need children for? For me, though, it's good if I can use my future children to beneﬁt my present ones. Is that bad planning? If you weren't so irritated about your bed, you'd never say it was. But you're a woman—and you're all the same! If everything goes well between the sheets you think you have it all. But let there be some setback or disaster in the bedroom and suddenly you go to war against the things that you should value most. I mean it— men should really have some other method for getting children. The whole female race should not exist. It's nothing but a nuisance. CHORUS Jason, you've composed a lovely speech. But I must say, though you may disagree: you have betrayed your wife. You've been unjust. MEDEA Now, this is where I differ from most people. In my view, someone who is both unjust and has a gift for speaking—such a man incurs the greatest penalty. He uses his tongue to cover up his unjust actions, and this gives him the nerve to stop at nothing no matter how outrageous. Yet he's not all that wise. Take your case, for example. Spare me this display of cleverness; a single word will pin you to the mat. If you weren't in the wrong, you would have told me your marriage plans, not kept us in the dark— your loved ones, your own family! JASON Yes, of course you would have been all for it! Even now MEDEA 245 246 | EURHHDES you can't control your rage against the marriage. MEDEA That's not what you were thinking. You imagined 615 that for an older man, a barbarian wife was lacking in prestige. JASON No! Please believe me: It wasn't for the woman's sake I married into the king's family. As I have said, I wanted to save you, and give our children 520 royal brothers, a safeguard for our household. MEDEA May I not have a life that's blessed with fortune so painful, or prosperity so irritating. JASON Your prayer could be much wiser: don't consider what's useful painful. When you have good fortune, 52; don't see it as a hardship. MEDEA Go ahead— you have somewhere to turnl—commit this outrage. I am deserted, exiled from this land. JASON You brought that on yourself. Don't blame another. MEDEA Did I remarry? How did I betray you? 530 JASON You blasphemously cursed the royal family. MEDEA And I'm a curse to your family as well. JASON I won't discuss this with you any further. If you'd like me to help you and the children with money for your exile, then just say so. 535 I'm prepared to give with an open hand, and make arrangements with my friends to show you hospitality. They'll treat you well. You'd be an idiot to refuse this offer. You'll gain a lot by giving up your anger. s40 MEDEA I wouldn't stay with your friends, and I would never accept a thing from you. Don't even offer. There is no proﬁt in a bad man's gift. JASON All the same, I call the gods to witness: I only want to help you and the children. 645 But you don't want what's good; you push away your friends; you're willful. And you'll suffer for it. MEDEA Get out of here. A craving for your new bride has overcome you—you've been away so long. Go, celebrate your wedding. It may be 550 (the gods will tell) a marriage you'll regret. [Exit JASON to the right.] CHORUS [Strophe 1] Desire, when it comes on too forcefully, never bestows excellence, never makes anyone prestigious. When she comes with just the right touch, there's no goddess more gracious than Cypris. [6l3-654] 655 660 has (:70 6'5 680 at" [655—389] Mistress, never release from your golden bow an inescapable arrow, smeared with desire and aimed at my heart. [Antistrophe 1] Please, let me be cherished by Wisdom, be loved by Restraint, loveliest gift of the gods. May dreadful Cypris never stun my spirit with love for the bed of another and bring on anger, battles of words, endless ﬁghting, strife. Let her be shrewd in her judgment; let her revere the bedroom at peace. [S trophe 2] O fatherland, 0 home, never allow me to be without a city: a grief without recourse, life that's hard to live through most distressing of all fates. MayI go to my death, my death before I endure that; I'd rather face my ﬁnal day. There's no worse heartache than to be cut off from your fatherland. ' [Antistrophe 2] We've seen it for ourselves; nobody else gave me this tale to consider. No city, no friend will treat you with compassion in your dreadful suffering. May he die, the ungracious man who won't honor friends, who will not unlock his mind to clear, calm thoughts of kindness. I will never call such a man my friend. [Enter AEGEUS from the left.]7 AEGEUS Medea, I wish all the best to you. There is no ﬁner way to greet a friend. MEDEA All the best to you, Aegeus, son of wise Pandion. Where are you traveling from? AEGEUS I've come from Phoebus' ancient oracle.8 MEDEA What brought you to the earth's prophetic navel? AEGEus Seeking how I might beget a child. MEDEA By the gods, are you still childless? AEGEUS Still childless. Some god must be to blame. 7. While the unanticipated arrival of the king of Athens at this part in the play may appear odd. Athenian audiences would have under- stood this episode as part of the larger Medea myth; see introduction. the center of the world. MEDEA l 8. The shrine of Phoebus Apollo, located in Delphi, was known as the "navel stone," where east and west meet, and was thus considered 247 24s I EURIPlDES [690-729] [730-775] MEDEA I 249 690 MEDEA Do you have a wife, or do you sleep alone? 730 Don't let me go deserted into exile; AEGEUS I'm married, and we share a marriage bed. receive me in your home and at your hearth. MEDEA Well, what did Phoebus say concerning children? If you do it, may the gods grant your desire AEGEUS His words were too profound for human wisdom. for children; may you die a prosperous man MEDEA May I hear the oracle? Is it permitted? You don't know what a windfall you have foimd! 695 AEGEUS TYES, Vitlhlyi not? ca'letfor a Wis-(:tmgnd. _ 735 J'gncure you; childlessness, make you a father. MEDEA en 6 me, 1 1" ee 1 15 Perml 6 ~ ow t e rugs required for such thin s. AEGEUS He said, "Don't loose the wineskin's hanging foot . . 3'9 AEGEUS For many reasons, woman, I am Eager MEDEA Before you do what thing? Or reach what place? to grant this favor to you: ﬁrst, the gods- AEGEUS Before returning to my paternal hearth. and secondly, the children that you Prorlﬁse. 700 MEDEA And why have you sailed here? What do you need? 740 I'm at a total loss where that's concerned. AEGEUS There is a man named Pittheus, lord of Troezen . . . 1 But this is how it is. When you arrive MEDEA Pelops: son} They say he's very pious. I'll treat you justly, try to shelter you. ' AEGEUS I want to bring this prophecy to him. However, you must know this in advance: MEDEA Yes. He's wise, and well—versed in such things. I'm not willing to escort you from this land. 705 AEGEUS And most beloved of my war companions. 745 If you can come to my house on your own MEDEA Good luck to you. May you get what you desire. I'll let you stay there—it will be your refuge AEGEUS But you—your eyes are melting. What's the matter? I will not give you up to anyone. MEDEA My husband is the very worst of men. But you must leave this land all by yourself. AEGEUS What are you saying? Why the low spirits? Tell me. My hosts here must have no complaint with me. 710 MEDEA Jason treats me unjustly. I've done him no harm. 750 MEDEA So be it. But ifI had some assurance AEGEUS What has he done? Explain to me more clearly. that I could trust you, I'd have all I need. Mg):st 1-1:? hill-:eailvotl'izl' 'Vyi'fe, wllip takes 1:112; plalfe. 6f 1 AEGEUS giu Idltznl't believe me? Tell me, what's the problem? A 0. cu n are. 5 muc o 5 am u . MEDEA , e ieve you. But I have enemies: MEDEA It's true. His former loved ones are dishonored. Creon, and the house of Pelias. 715 AEGEUS Did he desire another? Or tire of you? 755 If they come for me, and you're not bound MEDEA Oh yes, he felt desire. We cannot trust him. by any oath, then you might let them take me. AEGEUS Let him go, if he's as bad as you say. A promise in words on] y never sworn MEDEA He desired a royal marriage-bond. by any gods, might not lie strong enough AEGEUS Who's giving away the bride? Go on, continue. to keep you from befriending them, from yielding 720 MEDEA Green, the ruler of this land of Corinth. 760 to their delegations. I'm completely helpless' AEGEUS Woman, your pain is understandable. they have prosperity and r0 1 7 ya power. l 7 ' 24:51:35 I [grnwiisgpyfﬁ thattrsozglteagn—tigoefxiiible AEF'ﬁUdS ItYourhwords shlow forethought. If you think it's best, . IS 1 ew . o 1 Wit out any esitation. MEDEA By Creon. He is driving me from Corinth. In fact, this is the safest course for me: 725 AEGEUS And Jason is allowing it? Shame on him. 765 I'll have a good excuse to turn away MEDEA He claims to be against it, but he'll manage your enemies. And things are settled well to endure it somehow. [MEDEA again assumes the supplicant position] Listen, I entreat you; by your beard and by your knees, I beg you: Have pity on me; pity my misfortune. 9. An ambiguous prophecy based on the image of wine stored in the shank portion of an animal skin; see also next note. 1. In this Athenian legend, Pittheus knows that the prophecy means thatAegeus is not to drink wine until he returns to Athens. Flt-1 theus, however, withholds this information, allows Aegeus to drink to excess, and then allows him to sleep with his daughter Aethra. The Athenian hero Theseus is the product of this encounter. 2. The hero Pelops founded the Peloponnese, the peninsula in the south of Greece. for you, of course. I'll swear: just name the gods. MEDEA Swear by the Earth we stand on, and by Helios3— my father's father—and the whole race of gods. 77o AEGEUS To do or not do what? Just say the word. MEDEA Never to expel me from your land yourself, and never, as long as you live, to give me up willingly to any enemy. AEGEUS I swear by Earth, by Helios' sacred light, 775 by all the gods: I'll do just as you say. 3. The sun. 250 | EURIPIDES 780 ms MEDEA O Zeus, and Zeus's Justice, and the light 790 795 800 805 8lD MEDEA Fine. And if you don't? What would you suffer? AEGEUS Whatever an unholy man deserves. 820 MEDEA Farewell, then, on your voyage. This is good. CHORUS May lord Hermes, the child of Maia,4 escort you [776—8l8] l8l9—853l Let it go. What do I gain by being alive? I have no fatherland, no home, no place to turn from troubles. The moment I went wrong was when I left my father's house, persuaded by the words of that Greek man. If the gods will help me, he'll pay what justice demands. He'll never see 815 them alive again, the children that I bore him. Nor will he ever father another child: his new bride, evil woman, she must die an evil death, extinguished by my drugs. Let no one think that I'm a simpleton, 830 or weak, or idle—I am the Opposite. I treat my friends with kindness, and come down hard on the heads of my enemies. This is the way to live, the way to win a glorious reputation. CHORUS Since you have brought this plan to us, and since 835 I want to help you, and since I support the laws of mankind, I ask you not to do this. MEDEA There is no other way. It's understandable [MEDEA rises] I'll ﬁnd you in your city very soon, Once I've done my will, and had my way. [Exit AEGEUS to the left. The CHORUS address him as he leaves] and bring you back home. May you do as you please, and have all you want. In myjudgment, Aegeus, you're a good, noble man. of Helios, I now shall be the victor over my enemies. My friends, I've set my foot upon the path. My enemies will pay what justice demands—I now have hope of this. This man, when I was at my lowest point, appeared, the perfect harbor for my plans. When I reach Pallas' city,5 I shall have a steady place to tie my ship. And now I'll tell you what my plans are. Hear my words; they will not bring you pleasure. I will send a servant to bring Jason here to see me. When he comes, I'll soothe him with my words: I'll say that I agree with him, that he was right to marry into the royal family, betraying me—well done, and well thought out! "But let my children stay here!" I will plead— not that I would leave them in this land "5 for my enemies to outrage—my own children. No: this is my deceit, to kill the princess. I'll send them to her, bearing gifts in hand —a delicate robe, and a garland worked in gold. If she takes these ﬁne things and puts them on, she, and anyone who touches her, will die a painful death. Such are the drugs with which I will smear them. CHORUS Will you have the nerve tO kill your children? 540 MEDEA Yes: to wound my husband the most deeply. MEDEA Let it go. Let there be no more words until it's done. [To her attendant] You: go now, and bring Jason. When I need to trust someone, I turn to you. If you're a woman and mean well to your mistress, do not speak of the things I have resolved. [Exit the attendant to the right] CHORUS [Strophe l] The children of Erechtheus" have always prospered, descended from blessed gods. The , ' th ' . But enough of that "3831;? in eir sacred stronghold, on glorious Once that's done, the next thing I must do m with a delicate step through the Clear and brilliant air chokes me With sorrow. I Will kill the children— They say that there . my children. No one on this earth can save them. I'll ruin Jason's household, then I'll leave this land, I'll ﬂee the slaughter of the children I love so dearly. I will have the nerve for this unholy deed. You see, my friends, I will not let my enemies laugh at me. the nine Pierian Muses7 once gave birth to Harmony with golden hair. 5. Another name for Athens, protected by Pallas Athene. 4. The nymph Maia bore Hermes, who became 6. Legendary king of Athens; metaphorically, the gods' messenger. his children are the Athenians. poetry and music. that you would say this—you're not the one who's suffered. CHORUS And to make yourself the most miserable of women. MEDEA | Zhl 7. The Muses inspire creativity, especially in 252 l EURHHDES 855 860 865 [Antistrophe 1] They sing that Cypris dipped her pitcher in the waters of beautiful Cephisusﬁa she sighed, and her breaths were fragrant and temperate breezes. With a garland of sweet—smelling roses in her hair she sends Desires ' to take their places alongside Wisdom s throne and nurture excellence with her. [Strophe 2] How can this city of holy rivers, receiver of friends and loved ones, receive you—when you've murdered your own children, most unholy woman—among them? Just think of this deathblow aimed at the helpless, think of the slaughter you'll have on your hands. [854—892] 895 900 905 1893-936] marrying the royal princess, to beget brothers for my children. Isn't it time to drop my angry spirit, since the gods have been so bountiful? What's wrong with me? Don't I have children? Aren't we exiles? Don't we need whatever friendship we can get? That's what I said to myself. I realize that I've been foolish, that there is no point to all my fuming rage. I give you credit for wise restraint, for making this connection, this marriage that's in all our interests. Now I understand that you deserve my praise. I was such a moron. I should have supported your plans, I should have made arrangements with you, I should have stood beside the bridal bed, rejoiced in taking care of your new bride. We women—oh, I won't say that we're bad, but we are what we are. You shouldn't sink 910 Oh no, by your knees, we beg you, down to our level, trading childish insults. we beg you, with every plea I ask for your indulgence. I admit 870 we can plead: do not kill your children. I wasn't thinking straight, but now my plans are much improved where these things are concerned. [Antistrophe 2] [MEDEA turns toward the house to call the children] Where will you ﬁnd it, 91; Oh, children! Come out of the house, come here, 875 380 the awful courage? The terrible nerve—how can you? ' How can your hand, your heart, your mind go through With this slaughter? How will you be able to look at your children, keep your eyes steady, see them beseech you, and not fall apart? Your tears will not let you kill them; your spirit, your nerve will fail: you will not soak your hands in their blood. [Enter JASON from the right.] JASON I've come because you summoned me. Despite the hate between us, I will hear you out. What is it this time, woman? What do you want? 920 925 come out and greet your father, speak to him. Come set aside, together with your mother, the hatred that we felt toward one we love. [The children come out from the house, escorted by the TUTOR and attendants] We've made a treaty. My rage has gone away. Take his right hand. Oh, god, my mind is ﬁlled with bad things, hidden things. Oh, children, look— your lovely arms, the way you stretch them out. Will you look this way your whole long lives? I think I'm going to cry. I'm filled with fear. After all this time, I'm making up MEDEA l 253 my quarrel with your father. This tender sight is washed with tears; my eyes are overﬂowing. CHORUS In my eyes too fresh tears are welling up. May this evil not go any further. 930 jASON Woman, I approve your new approach— not that I blame you for the way you felt. It's only right for a female to get angry if her husband smuggles in another wife. But this new change of heart is for the best. 935 After all this time, you've recognized the winning plan. You're showing wise restraint. MEDEA Jason, I beg you, please forgive the things ass I said. Your heart should be prepared, receptive like a seed bed. We used to love each other. It's only right for you to excuse my anger. I've thought it over, and I blame myself. Pathetic! Really, I must have been insane 890 to stand opposed to those who plan so well, to be an enemy to those in power and to my husband, who's done so well by me: 8. River in Athens. 254 | EURIPIDES And as for you, my children, you will see your father is no fool. I have provided for your security, if the gods will help me. 940 Yes, I believe that you will be the leaders here in Corinth, with your future brothers. Grow up strong and healthy. All the rest your father, with the favor of the gods, will take care of. I pray that I may see you 945 grown up and thriving, holding sway above my enemies. [JASON turns to MEDEA] You! Why have you turned your face away, so pale? Why are fresh tears pouring from your eyes? Why aren't you happy to hear what I have had to say? MEDEA It's nothing. 950 I was only thinking of the children. JASON Don't worry now. I'll take good care of them. MEDEA I'll do as you ask. I'll trust in what you say. I'm female, that's all. Tears are in my nature. JASON So—why go on? Why moan over the children? 955 MEDEA They're mine. And when you prayed that they would live, pity crept over me. I wondered: would they? As for the things you came here to discuss, we've covered one. I'll move on to the next. Since the royal family has seen fit 960 to exile me (and yes, I realize it's for the best—I wouldn't want to stay to inconvenience you, or this land's rulers, who see me as an enemy of the family), I will leave this land, go into exile, 965 but you must raise your children with your own hand: ask Creon that they be exempt from exile. JASON Though I may not persuade him, I must try. MEDEA And ask your wife to ask her father: please let the children be exempt from exile. 97o JASON Certainly. I think I will persuade her. MEDEA NO doubt, if she's a woman like all others. And for this work, I'll lend you my support. I'll send her gifts, much lovelier, I know, than any living person has laid eyes on: 975 a delicate robe, and a garland worked in gold. The children will bear them. Now, this very minute, let one of the servants bring these fine things here. [An attendant goes into the house to carry out this request. She, or another servant, returns with the ﬁnery] She will be blessed a thousandfold with fortune: with you, an excellent man to share her bed, 930 and these possessions, these ﬁne things that once [937-980] [981—10l6] my father's father, Helios, passed down to his descendants. Take these wedding gifts in your arms, my children; go and give them to the lucky bride, the royal princess. 935 These are gifts that no one could ﬁnd fault with. [The attendant puts the gifts in the children's arms] JASON You fool! Why let these things out of your hands? Do you think the royal household needs more robes, more gold? Hold on to these. Don't give them up. If my wife thinks anything Of me, 990 I'm sure that I mean more to her than wealth. MEDEA Don't say that. Even the gods can be persuaded by gifts. And gold is worth a thousand words. She has the magic charm; the gods are helping her right now: she's young, and she has power. 995 To save my children from exile, I'd give my life, not merely gold. You, children, when you've entered that wealthy house, must supplicate your father's young wife, my mistress. You must plead with her and ask her that you be exempt from exile. 1000 Give her these fine things. That is essential: she must receive these gifts with her own hands. Go quickly now, and bring back to your mother the good news she desires—that you've succeeded. [The children, bearing the gifts, leave with the TUTOR to the right.] CHORUS [Strophe 1] Now I no longer have hope that the children will live, inn: no longer. They walk to the slaughter already. The bride will receive the crown of gold; she'll receive her horrible ruin. Upon her golden hair, with her very own hands, she'll place the fine circlet of Hades.9 [Antistrophe 1] IDIO She'll be persuaded; the grace and the heavenly gleam will move her to try on the robe and the garland. The bride will adorn herself for death, for the shades below. She will fall into this net; her death will be horrible. Ruin IOIS will be inescapable, fated. [Strophe 2] And you, poor thing, bitter bridegroom, in—law to royalty: 9. Death. MEDEA | 255 n 256 1020 1025 1030 1035 1040 [045 1050 | EURIPIDES you don't know you're killing your children, bringing hateful death to your bride. How horrible: how unaware you are of your fate. [Antistrophe 2] I cry for your pain in turn, poor thing; you're a mother, yet you will slaughter them, your own children, for the sake of your bridal bed, [l0l7—l052] the bed that your husband now shares with somebody else. [The TUTOR returns, at the right, from the palace with the children. ] TUTOR Mistress, your children are released from exile. The princess happily received the gifts with her own hands. As far as she's concerned, the children's case is settled; they're at peace. Ah! Why are you upset by your good fortune? MEDEA Oh, god. TUTOR Your cry is out of tune. This is good news! MEDEA Oh god, oh god. TUTOR Have I made some mistake? Is what I've said bad news, and I don't know it? MEDEA You've said what you have said. I don't blame you. TUTOR So—why are you crying? Why are your eyes cast down? MEDEA Old man, I am compelled. The gods and I devised this strategy. What was I thinking? TUTOR Don't worry now. Your children will bring you home. MEDEA I'll send others home before that day. TUTOR You're not the only woman who's lost her children. We're mortals. We must bear disasters lightly. MEDEA I'll do as you ask. Now, go inside the house and see to the children's needs, as usual. [Exit TUTOR into the house.] Oh, children, children, you two have a city and home, in which you'll live forever parted from your mother. You'll leave poor me behind. I'll travel to another land, an exile, before I ever have the joy of seeing you blessed with fortune—before your wedding days, before I prepare your beds and hold the torches.l My willfulness has cost me all this grief. I raised you, children, but it was no use; no use, the way I toiled, how much it hurt, the pain of childbirth, piercing like a thorn. 1. Weddings were traditionally held at night, hence the need for lit torches in the ceremony. 1055 1060 1065 1070 1075 1080 [085 [090 "053-10901 And I had so much hope when you were born: you'd tend to my old age, and when I died, you'd wrap me in my shroud with your own hands: an admirable fate for anyone. That sweet thought has now been crushed. I'll be parted from both of you, and I will spend my years in sorrow and in pain. Your eyes no longer will look upon your mother. You'll move on to a different life. Oh god, your eyes, the way you look at me. Why do you smile, my children, your very last smile? Aah, what will I do? The heart goes out of me, women, when I look at my children's shining eyes. I couldn't do this. Farewell to the plans I had before. I'll take my children with me when I leave. Why should I, just to cause their father pain, feel twice the pain myself by harming them? I will not do it. Farewell to my plans. But wait—what's wrong with me? What do I want? To allow my enemies to laugh at me? To let them go unpunished? What I need is the nerve to do it. I was such a weakling, to let a soothing word enter my mind. Children, go inside the house. [The children start to go toward the house, but as MEDEA continues to speak, they continue to watch and listen to her, delaying their entry inside] Whoever is not permitted to attend these rites, my sacriﬁce, let that be his concern. I won't hold back the force that's in my hand. Aah! Oh no, my spirit, please, not that! Don't do it. Spare the children. Leave them alone, poor thing. They'll live with me there. They will bring you joy. By the avenging ones2 who live below in Hades, no, I will not leave my children at the mercy of my enemies' outrage. Anyway, the thing's already done. She won't escape. The crown is on her head. The royal bride's destroyed, wrapped in her robes. I know it. Now, since I am setting foot on a path that will break my heart, and sending them 2. The Eumenides, or Furies. MEDEA | 25? 258 | EURIPIDES 1095 1100 on one more heartbreaking still, I want to speak to my children. [MEDEA reaches toward her children; they come back to hem] Children, give me your right hands, give them to your mother, let me kiss them. Oh, how I love these hands, how I love these mouths, the way the children stand, their noble faces! May fortune bless you—in the other place. Your father's taken all that once was here. Oh, your sweet embrace, your tender skin, your lovely breath, oh children. Go now—go. [The children go inside] I cannot look at them. Grief overwhelms me. I know that I am working up my nerve for overwhelming evil, yet my spirit is stronger than my mind's deliberations: this is the source of mortals' deepest grief. 1105 CHORUS Quite often I've found myself venturing deeper 1110 1115 1120 1125 1130 than women do normally into discussions and subtle distinctions, and I would suggest that we have our own Muse, who schools us in wisdom—— not every woman, but there are a few, ' you'll ﬁnd one among many, a woman who doesn t stand entirely apart from the Muses. Here's my opinion: the childless among us, the ones who have never experienced parenthood, have greater good fortune than those who have children. They don't know—how could theyP—if children are pleasant or hard and distressing. Their lack of experience saves them from heartache. But those who have children, a household's sweet offshoot— I see them consumed their Whole lives with concern. They fret from the start: are they raising them well? And then: will they manage to leave them enough? Then ﬁnally: all of this toil and heartache, is it for children who'll turn out to be worthless or decent? That much is unclear. There's one ﬁnal grief that I'll mention. Supposing your children have grown up with plenty to live on, they're healthy, they're decent—if fortune decrees it, Death comes and spirits their bodies away down to the Underworld. What is the point, then, if the gods, adding on to the pains that we mortals endure for the sake of our children, send death, most distressing of all? Tell me, where does that leave us? [lO9l—ll32] lll33-llBll MEDEA My friends, I have been waiting for some time, keeping watch to see where this will lead. 1135 Look now: here comes one ofjason's men breathing hard—he seems to be about to tell us of some new and dreadful act. [Enter the MESSENGER from the right] MESSENGER Medea, run away! Take any ship or wagon that will carry you. Leave now! 1140 MEDEA Why should I ﬂee? What makes it necessary? MESSENGER The royal princess and her father Creon have just now died—the victims of your poison. MEDEA This news is excellent. From this day forth I'll count you as a friend and benefactor. 1145 MESSENGER What are you saying? Are you sane at all, or raving? You've attacked the royal hearth—— how can you rejoice, and not be frightened? MEDEA I could tell my own side to this story. But calm down, friend, and please describe to me 1150 how they were destroyed. If you can say that they died horribly, I'll feel twice the pleasure. MESSENGER When we saw that your two boys had come together with their father to the bride's house, all of us—we servants who have felt 1155 the pain of your misfortunes—were delighted; the talk was that you'd settled your differences, you and your husband. We embraced the boys, kissing their hands, their golden hair. And I, overjoyed as I was, accompanied " uso the children to the women's quarters. She— the mistress we now honor in your place— before she caught sight of your pair of boys was gazing eagerly at Jason. Then she saw the children, and she covered up I155 her eyes, as if the sight disgusted her, and turned her pale cheek aside. Your husband tried to cool down the girl's bad temper, saying, "Don't be hateful toward your loved ones! Please, calm your spirit, turn your head this way, I170 and love those whom your husband loves. Receive these gifts, and ask your father, for my sake, not to send these children into exile." Well, when she saw the fine things, she gave in to everything the man said. They had barely n75 set foot outside the door—your children and their father—when she took the intricate embroidered robe and wrapped it round her body, and set the golden crown upon her curls, and smiled at her bright image—her lifeless double— nso in a mirror, as she arranged her hair. She rose, and with a delicate step her lovely MEDEA l 259 260 1185 l|90 1195 I200 1205 1215 1220 | EURIPIDES white feet traversed the quarters. She rejoiced beyond all measure in the gifts. Quite often she extended her ankle, admiring the effect. What happened next was terrible to see. Her skin changed color, and her legs were shaking; she reeled sideways, and she would have fallen straight to the ground if she hadn't collapsed in her chair. Then one of her servants, an old woman, thinking that the girl must be possessed by Pan3 or by some other god, cried out—- a shriek of awe and reverence—but when she saw the white foam at her mouth, her eyes popping out, the blood drained from her face, she changed her cry to one of bitter mourning. A maid ran off to get the princess' father; another went to tell the bride's new husband of her disaster. Everywhere the sound of running footsteps echoed through the house. And then, in less time than it takes a sprinter to cover one leg of a stadium race, the girl, whose eyes had been shut tight, awoke, poor thing, and she let out a terrible groan, for she was being assaulted on two fronts: the golden garland resting on her head sent forth a marvelous stream of all—consuming ﬁre, and the delicate robe, the gift your children brought, was starting to corrode the white ﬂesh of that most unfortunate girl. She jumped up, with flames all over her, shaking her hair, tossing her head around, trying to throw the crown off. But the gold gripped tight, and every movement of her hair caused the fire to blaze out twice as much. Defeated by disaster, she fell down onto the ground, unrecognizable to anyone but a father. She had lost the look her eyes had once had, and her face had lost its beauty. Blood was dripping down, mixed with fire, from the top of her head and from her bones the ﬂesh was peeling back like resin, shorn by unseen jaws of poison, terrible to see. We all were frightened to touch the corpse. We'd seen what had just happened. [118242241 3. God of shepherds, huntsmen, and country dwellers, usually represented with horns and a lower body like a goat's. 1230 1235 1240 1245 [250 [l225-l2691 But her poor father took us by surprise: he ran into the room and threw himself— not knowing any better—on her corpse. He moaned, and wrapped her in his arms, and kissed her, crying, "Oh, my poor unhappy child, what god dishonors you? What god destroys you? Who has taken you away from me, an old man who has one foot in the grave? Let me die with you, child." When he was done with his lament, he tried to straighten up his aged body, but the delicate robe clung to him as ivy clings to laurel, and then a terrible wrestling match began. He tried to flex his knee; she pulled him back. If he used force, he tore the aged flesh off of his bones. He ﬁnally gave up, unlucky man; his soul slipped away when he could ﬁght no longer. There they lie, two corpses, a daughter and her aged father, side by side, a disaster that longs for tears. About your situation, I am silent. You realize what penalty awaits you. About our mortal lives, I feel the way I've often felt before: we are mere shadows. I wouldn't hesitate to say'that those who seem so wise, who deal in subtleties— they earn the prize for being the greatest fools. For really, there is no man blessed with fortune. One man might be luckier, more prosperous than someone else, but no man's ever blessed. [Exit the MESSENGER to the right] 1255 CHORUS On this day fortune has bestowed on Jason much grief, it seems, as justice has demanded. Poor thing, we pity you for this disaster, daughter of Creon, you who have descended to Hades' halls because of your marriage to Jason. 1260 MEDEA My friends, it is decided: as soon as possible 1265 I must kill my children and leave this land before I give my enemies a chance to slaughter them with a hand that's moved by hatred. They must die anyway, and since they must, I will kill them. I'm the one who bore them. Arm yourself, my heart. Why am I waiting to do this terrible, necessary crime? Unhappy hand, act now. Take up the sword, just take it; approach the starting post of pain MEDEA | 26] 262 1270 1275 1280 1285 1290 1295 1300 1305 | EURIPIDES to last a lifetime; do not weaken, don't remember that you love your children dearly, that you gave them life. For one short day forget your children. Afterward, you ll grieve. For even if you kill them, they were yours; you loved them. I'm a woman cursed by fortune. [MEDEA enters the house.] CHORUS [Strophe l] 0 Earth, 0 radiant beam of Helios, look down and see her— this woman, destroyer, before she can lay her hand stained with blood, her kin—killing hand upon her own children descended from you the gods' golden race; for such blood to spill at the hands of a mortal ﬁlls us with fear. Light born from Zeus, stop her, remove this bloodstained Erinys;4 take her away from this house cursed with vengeance. [Antistrophe 1] Your toil has all been in vain, in vain, all the heartache of raising your children, your dearest, O sorrowful one who once left behind the dark Clashing Rocks most hostile to strangers. What burden of rage descended upon your mind? Why does wild slaughter follow on slaughter? Blood-spatter, stain, slaughter of kin, murder within the family brings grief tuned to the crime from the gods to the household. 4. Another name For a Fury. [1270-1307] 1310 [1308*13401 CHILD [From within the house] Oh no! CHORUS [Strophe 2] MEDEA Do you hear the shouts, the shouts of her children? Poor woman: she's cursed, undone by her fortune. CHILD I Oh, how can I escape my mother's hand? CHILD 2 Dear brother, I don't know. We are destroyed. CHORUS Shall I go inside? I ought to prevent this, the slaughter of children. 1315 CHILD I Yes, come and stop her! That is what we need. 1320 1325 1330 1335 CHILD 2 We're trapped; we' re caught! The sword CHORUS Poor thing: after all you were rock, you were iron: to reap with your own hand the crop that you bore; to cut down your kin with a fate-dealing hand. [Antistrophe 2] I've heard ofjust one, just one other woman who dared to attack, to hurt her own children: lno, whom the gods once drove insane and Zeus's wife sent wandering from her home.5 The poor woman leapt to sea with her children: an unholy slaughter. She stepped down from a steep crag's rocky edge and died with her two children in the waves. What terrible deed could surpass such an outrage? 0 bed of their marriage, 0 woman's desire: such harm have you done, so much pain have you caused. [Enter JASON from the right] is at our throats. JASON Women, you who stand here near the house— 1340 5. siac frenzy, participates in the ritual killing of Pentheus. Later, she wanders from home and is she at home, Medea, the perpetrator of all these terrors, or has she gone away? Ino was one of the women who, in Diony- leaps to her depicts the Bacchaz. death in the sea. Euripides story of Pentheus in The l 263 264 | EURIPIDES Oh yes, she'll have to hide beneath the earth or lift her body into the sky with wings to escape the royal family's cry for justice. Does she think she can murder this land's rulers 1345 then simply flee this house, with no requital? I'm worried about the children more than her—— the ones she's hurt will pay her back in kind. I've come to save my children, save their lives. The family might retaliate, might strike 1350 the children for their mother's unholy slaughter. CHORUS Poor man. Jason, if you realized how bad it was, you wouldn't have said that. JASON What is it? Does she want to kill me now? CHORUS Your children are dead, killed by their mother's hand. 1355 JASON What are you saying, women? You have destroyed me. CHORUS Please understand: your children no longer crust: JASON Where did she kill them? Inside the house, or out51de? CHORUS Open the gates; you'll see your children's slaughter. JASON Servants, quick, open the door, unbar 1t; 1360 undo the bolts, and let me see this double evil: their dead bodies, and the one whom I will bring to justice. [MEDEA appears above the roof in a ﬂying chariot, with the bodies of the children.]6 MEDEA Why are you trying to pry those gates? Is it their corpses you seek, and me, the perpetrator? Stop your struggle. ' 1355 If you need something, ask me. Speak your m1nd. But you will never touch us with your hand. My father's father, Helios, gives me safety from hostile hands. This chariot protects me. JASON You hateful thing, 0 woman most detested 1370 by the gods, by me, by all mankind—— you dared to strike your children with a sword, children you bore yourself. You have destroyed me, left me childless. And yet you live, you look upon the sun and earth, you who had the nerve 1375 to do this most unholy deed. I wish you would die. I have more sense now than I had the day I took you from your barbarian land and brought you to a Greek home—you're a plague, betrayer of your father and the land 1330 that raised you. But the gods have sent the vengeance that you deserve to crash down on my head. . You killed your brother right at home, then chmbed aboard the Argo with its lovely prow. . That's how your career began. You marr1ed 6. For a discussion of this staging, see the introduction. Il34l—l384l "385—14291 was me, and bore me children. For the sake of passion, of your bed, you have destroyed them. No Greek woman would have had the nerve to do this, but I married you instead: a hateful bond. You ruined me. You're not .390 a woman; you're a lion, with a nature more wild than Scylla's, the Etruscan freak.7 I couldn't wound you with ten thousand insults; there's nothing you can't take. Get out of here, you ﬁlth, you child-murderer. For me, 1395 all that's left is tears for my misfortune. I'll never have the joy of my bride's bed, nor will I ever again speak to my children, my children, whom I raised. And now I've lost them. MEDEA I would have made a long speech in reply 1400 to yours, if father Zeus were unaware of what I've done for you, and how you've acted. You dishonored my bed. There was no way you could go on to lead a pleasant life, to laugh at me——not you, and not the princess; 1405 nor could Creon, who arranged your marriage, exile me and walk away unpunished. So go ahead, call me a lion, call me a Scylla, skulking in her Etruscan cave. I've done what I had to do. I've jabbed your heart. 141a JASON You feel the pain yourself. This hurts you, too. MEDEA The pain is good, as long as you're not laughing. JASON 0 children, you were cursed with an evil mother. MEDEA 0 sons, you were destroyed by your father's sickness. JASON My right hand is not the one that killed them. 1415 MEDEA Your outrage, and your newfound bride, destroyed them. JASON The bedroom was enough to make you kill? MEDEA Does that pain mean so little to a woman? JASON Yes, to one with wise restraint. To you, it's everything. MEDEA They exist no longer. That will sting you. 1420 JASON They exist. They live to avenge your crime. MEDEA The gods know who was ﬁrst to cause this pain. JASON Oh yes. They know your mind. They spit on it. MEDEA Go on and hate me. I detest your voice. JASON I feel the same. That makes it easy to leave you. 1425 MEDEA What shall I do, then? I'd like nothing better. JASON Let me bury their bodies. Let me grieve. MEDEA Forget it. I will take them away myself and bury them with this hand, in the precinct sacred to Hera of the rocky heights. 7. The sea monster who threatens Odysseus in The Odyssey. MEDEA I 265 - lI-8 266 | EURIPIDES [I430 I463] ] THE BACCHAE l 26? 1430 No enemy will treat their graves with outrage. CHORUS Zeus on Olympus enforces all things; To this land of Sisyphuss I bequeath us; the gods can accomplish what no one would hope for. What we expect may not happen at all, while the gods ﬁnd a way, against all expectation, to do what they want, however surprising. And that is exactly how this case turned out. a holy festival, a ritual to expiate in times to come this most unholy slaughter. I myself will go I435 to live together with Pandion's son Aegeus, in Erechtheus's city.9 And you, an evil man, as you deserve, will die an evil death, struck on the head by a fragment of the Argo. You will see mo how bitter was the outcome of my marriage. [Here the meter changes from spoken dialogue to chanted anapests.]' JASON May you be destroyed by the children's Erinys ' The Bacchae' and bloodthirsty Justice! MEDEA What spirit, what god listens to you, you liar, you breaker of oaths, you deceiver of guests? JASON You are loathsome. CHARACTERS 1445 You murdered your children. I MEDEA Get out of here, go_ DIONrsus (also called Bromius, PENTHEﬁs b ,fe. Ev1us, and Bacchus) AnENDAN-r go my your WI , , CHORUS ofAsian Bacchae FIRST MESSENGER JASON I m leawng' bereft (followers of DIONYSUS) SECOND MESSENGER Of my Sons' . ' TEIRESIAS AGAVE MEDEA Do you thlnk that you're mourning them now? CADMUS CORY'PHAEUS (chorus leade ) 1' Just wait till you're old. JASON Oh, dearest children. MEDEA To me, not to you. [SCENE Before the r l l . . u , _ - oya pa ace at Thebes. On the la is the w r t C 'tl - mo JASON And ya you 5"" dld mm? the "gm! to the City I" the Center of the orchestra grinds stillashnghirigmthfzifg MEDEA To make you feel pain. covered tomb of Semele, mother of Dionysus.2 ' ' JASON I wish I could hold them and kiss them, my children. Enter DIONYSUS. He is of soft, even eﬁ'eminate, appearance. His face is heardless' he is dressed in a fawn-skin and carries a th ' ' ' _ I yrsus (1.e., a stalk of ennel t: ed w th ivy leaves). his head he wears a wreath of ivy, and his longjhlond Cd]ng rimhle down over his shoulders. Throughout the play he wears a smiling mask] MEDEA You long for them now and you want to embrace them, but you are the one who pushed them away. JASON By the gods, let me touch the soft skin of my children. . ' ' D - ms MEDEA No. Whats the pomt. You are wasting your words. ' DIONYSUS I am Dionysus, the son of Zeus [The chanot ﬂ1€S away with MEDEA and the bodies of the children] come back to Thebes this land Where 1 JV" born JASON Zeusv do You hear how I'm drive" away, My mother was Cadmus' daughter, Semele by name do you see what I suffer at her loathsome hands, midwived by ﬁre' delivered by the lightnings ' this lion, this child-killer! 5 blast} With all "'3' Strength And here I stand, a god incognito, I mourn for them now and I call on the gods disguised as man, beSide the stream of Dirce4 "50 and SPmtS to Wltness that You kIHEd my Chlldren I and the waters of Ismenus. There before the palace and now won't allow me to touch them or bury them. 1 see my lightningmarried motherys grave, I wish now that I'd never fathered them, only to see them extinguished, to see what you've done. [Exit JASON to the right, accompanied by the CHORUS.] 1. Translated by William Arrowsmith. (his wife and sister) tricked her into askin 2. Greek god of wine and fertility, patron of Zeus to come to her as a god, His thundef agriculture and theater. Cithaeron: a moun- bolts killed her, but he saved Dion sus (see 8. Corinth; in punishment for his crimes, 9. Athens. taln sacred to Dionysus, between Thebes (to lines 101—12) Cadmus. found fyTh b Sisyphus was doomed to the eternal torture 1. This change of rhythm signals to the audi- the north) and Athens (to the southeast). 4. wife of Lym'ls kin oi: Th b er 0 d 3 es. of having to push a rock uphill and having it ence that the play is nearing its conclusion. 3. After Semele had been impregnated by tee of Dionyms;'She tgurne'i ginsgasrgmig :2; always roll back down. Zeusv the king 01: the gadsy the jealous Hera feeds Thebes' river, the Ismenus.