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Chorus
In truth you have drawn out this plea of yours to your own content in showing honor to this unlamented tomb. [510] As for the rest, since your heart is rightly set on action, put your fortune to the test and get to your work at once.

Orestes
It will be so. But it is in no way amiss to inquire how, from what motive, she came to send her libations, [515] seeking too late to make amends for an irremediable deed. They would be a sorry gift to send to the senseless dead: I cannot guess what they mean. The gifts are too paltry for her offence. For though a man may pour out all he has in atonement for one deed of blood, [520] it is wasted effort. So the saying goes. If indeed you know, tell me: I wish to learn.

Chorus
I know, my child, for I was there. It was because she was shaken by dreams and wandering terrors of the night that she sent these offerings, godless woman that she is. [525]

Orestes
And have you learned the nature of the dream so as to tell it properly?

Chorus
She dreamed she gave birth to a serpent: that is her own account.

Orestes
And where does the tale end, and what is its consummation?

Chorus
She laid it to rest as if it were a child, in swaddling clothes.

Orestes
What food did it crave, the newborn viper? [530]

Chorus
In her dream she offered it her own breast.

Orestes
Surely her nipple was not unwounded by the loathsome beast?

Chorus
No: it drew in clotted blood with the milk.

Orestes
Truly it is not without meaning: the vision signifies a man!

Chorus
Then from out of her sleep she raised a shriek and awoke appalled, [535] and many lamps that had been blinded in the darkness flared up in the house to cheer our mistress. Then she sent these libations for the dead in the hope that they might be an effective cure for her distress.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Electra, 410
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