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Nurse
You see? You are in your right mind, but though you are sane, you are not willing to benefit your sons and to save your own life.

Phaedra
[315] I love my children. It is another fate that buffets me.

Nurse
Your hands, may I presume, are clean of blood?

Phaedra
My hands are clean. It is my heart that's stained.

Nurse
Not spells, I hope, launched by some enemy?

Phaedra
A friend destroys me. Neither of us wills it.

Nurse
[320] Has Theseus done some wrong against you then?

Phaedra
Never may I be found out wronging him!

Nurse
What is this dread that makes you wish to die?

Phaedra
Oh, let me err! It is not you I wrong.

Nurse
If I must fail, the fault is yours, not mine.The Nurse assumes the posture of a suppliant, grasping Phaedra's hand and knees.

Phaedra
[325] What? Seize my hand? Use force, the suppliant grasp?

Nurse
Yes, and your knees, too! I shall not let go!

Phaedra
To learn the truth, poor woman, will be your doom!

Nurse
What doom is worse for me than losing you?

Phaedra
It will be your death. To me the affair brings honor.

Nurse
[330] Why keep it hid, then, when my request is noble?

Phaedra
Out of great shame I scheme to make great good.

Nurse
Why, speak it out, then, and you'll be more honored!

Phaedra
I ask you by the gods, be gone, let go!

Nurse
No, for you do not give the gift you ought.

Phaedra
[335] I shall: your suppliant hand commands my awe.

Nurse
I'm silent now. The word henceforth is yours.

Phaedra
Unhappy mother,1 what a love you felt!

Nurse
For the Cretan bull? Or what is this you mean?

Phaedra
And you, poor sister, Dionysus' bride.2

Nurse
[340] What's wrong with you, daughter? Why defame your kin?

Phaedra
And I the third, how wretchedly I perish!

Nurse
I am astonished. Where will these words lead?

Phaedra
From far back, nothing recent, is my woe!

Nurse
Of what I wish to hear I'm no whit wiser.

Phaedra
[345] Oh! Could you but say the words that I must say!

Nurse
I am no seer, to know what's hid from sight.

Phaedra
What is this thing they call—‘to be in love’?

Nurse
At once great pleasure, daughter, and great pain.

Phaedra
It is the second that I think is mine.

Nurse
[350] What, are you in love, my child? Who's the man?

Phaedra
Whatever his name is, son of the Amazon. . .

Nurse
You mean Hippolytus?

Phaedra
Yours are the words, not mine.

Nurse
Ah, what can you mean, my child? This is my death! Women, this is unendurable, I can not endure [355] to live! Hateful to me is the day, the light I see! I shall throw myself down, die and be quit of life! Farewell, I am gone! For the chaste—they do not will it but yet 'tis so—are in love with disaster! Aphrodite is not after all a goddess [360] but something even more mighty. She has destroyed her, me, and the house.

1 Phaedra's mother was Pasiphaë, wife of Minos. She was cursed with an unnatural passion for a bull and gave birth to the Minotaur.

2 In the best known version of this story, Ariadne, who helped Theseus escape from the Labyrinth, was abandoned by him on Naxos and taken up by Dionysus. The version alluded to here reverses the order and makes her the unfaithful bride of Dionysus.

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