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Phaedra
This is the thing that destroys the well-governed cities and houses of mortal men: words that are too skilfully spoken! Words to delight the ear—that is not at all what you must speak, but rather such advice as brings a good name!

Nurse
[490] Why this high and haughty tone? Noble-sounding words are not what you need but the man! We must get things clear this instant and speak the forthright truth about you. If your life were not in the grip of misfortunes like these and you were in fact a virtuous woman, [495] I would not be leading you to this point merely for your sexual pleasure. But as things stand, the struggle is a great one—to save your life—and no one can begrudge us this course.

Phaedra
O monstrous! Won't you shut your mouth and cease from now on to utter such vile words?

Nurse
[500] Vile, yes, but better for you than your fine sentiments! Better the deed, if it will save your life, than the word you will plume yourself on and die!

Phaedra
Do not, by the gods (for your words are fair but their meaning base) do not, I beg of you, go any further! My soul is all made ready [505] by desire, and if you continue to urge dishonor with eloquence, I shall be entirely spent on what I now flee!

Nurse
If that is what you wish, then although you were better not to be erring, yet if you are erring, be ruled by me: for that is the favor that is next best.1 I have love-medicine [510] within the house—I just thought of it this very moment—that will free you from this malady without disgrace to you or harm to your mind, if only you do not flinch. We must get some token from the man you love, a lock of hair, a piece of clothing, [515] then compound from the twain a single blessing.

Phaedra
This drug, is it an ointment or a potion?

Nurse
I know not: strive for benefit, not lore.

Phaedra
I fear you'll prove too clever for my good.

Nurse
You'd quake, you know, at shadows. What's your fear?

Phaedra
[520] Your telling some word of this to Theseus' son.

Nurse
Dismiss the thought, my child. I shall arrange this business well. I wish only that you, Aphrodite, Lady of the Sea, may be my accomplice. As for what else I have in mind, it will be enough for me to tell our friends within.Exit Nurse into the palace.

1 There may be an allusion here to the well-known words of Hes. WD 293-97, advising those who do not know what is good to take good advice as a second-best course.

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