Before the royal palace at Argos. It is the sixth day after the murder of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. Electra is discovered alone. Orestes lies sleeping on a couch in the background.


There is nothing so terrible to describe, or suffering, or heaven-sent affliction, that human nature may not have to bear the burden of it. The blessed Tantalus—and I am not now taunting him with his misfortunes— [5] Tantalus, the reputed son of Zeus, flies in the air, quailing at the rock which looms above his head; paying this penalty, they say, for the shameful weakness he displayed in failing to keep a bridle on his lips, when admitted by gods, though he was a man, [10] to share the honors of their feasts like one of them. He begot Pelops, the father of Atreus, for whom the goddess, when she had carded her wool, spun a web of strife—to make war with his own brother Thyestes. But why need I retrace that hideous tale? [15] Well, Atreus slew Thyestes' children and feasted him on them. Atreus, now; I pass over intermediate events; from Atreus and Aerope of Crete were born the famous Agamemnon, if he really was famous, and Menelaus. Now Menelaus married Helen, [20] the gods' abhorrence; while lord Agamemnon married Clytemnestra, notorious in Hellas; and we three daughters were born: Chrysothemis, Iphigenia, and myself, Electra; also a son Orestes; all from that one accursed mother, [25] who slew her husband, after snaring him in an inextricable robe. Her reason a maiden's lips may not declare, and so I leave it unclear for the world to guess at. What need for me to charge Phoebus with wrong-doing? Though he persuaded Orestes [30] to slay his own mother, a deed that few approved. Still it was his obedience to the god that made him kill her; I had a share in the murder, in so far as a woman could, [and Pylades, who helped us to bring it about.]

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    • William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Chapter V
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