Electra

Sophocles

Sophocles, creator; Sophocles the plays and fragments with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose Part 6 The Electra; Jebb, Richard Claverhouse, Sir, 1841-1905, editor, translator. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1894.

  1. I have been forced to it, forced by a terrible compulsion. I know my own passion; it does not escape me; but, under such terrible compulsion, I will not restrain these disastrous cries of frenzy,
  2. so long as life is in me. Who indeed, my noble friends, who that keeps what is appropriate in mind, would think any word of comfort right for my ears? Let me be, let me be, my comforters!
  3. For these ills will be reckoned with those which have no cure; I will never know a respite from my pains, or the sum of this wailing.
Chorus
  1. It is nevertheless with goodwill, like a true-hearted mother,
  2. that I dissuade you from begetting misery upon miseries.
Electra
  1. But what limit has nature begot for my affliction? Tell me, how can it be right to neglect the dead? Has such a seed been sown in any mortal? May I never have such men’s esteem;
  2. never, when I am close to prosperity, may I dwell in ease, hindering the wings of shrill lamentation so as to deprive my begetter of his honors!For if the dead is to lie a wretch, merely dust and nothingness,
  3. while his slayers do not pay back to him blood for blood in penalty,
  4. then shame and reverence will vanish from all humanity.
Chorus
  1. I came, my child, mindful of your interests no less than my own. But if what I say is wrong, let your way prevail; for united we will follow you.
Electra
  1. I am ashamed, my friends, if you judge me
  2. too intolerant with my many laments; but, since rough compulsion forces me to act this way, forgive me. How indeed could any woman of noble nature not act, when she sees her father’s sufferings as I see them day and night continually,
  3. and flourishing rather than fading? First, everything to do with the mother who bore me has become most hateful towards me; next, in my own home I live with my father’s murderers; they rule over me and from them
  4. equally I either have or do without.And then think what manner of days I pass, when I see Aegisthus sitting on my father’s throne; when I look on him wearing the very robes which my father wore and
  5. pouring libations at the hearth where he killed him; and when I see the chief outrage of them all, the murderer in my father’s bed at my wretched mother’s side, if I must call her mother, even though she shares her bed with that man.
  6. So hardened is she that she joins with this polluter, fearing no Erinys. No, as if laughing at her deeds, having found the day on which in the past she treacherously killed my father,
  7. she celebrates it with dance and song, and in monthly rites she sacrifices sheep to the gods who worked her deliverance.
  1. But I, as I joylessly witness it, cry out, waste away in the house and bewail the unholy feast named after my father,
  2. in solitary weeping. For I cannot even grieve to the full extent which would please my heart, since this lady, who is in fact no lady, loudly reproaches me with such shameless taunts as these: Wicked and hateful girl, have you alone lost your father,and is no one else in the world grieving? May your death be harsh, and may the gods below never free you from your current mourning. Just so she abuses me, except when she gets word that Orestes is coming. Then, infuriated,
  3. she comes up to me and cries;—Have you not brought this upon me? Is this not your doing, since you stole Orestes from my hands and secretly sent him away? Yes—but rest assured that you will be justly punished. Like this she barks, and in agreement