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.
Certainly I permit you; and if you always addressed me in such a tone, you would not be difficult to listen to.
Then I will speak. You admit that you killed my father. What statement could be more shameful still than that,
whether you did it justly or not? But I will demonstrate to you that you did not justly kill him. No, the persuasion of that wicked man with whom you now sleep dragged you to it.Ask the huntress Artemis what wrong she punished when she stayed the frequent winds at Aulis;
or I will tell you, since we may not learn from her. My father, as I have heard, was once hunting in the grove of the goddess, when his footfall flushed a dappled and antlered stag; he shot it, and chanced to make a certain boast concerning its slaughter.
Angered by this, Leto’s daughter detained the Greeks so that in requital for the beast’s life my father should sacrifice his own daughter. So it was that she was sacrificed, since the fleet had no other release, neither homeward nor to Troy.
For that reason, under fierce constraint and with much resistance, at last he sacrificed her—but it was not for the sake of Menelaus.But suppose—for I will make your own plea—suppose that the motive of his deed was to benefit his brother. Should you have killed him because of that? Under what sort of law?
See that by laying down such a law for men, you do not lay down trouble and remorse for yourself. For, if we are to take blood for blood, you surely would be the first to die, if you were to meet with justice.But consider whether this pretext is any excuse at all.
For tell me, if you please, what crime it is that you requite by doing the most shameless deeds of all: sharing your bed with that blood-guilty one, with whom you first destroyed my father and now bear his children
while you have cast out the earlier born, the pious offspring of a pious marriage? How can I commend these deeds? Or will you claim that this, too, is recompense for your daughter? No, it is a shameful plea, if you so plead, for there is nothing noble in marrying an enemy for a daughter’s sake.
But no, I can hardly even admonish you, when your every cry is that I slander my mother. I think, rather, that you are no less a mistress to me than a mother; so lowly is the life that I live,
ever beset with miseries come from you and your consort. And your other child, the exile who scarcely escaped your hand, poor Orestes, wastes away his unhappy life. You have often accused me of rearing him to punish your crime,
and I would have done so, if I could, you may be sure. As far as he is concerned, you can denounce me to all as disloyal, if you like, or loud-mouthed, or impudent. For if my nature is familiar with such wrongdoings, I hardly bring disgrace upon your nature.
I see her breathing fury; but whether justice is with her, her concern for this I see no longer.
And what manner of concern should I use against her, who has abused her mother like this at her mature age? Do you not think
that she would go forward to any deed without shame?
Now be assured that I do feel shame for it, though I seem not to you. I know that my behavior is unsuited to my age and inappropriate. But then the enmity I get from you and your
behavior compel me with harsh necessity to do this; for reprehensible deeds are learned from reprehensible examples.
You shameless creature! Truly I and my speech and my deeds give you too much to talk about.
The words are yours, not mine; for yours
are the deeds, and they find their own expression.