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- The Iphigenia in Tauris - 2/17 -

Clytemnestra, who had murdered Agamemnon.

PYLADES, Prince of Phocis, friend to Orestes.

THOAS, King of Tauris, a savage country beyond the Symplegades.



CHORUS of Captive Greek Women, handmaids to Iphigenia.


The play was first performed between the years 414 and 412 B.C.


[The Scene shows a great and barbaric Temple on a desolate sea-coast. An altar is visible stained with blood. There are spoils of slain men hanging from the roof. IPHIGENIA, in the dress of a Priestess, comes out from the Temple.]


Child of the man of torment and of pride Tantalid Pelops bore a royal bride On flying steeds from Pisa. Thence did spring Atreus: from Atreus, linked king with king, Menelaus, Agamemnon. His am I And Clytemnestra's child: whom cruelly At Aulis, where the strait of shifting blue Frets with quick winds, for Helen's sake he slew, Or thinks to have slain; such sacrifice he swore To Artemis on that deep-bosomed shore. For there Lord Agamemnon, hot with joy To win for Greece the crown of conquered Troy, For Menelaus' sake through all distress Pursuing Helen's vanished loveliness, Gathered his thousand ships from every coast Of Hellas: when there fell on that great host Storms and despair of sailing. Then the King Sought signs of fire, and Calchas answering

Spake thus: "O Lord of Hellas, from this shore No ship of thine may move for evermore, Till Artemis receive in gift of blood Thy child, Iphigenia. Long hath stood Thy vow, to pay to Her that bringeth light Whatever birth most fair by day or night The year should bring. That year thy queen did bear A child--whom here I name of all most fair. See that she die."

So from my mother's side By lies Odysseus won me, to be bride In Aulis to Achilles. When I came, They took me and above the altar flame Held, and the sword was swinging to the gash, When, lo, out of their vision in a flash Artemis rapt me, leaving in my place A deer to bleed; and on through a great space Of shining sky upbore and in this town Of Tauris the Unfriended set me down; Where o'er a savage people savagely King Thoas rules. This is her sanctuary And I her priestess. Therefore, by the rite Of worship here, wherein she hath delight-- Though fair in naught but name. ... But Artemis Is near; I speak no further. Mine it is To consecrate and touch the victim's hair; Doings of blood unspoken are the care Of others, where her inmost chambers lie. Ah me! But what dark dreams, thou clear and morning sky, I have to tell thee, can that bring them ease! Meseemed in sleep, far over distant seas, I lay in Argos, and about me slept My maids: and, lo, the level earth was swept With quaking like the sea. Out, out I fled, And, turning, saw the cornice overhead Reel, and the beams and mighty door-trees down In blocks of ruin round me overthrown. One single oaken pillar, so I dreamed, Stood of my father's house; and hair, meseemed, Waved from its head all brown: and suddenly A human voice it had, and spoke. And I, Fulfilling this mine office, built on blood Of unknown men, before that pillar stood, And washed him clean for death, mine eyes astream With weeping.

And this way I read my dream. Orestes is no more: on him did fall My cleansing drops.--The pillar of the hall Must be the man first-born; and they, on whom My cleansing falls, their way is to the tomb. Therefore to my dead brother will I pour Such sacrifice, I on this bitter shore And he beyond great seas, as still I may, With all those maids whom Thoas bore away In war from Greece and gave me for mine own. But wherefore come they not? I must be gone And wait them in the temple, where I dwell.

[She goes into the Temple.]

VOICE. Did some one cross the pathway? Guard thee well.

ANOTHER VOICE. I am watching. Every side I turn mine eye.

(Enter ORESTES and PYLADES. Their dress shows fhey are travellers ORESTES is shaken and distraught.)

ORESTES. How, brother? And is this the sanctuary At last, for which we sailed from Argolis?

PYLADES. For sure, Orestes. Seest thou not it is?

ORESTES. The altar, too, where Hellene blood is shed.

PYLADES. How like long hair those blood-stains, tawny red!

ORESTES. And spoils of slaughtered men--there by the thatch.

PYLADES. Aye, first-fruits of the harvest, when they catch Their strangers!--'Tis a place to search with care

[He searches, while ORESTES sits.]

ORESTES. O God, where hast thou brought me? What new snare Is this?--I slew my mother; I avenged My father at thy bidding; I have ranged A homeless world, hunted by shapes of pain, And circling trod in mine own steps again. At last I stood once more before thy throne And cried thee question, what thing should be done To end these miseries, wherein I reel Through Hellas, mad, lashed like a burning wheel; And thou didst bid me seek ... what land but this Of Tauri, where thy sister Artemis Her altar hath, and seize on that divine Image which fell, men say, into this shrine From heaven. This I must seize by chance or plot Or peril--clearer word was uttered not-- And bear to Attic earth. If this be done, I should have peace from all my malison.

Lo, I have done thy will. I have pierced the seas Where no Greek man may live.--Ho, Pylades, Sole sharer of my quest: hast seen it all? What can we next? Thou seest this circuit wall Enormous? Must we climb the public stair, With all men watching? Shall we seek somewhere Some lock to pick, some secret bolt or bar-- Of all which we know nothing? Where we are, If one man mark us, if they see us prize The gate, or think of entrance anywise, 'Tis death.--We still have time to fly for home: Back to the galley quick, ere worse things come!

PYLADES. To fly we dare not, brother. 'Twere a thing Not of our custom; and ill work, to bring God's word to such reviling.--Let us leave The temple now, and gather in some cave Where glooms the cool sea ripple. But not where The ship lies; men might chance to see her there And tell some chief; then certain were our doom. But when the fringed eye of Night be come Then we must dare, by all ways foul or fine, To thieve that wondrous Image from its shrine. Ah, see; far up, between each pair of beams A hollow one might creep through! Danger gleams Like sunshine to a brave man's eyes, and fear Of what may be is no help anywhere.

ORESTES. Aye; we have never braved these leagues of way To falter at the end. See, I obey Thy words. They are ever wise. Let us go mark Some cavern, to lie hid till fall of dark. God will not suffer that bad things be stirred To mar us now, and bring to naught the word Himself hath spoke. Aye, and no peril brings

The Iphigenia in Tauris - 2/17

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