ION

A monologue from the play by Euripides


  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. ii. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1922.
  • OLD MAN: My honoured mistress (for with you I grieve),
    We are betrayed by your perfidious lord,
    Wronged by premeditated fraud, and cast
    Forth from Erectheus' house: I speak not this
    Through hatred to your husband, but because
    I love you more than him, who wedding you
    When to the city he a stranger came,
    Your palace too and whole inheritance
    With you receiving, on some other dame
    Appears to have begotten sons by stealth:
    How 'twas by stealth I'll prove; when he perceived
    That you were barren, he was not content
    To share the self-same fate, but on a slave,
    Whom he embraced in secrecy, begot
    And to some Delphic matron gave this son,
    That in a foreign realm he might be nurtured:
    He, to the temple of Apollo sent,
    Is here trained up in secret. But the sire,
    Soon as he knew the stripling had attained
    The years of manhood, hath on you prevailed
    Hither to come, because you had no child.
    The god indeed hath spoken truth; not so
    Xuthus, who from his infancy hath reared
    The boy, and forged these tales; that, if detected,
    His crimes might be imputed to the god:
    But coming hither, and by length of time
    Hoping to screen the fraud, he now resolves
    He will transfer the sceptre to this stripling,
    For whom at length he forges the new name
    Of Ion, to denote that he went forth
    And met him. Ah, how do I ever hate
    Those wicked men who plot unrighteous deeds,
    And then adorn them with delusive art!
    Rather would I possess a virtuous friend
    Of mean abilities, than one more wise
    And profligate. Of all disastrous fates
    Yours is the worst, who to your house admit
    Its future lord, whose mother is unknown,
    A youth selected from th' ignoble crowd,
    The base-born issue of some female slave.
    For this had only been a single ill
    Had he persuaded you, since you are childless,
    T' adopt, and in your place lodged the son
    Of some illustrious dame: but if to you
    This scheme had been disgustful, from the kindred
    Of ├ćolus his sire should he have sought
    Another consort. Hence is it incumbent
    On you to execute some great revenge
    Worthy of woman: with the lifted sword,
    Or by some stratagem or deadly poison,
    Your husband and his offspring to dispatch
    Ere you by them are murdered: you will lose
    Your life if you delay, for when two foes
    Meet in one house some mischief must befall,
    Or this or that. I therefore will with you
    Partake the danger, and with you conspire
    To slay that stripling, entering the abode
    Where for the sumptuous banquet he is making
    Th' accustomed preparation. While I view
    The sun, and e'en in death, I will repay
    The bounty of those lords who nurtured me.
    For there is one thing only which confers
    Disgrace on slaves--the name; in all beside
    No virtuous slave to freeborn spirit yields.

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