HECUBA

A monologue from the play by Euripides


  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. i. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1920.
  • HECUBA: Not one
    Exists, whose sorrows equal mine, unless
    You of Calamity herself would speak.
    Yet hear the motive why I clasp your knees.
    If I appear to merit what I suffer,
    I must be patient; but if not, avenge
    My wrongs upon the man who 'gainst his guest
    Such treachery could commit, who, nor the gods
    Of Erebus beneath, nor those who rule
    In Heaven above regarding, this vile deed
    Did perpetrate, e'en he with whom I oft
    Partook the feast, on whom I showered each bounty,
    Esteeming him the first of all my friends;
    Yet, when at Ilion's palace with respect
    He had been treated, a deliberate scheme
    Of murder forming, he destroyed my son,
    On whom he deigned not to bestow a tomb,
    But threw his corse into the briny deep.
    Though I indeed am feeble, and a slave,
    Yet mighty are the gods, and by their law
    The world is ruled: for by that law we learn
    That there are gods, and can mark out the bounds
    Of justice and injustice; if such law
    To you transmitted, be infringed, if they
    Who kill their guests, or dare with impious hand
    To violate the altars of the gods,
    Unpunished 'scape, no equity is left
    Among mankind. Deeming such base connivance
    Unworthy of yourself, revere my woes,
    Have pity on me, like a painter take
    Your stand to view me, and observe the number
    Of my afflictions; once was I a queen,
    But now am I a slave; in many a son
    I once was rich, but now am I both old
    And of my children reft, without a city,
    Forlorn, and of all mortals the most wretched.
    That band of my heroic sons is now no more,
    Myself a captive, am led forth to tasks
    Unseemly, and e'en now these eyes behold
    The air obscured by Ilion's rising smoke.
    It might be vain perhaps, were I to found
    A claim to your assistance on your love:
    Yet must I speak: my daughter, who in Troy
    Was called Cassandra, the prophetic dame,
    Partakes your bed; and how those rapturous nights
    Will you acknowledge, or to her show
    Your gratitude for all the fond embraces
    Which she bestows, O king, or in her stead
    To me her mother? In the soul of man
    Th' endearments of the night, by darkness veiled,
    Create the strongest interest. To my tale
    Now listen: do you see that breathless corse?
    Each act of kindness which to him is shown,
    Upon a kinsman of the dame you love
    Will be conferred. But, in one point my speech
    Is yet deficient. By the wondrous arts
    Of D├Ždalus, or some benignant god,
    Could I give voice to each arm, hand, and hair,
    And each extremest joint, they round your knees
    Should cling together, and together weep,
    At once combining with a thousand tongues.
    O monarch, O thou light of Greece, comply,
    And stretch forth that avenging arm to aid
    An aged woman, though she be a thing
    Of nought, O succour: for the good man's duty
    Is to obey the dread behests of justice,
    And ever punish those who act amiss.

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