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.
  • HELEN: At thy knees I fall,
    O virgin, as a suppliant, and here take
    My miserable seat, both for myself,
    And him whom, scarce restored to me, I see
    Now on the verge of death. Forbear t' inform
    Thy brother, that to these fond arms my lord
    Again is come. O save him, I implore thee;
    Nor gratify thy brother, by betraying
    The feelings of humanity, to purchase
    A wicked and unjust applause: for Jove
    Detests all violence, he bids us use
    What we possess, but not increase our stores
    By rapine. It is better to be poor,
    Than gain unrighteous wealth. For all mankind
    Enjoy these common blessings, Air and Earth;
    Nor ought we our own house with gold to fill,
    By keeping fraudfully another's right,
    Or seizing it by violence. For Hermes,
    Commissioned by the blest immortal powers,
    Hath, at my cost, consigned me to thy sire,
    To keep me for this husband, who is here
    And claims me back again: but by what means
    Can he receive me after he is dead?
    Or how can the Egyptian king restore me
    A living consort to my breathless lord?
    Consider therefore, both the will of Heaven
    And that of thy great father. Would the god,
    Would the deceased, surrender up or keep
    Another's right? I deem they would restore it.
    Hence to thy foolish brother shouldst not thou
    Pay more respect than to thy virtuous sire.
    And sure if thou, a prophetess, who utter'st
    Th' oracular responses of the gods,
    Break'st through thy father's justice, to comply
    With an unrighteous brother: it were base
    In thee to understand each mystic truth
    Revealed by the immortal powers, the things
    That are, and those that are not; yet o'erlook
    The rules of justice. But O stoop to save
    Me, miserable me, from all those ills
    In which I am involved; this great exertion
    Of thy benignant aid, my fortunes claim.
    For there is no man who abhors not Helen;
    'Tis rumored through all Greece that I betrayed
    My husband, and abode beneath the roofs
    Of wealthy Phrygia. But to Greece once more
    Should I return and to the Spartan realm;
    When they are told, and see, how to the arts
    Of these contending goddesses they owe
    Their ruin; but that I have to my friends
    Been ever true, they to the rank I held
    'Midst chaste and virtuous matrons, will restore me:
    My daughter too, whom no man dares to wed,
    From me her bridal portion shall receive;
    And I, no longer doomed to lead the life
    Of an unhappy vagrant, shall enjoy
    The treasures that our palaces contain.
    Had Menelaus died, and been consumed
    In the funeral pyre, I should have wept
    For him far distant in a foreign realm;
    But now shall I for ever be bereft
    Of him who lives, and seem to have escaped
    From every danger. Virgin, act not thus;
    To thee I kneel a suppliant; O confer
    On me this boon, and emulate the justice
    Of your great sire. For fair renown attends
    The children, from a virtuous father sprung,
    Who equal their hereditary worth.