’Fore God, if ’tis your pleasure thus to speak and do, ye soon shall hear! Ho there, my trusty pikes, advance! There cometh business for the spear.
[A body of Spearmen, from concealment outside, rush in and dominate the stage.]
Ho there, ye Men of Argos! Up! Stand and be ready, sword from sheath!
By Heaven, I also, sword in hand, am ready, and refuse not death!
Come, find it! We accept thy word. Thou offerest what we hunger for.
[Some of the Elders draw swords with the Leader; others have collapsed with weakness. Men from AGAMEMNON’S retinue have gathered and prepare for battle, when, before they can come to blows, CLYTEMNESTRA breaks from her exhausted silence.
Nay, peace, O best-beloved! Peace! And let us work no evil more. Surely the reaping of the past is a full harvest, and not good, And wounds enough are everywhere.—Let us not stain ourselves with blood. Ye reverend Elders, go your ways, to his own dwelling every one, Ere things be wrought for which men suffer.—What we did must needs be done. And if of all these strifes we now may have no more, oh, I will kneel And praise God, bruised though we be beneath the Daemon’s heavy heel. This is the word a woman speaks, to hear if any man will deign.
And who are these to burst in flower of folly thus
of tongue and brain,
And utter words of empty sound and perilous, tempting Fortune’s frown,
And leave wise counsel all forgot, and gird at him who wears the crown?
To cringe before a caitiff’s crown, it squareth not with Argive ways.
(sheathing his sword and turning from them).
Bah, I will be a hand of wrath to fall on thee in after days.
Not so, if God in after days shall guide Orestes home again!
I know how men in exile feed on dreams...and know such food is vain.
Go forward and wax fat! Defile the right for this thy little hour!
I spare thee now. Know well for all this folly thou shalt feel my power.
Aye, vaunt thy greatness, as a bird beside his mate doth vaunt and swell.
Vain hounds are baying round thee; oh, forget them!
Thou and I shall dwell
As Kings in this great House. We two at last will order all things well.
[The Elders and the remains of AGAMEMNON’S retinue retire sullenly, leaving the Spearmen in possession. CLYTEMNESTRA and AIGISTHOS turn and enter the Palace.]
The chief characters in the play belong to one family, as is shown by the two genealogies:—