It’s Trojan War times and king Agamemnon wants to get all his soldiers and sailors over to Troy, because if they weren’t there, then it might be The Athenian War. But they have one minor problem: there’s literally no wind in their sails.
Agamemnon realizes he must’ve angered the goddess Artemis, so logically he must sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia to appease her. The beginning of the play has him changing his mind. His brother Menelaus is angry about this (maybe because Helen of Troy is his wife – but she’s with Paris).
They argue. For the only time in history, they both win their arguments. Menelaus now wants to stop the war and spare his niece. Agamemnon now wants to sacrifice Iphigenia, convinced the army will kill his family if he doesn’t. By the way, in order to do this, dude sends a letter to his wife Clytemnestra asking her to bring Iphigenia home so she can marry d
ude that got dipped by his mama stud-warrier Achilles.
Needless to say, complications occur and at the end Clytemnestra is told by a messenger her daughter was replaced by a deer at the altar and everything is OK. This is generally considered not to be the original ending. It’s like if Darth Vader was Luke’s mother at the end of that one movie instead of father.
Facts about Euripides
- Born in the 480s BCE on the island of Salamis near Athens to a family of hereditary priests.
- He preferred a life of solitude. There are even rumors – mostly dismissed – that he lived isolated in a cave. Yet somehow he was married and had three sons.
- One of whom, creatively named Euripides, became a famous playwright.
- He wrote over 90 plays, 19 have survived.
- He debuted at the Dionysia competition in 455 BCE, not winning his first victory until 441 BCE. He won the contest four times.
- He fled Athens during the Peloponnesian War and lived in Macedonia.
- He was bitter that lesser-known playwrights were winning the competitions.
- He became more famous after his death and influenced Greek, Roman and a bunch of other playwrights
- Aristotle called him Greece’s most tragic poet.
If you wanna watch the play in Greek, here it is.
And now to the monologues!!!
Iphigenia: Had I the eloquence of Orpheus…
The first monologue has Iphigenia arguing with her folks. I took the text from here. Some recorded monologues have modified it a bit and I think this translation is in the public domain, so knock yourselves out!
IPHIGENIA Had I the eloquence of Orpheus, my father, to move the rocks by chanted spells to follow me, or to charm by speaking whom I would, I had resorted to it. But as it is, I’ll bring my tears-the only art I know; for that I might attempt. And about thy knees, in suppliant wise, I twine my limbs these limbs thy wife here bore. Destroy me not before my time, for sweet is to look upon the light, and force me not to visit scenes below. I was the first to call thee father, thou the first to call me child; the first was I to sit upon thy knee and give and take the fond caress. And this was what thou then wouldst say, “Shall I see thee, my child, living a happy prosperous life in a husband’s home one day, in a manner worthy of myself?” And I in my turn would ask, as I hung about thy beard, whereto I now am clinging, “How shall I see thee? Shall I be giving thee a glad reception in my halls, father, in thy old age, repaying all thy anxious care in rearing me? I remember all we said, ’tis thou who hast forgotten and now wouldst take my life. By Pelops, I entreat thee spare me, by thy father Atreus and my mother here, who suffers now a second time the pangs she felt before when bearing me! What have I to do with the marriage of Paris and Helen? why is his coming to prove my ruin, father? Look upon me; one glance, one kiss bestow, that this at least I may carry to my death as a memorial of thee, though thou heed not my pleading. (Holding up the babe to ORESTES) Feeble ally though thou art, brother, to thy loved ones, yet add thy tears to mine and entreat our father for thy sister’s life; even in babes there is a natural sense of ill. O father, see this speechless supplication made to thee; pity me; have mercy on my tender years! Yea, by thy beard we two fond hearts implore thy pity, the one a babe, a full-grown maid the other. By summing all my pleas in one, I will prevail in what I say. To gaze upon yon light is man’s most cherished gift; that life below is nothingness, and whoso longs for death is mad. Better live a life of woe than die a death of glory!
Agamemnon: O god, how can I find the words…
The second monologue is Agamemnon’s reaction to news that his daughter is in the city and the soldiers are spazzing out. This actor’s version seems to come from a more modern translation at this link…
Clytenmestra: Son of a goddess…
In Clytenmestra’s monologue, she’s asking for Achilles’ help against jerk-face Agamemnon. The monologue comes from this version.
Clytenmestra: Son of a goddess, I’m not immortal but I am not ashamed to clasp your knees. What good would pride do me now?
I would do anything to save my daughter.
Son of a goddess, save us in our despair.
Protect the maiden that was betrothed to you even though falsely.
I put a bridal garland on her head for you, I brought her here to be married and now I am leading her to her death.
You will be shamed if you do not protect her.
Even though you were never married to her you were called her husband.
I implore you by your beard, by your right hand, by your own mother.
Achilles, it was your name that has brought my undoing now you must clear it. There is no altar where I can take refuge except your knees.
No friend to help me here.
You have heard of Agamemnon savagery
I am a woman ii a camp of sailors who are undisciplined and ready for crime
If you can bring yourself to stretch out your hand we are saved, if not our life is ended.
Iphigeneia: Was ik uw zoon…
So this is a trip. Apparently there is a Flemish/Dutch-language play based on Iphigenia but according to Wikipedia it is “a free adaptation of Euripides, Aeschylus, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Curzio Malaparte)”
The entire script is here.
There’s a nice monologue in it. Iphigenia/Iphigenia says:
Was ik uw zoon, ik stond nu aan de kust te wachten
Op een genadig briesje om van wal te steken,
Op zoek naar eer en roem, de kans om ons te wreken.
Wilt u, omdat ik vrouw ben, mij die kans ontnemen?
En met mij iedereen die ons juist wil verdedigen?
U hebt mij niet voor u alleen gebaard, ik ben
Niet wie ik ben, ik ben bezit van onze helden.
Ik krijg Achilles niet? Dan ben ik van hen allen.
Die duizenden, die dapperen, die lijf en leden
Riskeren voor de grond die velen ofwel niet,
Of slechts beloond met letsels, weer zullen betreden —
Maar wel bekroond met eer, en met de stelligheid
Dat onze vrijheid voor altijd is gevrijwaard.
Moet ik dat met mijn ene leven dan beletten?
If I were your son, I would now be waiting on the coast
On a merciful breeze to get started,
In search of honor and fame, the opportunity to avenge us.
Do you want to take that opportunity away from me because I am a woman?
And with me everyone who wants to defend us?
You did not give birth to me alone, I am Not who I am,
I am the possession of our heroes. I’m not getting Achilles?
Then I am all of them. Those thousands, those brave, those bodies and members
Risking for the land that many either do not,
Or just rewarded with injuries, will enter again –
But crowned with honor, and with certainty
That our freedom is protected forever.
Should I prevent that with my one life?
I know this monologue isn’t from Euripides’ play, but I can dig it. Let’s take a look.
Well that was wild…and it gives me an excuse to play one of my favorite Dutch pop songs. This is a Dutch cover of Angel of the Morning. In Dutch it’s Vlinder van een zomer (Butterfly of the Summer) and the lyrics are about 1,000 times more depressing…
Can’t wait till Thursday when we profile another playwright and next Monday when we have more monologues!!!