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Clinging to the altar of the sea-goddess Thetis for sanctuary, Andromache delivers the play's prologue, in which she mourns her misfortune (the destruction of Troy, the deaths of her husband Hector and their child Astyanax, and her enslavement to Neoptolemos) and her persecution at the hands of Neoptolemos' new wife Hermione and her father Menelaus, King of Sparta. She reveals that Neoptolemos has left for the oracle at Delphi and that she has hidden the son she bore him (whose name is Molossos) for fear that Menelaus will try to kill him as well as her.
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Published by Sovereign Classic
First published in 2015
Copyright © 2015 Sovereign Classic
ANDROMACHEMAID OF ANDROMACHECHORUS OF PHTHIAN WOMENHERMIONE, daughter of MENELAUS and wife of NeoptolemusMENELAUS, King of SpartaMOLOSSUS, son of ANDROMACHE and NeoptolemusPELEUS, father of AchillesNURSE OF HERMIONEORESTES, son of AgamemnonMESSENGERTHETIS, the goddess, wife of PELEUS
Before the temple of THETIS in Thessaly. NDROMACHE, dressed as a suppliant, is clinging to the altar in front of the temple. The palace of Achilles is nearby.
O city of Thebes, glory of Asia, whence on a day I came to Priam’s princely home with many a rich and costly thing in my dower, affianced unto Hector to be the mother of his children, I Andromache, envied name in days of yore, but now of all women that have been or yet shall be the most unfortunate; for I have lived to see my husband Hector slain by Achilles, and the babe Astyanax, whom I bore my lord, hurled from the towering battlements, when the Hellenes sacked our Trojan home; and I myself am come to Hellas as a slave, though I was esteemed a daughter of a race most free, given to Neoptolemus that island-prince, and set apart for him as his special prize from the spoils of Troy. And here I dwell upon the boundaries of Phthia and Pharsalia’s town, where Thetis erst, the goddess of the sea, abode with Peleus apart from the world, avoiding the throng of men; wherefore the folk of Thessaly call it the sacred place of Thetis, in honour of the goddess’s marriage. Here dwells the son of Achilles and suffers Peleusstill to rule Pharsalia, not wishing to assume the sceptre while the old man lives. Within these halls have borne a boy to the son of Achilles, my master. Now aforetime for all my misery I ever had a hope to lead me on, that, if my child were safe, I might find some help and protection from my woes; but since my lord in scorn of his bondmaid›s charms hath wedded that Spartan Hermione, I am tormented by her most cruelly; for she saith that I by secret enchantment am making her barren and distasteful to her husband, and that I design to take her place in this house, ousting her the rightful mistress by force; whereas I at first submitted against my will and now have resigned my place; be almighty Zeus my witness that it was not of my own free will I became her rival! But I cannot convince her, and she longs to kill me, and her father Menelaus is an accomplice in this. E›en now is he within, arrived from Sparta for this very purpose, while I in terror am come to take up position here in the shrine of Thetis adjoining the house, if haply it may save me from death; for Peleus and his descendants hold it in honour as symbol of his marriage with the Nereid. My only son am I secretly conveying to a neighbour›s house in fear for his life. For his sire stands not by my side to lend his aid and cannot avail his child at all, being absent in the land of Delphi, where he is offering recompense to Loxias for the madness he committed, when on a day he went to Pytho and demanded of Phoebus satisfaction for his father›s death, if haply his prayer might avert those past sins and win for him the god›s goodwill hereafter.
The MAID OF ANDROMACHE enters.
Mistress mine, be sure I do not hesitate to call thee by that name, seeing that I thought it thy right in thine own house also, whenwe dwelt in Troy-land; as I was ever thy friend and thy husband’s while yet he was alive, so now have I come with strange tidings, in terror lest any of our masters learn hereof but still out of pity for thee; for Menelaus and his daughter are forming dire plots against thee, whereof thou must beware.
Ah! kind companion of my bondage, for such thou art to her, who, erst thy queen, is now sunk in misery; what are they doing? What new schemes are they devising in their eagerness to take away my wretched life?
Alas! poor lady, they intend to slay thy son, whom thou hast privily conveyed from out the house.
Ah me! Has she heard that my babe was put out of her reach? Who told her? Woe is me! how utterly undone!
I know not, but thus much of their schemes I heard myself; and Menelaus has left the house to fetch him.
Then am I lost; ah, my child! those vultures twain will take and slay thee; while he who is called thy father lingers still in Delphi.
True, for had he been here thou wouldst not have fared so hardly, am sure; but, as it is, thou art friendless.
Have no tidings come that Peleus may arrive?
He is too old to help thee if he came.
And yet I sent for him more than once.
Surely thou dost not suppose that any of thy messengers heed thee?
Why should they? Wilt thou then go for me?
How shall I explain my long absence from the house?
Thou art a woman; thou canst invent a hundred ways.
There is a risk, for Hermione keeps no careless guard.
Dost look to that? Thou art disowning thy friends in distress.
Not so; never taunt me with that. I will go, for of a truth a woman and a slave is not of much account, e’en if aught befall me.
The MAID withdraws.
Go then, while I will tell to heaven the lengthy tale of lamentation, mourning, and weeping, that has ever been my hard lot; for ‘tis woman’s way to delight in present misfortunes even to keeping them always on her tongue and lips. But I have many reasons, not merely one for tears,-my city’s fall, my Hector’s death, the hardness of the lot to which I am bound, since I fell on slavery’s evil days undeservedly. ‘Tis never right to call a son of man happy, till thou hast seen his end, to judge from the way he passes it how he will descend to that other world.
She begins to chant.
‘Twas no bride Paris took with him to the towers of Ilium, but curse to his bed when he brought Helen to her bower. For her sake, Troy, did eager warriors, sailing from Hellas in a thousand ships, capture and make thee a prey to fire and sword; and the son of sea-born Thetis mounted on his chariot dragged my husband Hector round the walls, ah woe is me! while I was hurried from my chamber to the beach, with slavery’s hateful pall upon me. And many tear I shed as I left my city, my bridal bower, and myhusband in the dust. Woe, woe is me! why should I prolong my life, to serve
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