Thursday, June 30, 2011

Afternoon in Eprius

Orestes murdering Clytaemnestra

In a previous posting I posted a part of a play I was writing concerning Andromache former wife of Hector and now 15 years after the fall of Troy Queen of Eprius. In that part I gave queen Andromache a long soliloquy has a prologue to the play. In this prologue Andromache gave the story of how she became Queen of Eprius and how a crisis is threatening her kingdom in the form of a Greek attack. In the prologue Andromache mentions that Orestes and Eleckra, the Son and daughter of Agamemnon of Mycenae wish to talk with her concerning this threat. Orestes and Eleckra father Agamemnon had been murdered by Clytaemnestra mother of Orestes and Eleckra who avenged their father by killing their mother. Both of them had been driven into exile as matricides. Andromache has reluctantly decided to see them. However a unforeseen guest has arrived in the form of Chrysothemis sister of Elecra and Orestes and hated by them for refusing to help in avenging their father.

In this scene it is early afternoon and Orestes, Electra are trying to justify their act of vengeance and antipathy towards their sister to the Queen Andromache. Chrysothemis is not interested in justifying her behavior, she sees her siblings as blinded by hate and delusion and utterly oblivious to actual justice.

Orestes and Eleckra see their dead father has a hero and cannot tolerate the truth about him, further they see their mother has the reason for their suffering they have and still are enduring. They see their act of revenge as justice. Their mother they see as unnatural, un-womanly and evil and thus deserving of death.

Chrysothemis sees revenge as poisonous and dangerous. She has no illusions about her father or for that matter her mother. She sees ambition as a corrupter of men's nature and sees her father as one so corrupted. Honour and nobility she sees as high ideals easily corrupted and perverted. Her mother she sees has someone corrupted by suffering and rage. Chrysothemis believes that Agamemnon's deeds against their mother Clytaemnestra and corrupted her the way ambition corrupted Agamemnon. She is also infuriated to no end by the double standard applied to Agamemnon's sexual behavior as against their mother's.

This fragment begins with Chrysothemis finally giving her opinions, after hearing Orestes' and Electra's tirade.
Chrysothemis: Shall I list brother! sister! The tainted, tattered history that is the shroud of the house of Atreus. For like a shroud it covers putrefaction and death.

Shall I list what you have forgotten in your joint history, brother, sister of our mother.

You expose, the both of you long and hard about her “randyness” her “immodesty” her desire to “rub up against” other men. You both go long and hard about a wife’s duty to her husband of modesty, faithfulness and devotion. You writhe in ecstasy about the greatness of our father and ignoble way he died at the hands of a “whore”, and “immodest” women.

Come! Come! Let us be honest and forthright what bothers you is that mother was getting served by another man and not father.

Electra: Such filth from the protector and excuser of a whore!

Orestes: Are the most sacred vows of marriage to reduce to such a bestial level!?

Chr: Oh lets be serious how many women / girls did father enter, how many bastard children did his entrances produce?. 20? 30?

El: You are not my sister!

Or: And I not your brother!

Chr: (To Electra) And at the time of father’s murder until after you so effectively with brother murdered mother were you not a virgin longing for entrances; enraged and jealous of what mother was getting and you were not?

El: (scream of rage) ARGHHHHHHHHH.

How can you say such filth!

Or: Our father deserves respect not this spew of vile vomit.
Chr: So what I say is in fact true or you would dispute it. As for filth after what you said about mother …
Or: How can you so disparage our noble, illustrious father.

El: You would not help us avenge his murder. Coward!

Chr: Really in front of Queen Andromache, widow of Hector you dare call our father noble. Illustrious!!

Go ahead ask the Queen about our father’s noble deeds at Troy!

Shall Andromache begin with the sack of Ilium? The profane sacking, burning of the temples. The rape of Cassandra, consecrated to the god Apollo, upon Apollo’s own alter, and turning her into his concubine by violence and threat. Or how about aged Priam killed while clutching Zeus the protector’s alter, upon the order of our “noble” father.

Shall I list our father’s involvement in the murder of Andromache’s son Asytranx; of his cry of “kill him! kill him!”, when even Odysseus and Polyneaus hesitated.

Our father a man polluted with hubris, and blood.

But the Queen has said little during your outpouring of vile hatred.

She honours guests better than you honour hosts by your mocking of her by celebrating the man who helped blight her life, and destroy those dear to her.

Stop insulting Andromache the queen by defending such a man.

You are silent now.

Come defend our beloved father.

Excuse these horrors.

Justify the boy’s murder to the Queen his mother!!

El: Or: (together) How could you. Hateful unnatural bitch!!!

Chr: Me “unnatural”!, coming from two matricides. (a long loud laugh)HAHAHAHAHa.

Both of you, polluted with the blood of your mother, have the gall before Gods and Men to call me “unnatural”.

I hope the gods are listening and judge accordingly.

In your list dear brother and sister of our mother’s crimes you slighted Iphigeneia’s death has a mere pretext for mother’s anger. The real reason being her insatiable lust for male flesh.

El: Our sister’s sacrifice was necessary it would have brought intolerable dishonour to father’s reputation if the expedition had not gone forth from Aulis.

Or: Would you have our father disgrace himself in front of his fellow Kings and great men.

Chr: Obviously not if the price was only the treacherous murder of his daughter lured along with mother, to Aulis under a false promise of marriage. But then the fact that neither of you remember Iphigeneia no doubt makes it so much easier to demand that others accept her murder without rancor. When you have had to make a similar sacrifice you may judge mother’s reaction as extreme until then shut up.

Or: unnatural Witch.

El: Refuse eating bitch.

Chr: Still name calling. But still demanding that mother accept palatable wrong without rancor; indeed with approval. Then why did you not accept mother’s murder of father. After all you demand that mother accept the murder of her child with quiet repose.

Or: You call it murder it was a necessary sacrifice to save the expedition to Troy.

Chr: A lovely euphemism that is a lie. If it was noble why the lie to lure her to Aulis?

El: Without that the expedition to Troy would have failed before it began to the dishonour of all the Greeks?
Chr: Are you implying that the expedition to Troy was honourable?! May I remind you the person enthroned before you might have some different ideas about that!

But then you both brother and sister have always managed to irritate your hosts.

Or: Your hatred of father is so clear how can you insult such a noble man.

El: You champion that whore that was our mother.

Chr: Still not getting enough I see sister dear!


Chr: Father noble!? Lets see shall I recount how he became mother’s husband?

Yes I shall. Let us see his nobility in action. Father nobly murdered Boter, mother’s husband by base treachery. Then he took mother’s child, our brother, from her breast and dashed his brains out most nobly upon the ground in front of the child’s mother. Then he took her by force and married her by force. No doubt all this was nobly done. After all of this many years later mother found the murder of Iphigeneia a further intolerable burden and you are shocked by her behavior.

El: Hateful dog.

Or: Unnatural daughter.

Chr: Insulted yet again for speaking the truth. If it was right for you to revenge father’s murder on mother tell me how it was wrong for her to avenge her children’s and husband’s murder on their murderer?

Or: / El: She was his wife!!

Chr: So being a wife allows any manner of inequity. Such a pity. If only most husbands knew that being a husband justified any manner of evil to a wife.

El: If right was so on her side why did you not protect her when we came for her?

Chr: I would have except for one thing.

Or: That you are a coward along with being unnatural.
Chr: Very amusing. But it is clear and obvious why.

El: What could it possibly be dear sister!!

And: Cassandra and her children.

El: Or: What!

Chr: The queen your host whom you have been insulting this long while. Has mentioned the crime that damned mother.

Did it not occur to you both that the only reason the gods allowed you to avenge the murder of a duplicitous, murderous, treacherous, sacrilegious piece of offal was because in the process of avenging her wrongs mother murdered mad suffering prophetic Cassandra and her two children.

Mother in her hate of father, remembering the murder of her husband and children, avenged herself on the innocent Cassandra unwilling mistress of father and father’s two children by her. In this mother committed a great wrong righted by her death.

Andromache: Madame your logic is impeccable but where is mercy? it would leave us blind.
Among the sources I used for this fragment are:

Graves, Robert, The Greek Myths, v. 1 & 2, Penguin Books, London, 1955.

Gantz, Timothy, Early Greek Myth, v 1 & 2, The John Hopkins University Press,London, 1993.

Pierre Cloutier

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