This translation by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University College (now Vancouver Island University) may be distributed in printed or electronic form (in whole or in part) to students without permission and without charge. Performing artists are permitted to use the text for their productions and to edit it to suit their purposes (again, without permission and without charge). However, commercial publication in any form is prohibited except with the written permission of the translator. For further details see Copyright. A printed paperback book of this translation is available from Richer Resources Publications. If you would like a Word file of the English text, please contact Ian Johnston (there is no charge for the file).


This translation was first posted on the internet and published by Richer Resources Publications in 2008. The text was revised slightly in 2015.


Note that in the following translation the numbers without brackets refer to the English text, while the numbers in square brackets refer to the Greek text. In numbering the lines, the translator has normally counted a short indented line with the short line immediately above. The explanatory endnotes have been provided by the translator.




Jason was born the son of Aeson, king of Iolcus, a city in Thessaly (on the eastern coast of mainland Greece). When his father lost the kingship, Jason was secretly sent away and put into the care of the famous centaur Chiron, who raised him. As a young man Jason returned to Iolcus. The king, Pelias, who had deprived Aeson of the kingship, persuaded Jason to set off on an expedition to capture the Golden Fleece, the pure gold skin of a ram, which was in a sacred grove in Colchis (a barbarian region to the east of the Euxine sea, the Greek name for the Black Sea), where it was guarded by a dragon.


Jason put together a band of adventurers called the Argonauts. They took their name from the ship they sailed in, the Argo. The heroes had a number of adventures on the way to Colchis. When they arrived in Colchis, king Aeetes set Jason a number of tasks, including yoking two fire-breathing bulls, ploughing a field with them, sowing the field with the teeth of a dragon, and then fighting the warriors who arose from the sown teeth. He also had to confront the dragon guarding the fleece.


To complete these tasks Jason enlisted the help of Medea, daughter of king Aeetes. She fell in love with Jason and used her magic to help him complete the tasks set by Aeetes and to steal the Golden Fleece. She then escaped with Jason, killing her brother in order to scatter his body on the sea, so that Aeetes would have to hold up his pursuit. Jason and Medea returned to Iolcus, where Medea's magic restored Jason's father, Aeson, to youthful health. Medea also tricked the daughters of king Pelias into killing their father by giving them ineffective medications and persuading them to try a course of treatment which was fatal. Because of their culpability in the death of Pelias, Jason and Medea were forced to leave Iolchus. They moved to Corinth, where, after a few years, Jason decided to leave Medea and marry the daughter of Creon, king of Corinth. The story of the play begins immediately after Jasonís marriage to his new bride.




Nurse: a servant of Medea
Tutor: a servant assigned to Jasonís children
Medea: wife of Jason
Chorus: a group of Corinthian women
Creon: king of Corinth
Jason: husband of Medea
Aegeus: king of Athens
Messenger: a servant of Jasonís
Children: Medeaís and Jasonís two young sons
Attendants on Creon and Jason.


[Outside the home of Jason and Medea in Corinth. The NURSE, a slave who serves Medea, is standing by herself.]


††††† O how I wish that ship the Argo
††††† had never sailed off to the land of Colchis,
††††† past the Symplegades, those dark dancing rocks
††††† which smash boats sailing through the Hellespont.
††††† I wish theyíd never chopped the pine trees down
††††† in those mountain forests up on Pelion,
††††† to make oars for the hands of those great men
††††† who set off, on Peliasí orders,
††††† to fetch the golden fleece.
2 Then my mistress,
††††† Medea, never would have sailed away††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to the towers in the land of Iolcus,
††††† her heart passionately in love with Jason.
††††† Sheíd never have convinced those women,
††††† Peliasí daughters, to kill their father,
††††† and sheíd not have come to live in Corinth†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† with her husband and her childrenówell loved
††††† in exile by those whose land sheíd moved to.
††††† She gave all sorts of help to Jason.
†† †††Thatís when life is most secure and safe,
††††† when woman and her husband stand as one.††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† But that marriage changed. Now theyíre enemies.
††††† Their fine loveís grown sick, diseased, for Jason,
††††† leaving his own children and my mistress,
††††† is lying on a royal wedding bed.
††††† Heís married the daughter of king Creon,
††††† who rules this country. As for Medea,
††††† that poor lady, in her disgrace, cries out,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† repeating his oaths, recalling the great trust
††††† in that right hand with which he pledged his love.
††††† She keeps calling to the gods to witness†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† how Jason is repaying her favours.
††††† She just lies there. She wonít eatóher body
††††† she surrenders to the pain, wasting away,
††††† always in tears, ever since she found out
††††† how her husband has dishonoured her.
††††† Sheís not lifted her eyes up from the ground,
††††† or raised her head. She listens to advice,
††††† even from friends, as if she were a stone,
††††† or the ocean swell, except now and then
††††† she twists that white neck of hers and weeps,††††††††††††††††††††††
40††††† [30]
††††† crying to herself for her dear father, her home,
††††† her own land, all those things she left behind,
††††† to come here with the man who now discards her.
††††† Her suffering has taught her the advantages
††††† of not being cut off from oneís homeland.
††††† Now she hates her children. When she sees them,
††††† there is no joy in her. And Iím afraid
††††† she may be up to some new mischief.
††††† Her mind thinks in extremes. I know her well.
††††† Sheíll not put up with being treated badly.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† I worry she may pick up a sharp sword
††††† and stab her stomach, or else sheíll go††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† into the house, in silence, to that bed,
††††† and kill the king and bridegroom Jason.
††††† Then sheíll face an even worse disaster.
††††† Sheís a dangerous woman. It wonít be easy
††††† for any man who picks a fight with her
††††† to think sheís beaten and heís triumphed.


[Enter Medeaís and Jasonís CHILDREN with their TUTOR.]


††††† Here come her children. Theyíve finished playing.
††††† Theyíve no notion of their motherís troubles.††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Young minds donít like to dwell on pain.


††††† Old slave from my mistressí household,
††††† why are you here, standing by the gate,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† all alone, complaining to yourself
††††† about whatís wrong? How come Medea
††††† is willing to stay inside without you?


††††† Old servant of Jasonís children,
††††† when a masterís lot falls out badly,
††††† thatís bad for faithful servants, tooó
†††† it affects their hearts as well. My sorrow†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† was so great, I wanted to come here,
††††† to speak to earth and heaven, to tell them
††††† about the wrongs inflicted on my mistress.


††††† Unhappy lady! Has she stopped weeping yet?


††††† Stopped crying? I envy your ignorance.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Her suffering has only just begunó
††††† sheís not even half way through it.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††Poor fooló
††††† if I can speak that way about my masters.
††††† She knows nothing of her latest troubles.


††††† Whatís that, old man? Donít spare me the news.†††††††††††††††††


††††† Nothing. Iím sorry I said anything.


††††† Come on, donít hide it from a fellow slave.
††††† I can keep quiet if I have to.


††††† Well, I was passing by those benches
††††† where the old men gamble by Peirene,
††††† at the holy spring, and I heard someone say
††††† (I was pretending I wasnít listening)
††††† that Creon, king of this country, intends
††††† to ship the children away from Corinth,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† with their mother, too. Iíve no idea†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
†††† if the storyís true or not. I hope itís not.


††††† But surely Jason wouldnít let his children
††††† go into exile, even if heís squabbling
††††† with their mother?


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Old devotions fade,
††††† pushed aside by new relationships.
††††† Jason is no friend of people in this house.


††††† If we must add these brand-new troubles
††††† to our old ones, before weíve dealt with them,
††††† then weíre finished.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† But listenóthe timeís not right††††††††††††††††
100††††††††††††† [80]
††††† to let your mistress know about these things.
††††† So keep quiet. Donít mention anything.


††††† Children, do you hear what sort of man
††††† your father is to you? My curse on him!
††††† No. He is my masteróbut a bad man
††††† to his own family. Of that heís guilty.


††††† What mortal man is not? Donít you know yet
††††† all men love themselves more than their neighbours.
††††† And some are right to do thatówhile others
††††just want some benefit. But this father,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† with his new wife, has no love for his children.


††††† Come on, children, get inside the house.
††††† Things will be fine.


[To the TUTOR]


†††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††You must keep them away󆆆††††††††††††††††††††††† [90]
††††† as far as possibleóand donít bring them
††††† near their mother when sheís in this state.
††††† Iíve seen her look at them with savage eyes,
††††† as if she means to injure them somehow.
††††† I know this anger of hers will not end,
††††† not before she turns it loose on someone.
††††† I hope it falls on enemies, not on friends!††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


MEDEA [crying from inside the house]

††††† I canít stand this pain, this misery.
††††† What do I do? I wish I could die!


††††† My dear children, you hear your motherís cry.
††††† Her heartís upset. Her angerís growing, too.
††††† So quickly now, run off inside the house.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Stay out of sight. Donít try to go and see her.
††††† Sheís fierce, headstrong by nature. Take care.
††††† So go nowóinside as quickly as you can.


[The TUTOR and CHILDREN enter the house]


††††† Itís obvious the cloud of bitter grief
††††† rising inside her is only just the start.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† As her temper grows even more intense,
††††† it will soon catch fire. Sheís a passionate soul,
††††† hard to restrain. What will she do next,
††††† now her heartís been bitten by these injuries?††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


MEDEA [from inside the house]
††††† The pain of this sufferingóthis intense pain.
††††† Am I not right to weep? O my children,
††††† cursed children of a hateful motheró
††††† may you die with your father and his house,
††††† may it all perish, crash down in ruins.


††††† O the sorrow of it all.
Poor woman!†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 140
††††† Why link your children with the nasty things
††††† their fatherís done? Why do you hate them so?
††††† Iím terrified the children will be hurt.
††††† The pride of rulers is something to fearó
††††† they often order men, but seldom listen,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† and when their tempers change itís hard to bear.
††† ††Itís better to get used to living life
††††† as an equal common person. Anyway,
††††† I donít want a grand life for myselfó
††††† just to grow old with some security.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† They say a moderate lifeís the best of all,
††††† a far better choice for mortal men.
††††† Going for too much brings no benefits.
††††† And when the gods get angry with some home,
††††† the more wealth it has, the more it is destroyed.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


[Enter the CHORUS of Corinthian women]


††††† I heard her voice, I heard the cries
††††† of that sad lady here from Colchis.
††††† Has she not calmed down yet? Old nurse, tell me.
††††† I heard from some household servant in there
††††† that sheís been screaming. I find no pleasure††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† in this houseís suffering. Weíve been friends.


††††† This house is finishedóalready ruined.
††††† For Jasonís bound by his new marriage tie†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to the kingís daughter. As for my mistress,
††††† her tears are washing away her life in there,

††††† inside the house. She finds no consolation
††††† in the words of any of her friends.


MEDEA [still from inside the house]
††††† O why canít a bolt of lightning strike me?
††††† What point is there in living anymore?
††††† I want death to come and sweep me off!††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Let me escape this life of suffering!


††††† O Zeus and Earth and Sunó
††††† do you hear how this young wife
††††† sings out her misery?††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Thoughtless lady,
††††† why long for deathís marriage bed
††††† which human beings all shun?
††††† Death comes soon enough
††††† and brings an end to everything.
††††† You should not pray for it.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† And if your husband
††††† devotes himself to some new bed,
††††† why get angry over that?
††††† Zeus will plead for you in this.
††††† Donít waste your life away,
††††† with too much wailing for your husband.


MEDEA [within]
††††† O great Themis and noble Artemis,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† do you see what I am having to endure,
††††† when Iím the one who bound that cursed man,
††††† my husband, with strong promises to me?††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† O how I want to see him and his bride
††††† beaten down, destroyedótheir whole house as welló
††††† for these wrongs they dare inflict on me,
††††† when Iíve done nothing to provoke them!
††††† O father and city, I left you behind
††††† in my disgrace when I killed my brother.


††††† Do you hear whatís sheís saying, how she calls
††††† to Themis, who hears our prayers, and Zeus,
††††† who guards, they say, the promises men swear.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Sheís bound to do something quite serious†††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† before this rage of hers comes to an end.


††††† I wish sheíd let us see her face to face
††††† and listen to what we have to tell her.
††††† That might calm down her savage temper,
††††† the fury in her heart. Iíd like the chance
††††† to show good will to a lady whom I like.
††††† Go nowóbring her here outside the house.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Tell her sheíll be among some friends of hers.
††††† And hurry, before she harms someone in thereó
††††† that power in her grief will make her act.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† All right, though Iím afraid I wonít persuade
††††† my mistress. Still, as a favour to you,
††††† Iíll see what I can do. Right now she glares
††††† at servants when they come close to her
††††† to tell her something. Sheís like a bull
††††† or lioness with cubsóthatís how she looks.
††††† Those men from long agoóyouíd not be wrong†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to call them fools without much wisdom.
††††† They thought up songs for celebrations,
††††† feasts and banquets, bringing to human life†††††††† †††††††††††††††
††††† delightful music
. But they found nothing
††††† in music or the lyreís many strings
††††† to end the bitterness of human life,
††††† the pain in living, sorrows bringing on
††††† deaths and horrifying calamities
††††† that destroy whole families. What a blessing
††††† it would be for human beings if music
††††† could cure these sorrows. When people feast,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† why should people sing? Itís a waste of time.
††††† People who eat well are happy anyway󆆆†††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† theyíve enjoyed the pleasure of the meal.


[NURSE exits into the house]


††††† I have heard Medeaís crying,
††††† full of sorrow, full of tears,
††††† her shrill accusations against Jason,
†† †††the husband whoís betrayed her.
††††† Suffering such injustice, she cries out,
††††† calling the godsócalling Themis,
††††† Zeusí daughter, goddess of those promises
††††† which carried her across the ocean
††††† to Hellas, through the black salt waves,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† through the place which few men penetrate,
††††† that strait which guards the Pontic Sea.


[Enter MEDEA with the NURSE]


††††† Women of Corinth, I have come here,
††††† outside the house, so you wonít think ill of me.
††††† Many men, I know, become too arrogant,
††††† both in the public eye and in their homes.
††††† Others get a reputation for indifference,
††††† because they stay at ease within the house.
††††† Thereís no justice in the eyes of mortal men.
††††† Before they know someoneís deep character,††††††††††††††††††††††
250††††††† [220]
††††† they hate the sight of her, though sheís not hurt them.
††††† A guest of the city must comply, of course,
††††† act as the city wants. I donít commend
††††† a stubborn man, not even a citizen,
††††† who thanks to his stupidity annoys
††††† his fellow townsmen. But in my case,
††††† this unexpected blow thatís hit me
††††† has destroyed my heart. My life is over,
††††† dear friends. Iíve lost all joy. I want to die.
††††† The person who was everything to me,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† my own husband, has turned out to be
††††† the worst of men. This I know is true.
††††† Of all things with life and understanding,†††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††
††††† we women are the most unfortunate.
††††† First, we need a husband, someone we get
††††† for an excessive price. He then becomes
††††† the ruler of our bodies. And this misfortune
††††† adds still more troubles to the grief we have.
††††† Then comes the crucial struggle: this husband
††††† weíve selected, is he good or bad?††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† For a divorce loses women all respect,
††††† yet we canít refuse to take a husband.
††††† Then, when she goes into her husbandís home,
††††† with its new rules and different customs,
††††† she needs a prophetís skill to sort out the man
††††† whose bed she shares. She canít learn that at home.††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Once weíve worked hard at this, and with success,
††††† our husband accepts the marriage yoke
††††† and lives in peaceóan enviable life.
††††† But if the marriage doesnít work, then death††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† is much to be preferred. When the man tires
††††† of the company he keeps at home, he leaves,
††††† seeking relief for his distress elsewhere,
††††† outside the home. He gets his satisfaction
††††† with some male friend or someone his own age.
††††† We women have to look at just one man.
††††† Men tell us we live safe and secure at home,
††††† while they must go to battle with their spears.
††††† How stupid they are! Iíd rather stand there
††††† three times in battle holding up my shield††††††††††††††††††††††††††
290††††††† [250]
††††† than give birth once. But your story and mine
††††† are not the same. For you have a city,
††††† you have your fatherís house, enjoy your life
††††† with friends for company. But Iím alone.
††††† I have no city, and Iím being abused
††††† by my own husband. I was carried off,
††††† a trophy from a barbarian country.
††††† I have no mother, brother, or relation
††††† to shelter with in this extremity.
††††† And so I want to ask something from you.††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† If I find some way to punish Jason†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††
††††† for these injusticesóhis bride, as well,
††††† and her fatherósay nothing. In other things
††††† a woman may be timidóin watching battles
††††† or seeing steel, but when sheís hurt in love,
††††† her marriage violated, thereís no heart
††††† more desperate for blood than hers.


††††† Iíll do what you request. For you are right
††††† to pay back your husband. And, Medea,
††††† Iím not surprised you grieve at these events.†††††††††††††††††††††††


[Enter Creon, with armed attendants]


††††† I see Creon, king of Corinth, coming.
††††† Heíll be bringing news, announcing
††††† some new decision thatís been made.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† You there, Medea, scowling in anger
††††† against your husband. Iím ordering you
††††† out of Corinth. You must go into exile,
††††† and take those two children of yours with you.
††††† Go quickly. Iím here to make quite sure
††††† that this decree is put into effect.
††††† Iím not going back into the palace†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† until Iíve cast you out beyond our borders.


††††† O now my sufferings will kill me. Itís over.
††††† My enemies have set full sail against me,
††††† and thereís no way I can avert disaster.
††††† But, Creon, let me ask you something󆆆†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† since Iím the one abused, why banish me?
††††† What have I done?


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Iím afraid of you.
††††† I wonít conceal the truth. Thereís a good chance
††††† you might well instigate some fatal harm
††††† against my daughter. Many things lead me†††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to this conclusion: youíre a clever woman,
††††† very experienced in evil ways;
††††† youíre grieving the loss of your husbandís bed;
††††† and from reports I hear youíre making threats
††††† to take revenge on Jason, on his bride,
††††† and on her father. Before that happens,
††††† Iím taking some precautions. Woman,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† itís better that you hate me than for me
††††† to grow soft now and regret it later.


††††† Alas, this is not the first time, Creon,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† my reputation has badly damaged me.
††††† Itís happened often. No man with any sense
††††† should ever educate his children
††††† to know anything beyond whatís normal.
††††† Quite apart from charges of idleness
††††† which other people bring against them,
††††† they stir up in their fellow citizens
††††† a hostile envy. If you offer fools
††††† some brand new wisdom, theyíll consider you
††††† quite useless, not someone wise. And if,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
350††††††† [300]
††††† within the city, people think of you
††††† as greater than those men who seem quite wise,
††††† youíll be a nuisance. So it is with me.
††††† Iím a knowledgeable woman. I make
††††† some people envious. Others say Iím shy.
††††† Some the opposite. Some say Iím hostile.
††††† Iím not that clever, but still you fear me.
††††† Have I hurt you at all, made you suffer?
††††† Donít fear me, Creon. Itís not in me
††††† to commit crimes against the men in charge.††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Besides, in what way have you injured me?
††††† Youíve married your daughter to a man,
††††† one your heart selected. My husbandís††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† the one I hate. In my view, youíve acted
††††† in this business with good sense. So now,
††††† Iíll not begrudge you your prosperity.
††††† Have your marriage, and good luck to you.
††††† But let me remain here, in this country.
††††† Although Iíve suffered an injustice,
††††† Iíll obey the rulers and stay silent.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† What you say sounds comforting enough,
††††† but Iím still afraid that heart of yours
††††† is planning something evil. At this point,
††††† I trust you even less than previously.
††††† Passionate people, women as well as men,
††††† are easier to protect oneself against,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† than someone clever who keeps silent.
††††† No. You must leave Corinthóand right away.
††††† No more speeches. I have made up my mind.
††††† Itís not possible for you to stay here,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† not with us, given your hostility to me.


MEDEA [kneeling in front of Creon]
††††† No, donít send me away. Iím begging you,
††††† at your knee, in your daughterís name.


††††† Your words are useless. You wonít persuade me.


††††† Youíll send me into exile without hearing
††††† my supplication?


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Indeed I will.
††††† I donít love you more than my own family.


††††† O my homeland! How Iím thinking of you now.


††††† Except for my own children, my country
††††† is what I cherish most by far.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Alas,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† loveís
a miserable thing for mortal men.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† [330]


††††† I think events determine if thatís true.


††††† O Zeus, donít overlook who bears the blame
††††† for all this evil.


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††Itís time to leave,
††††† you foolish woman. Time to rid myself
††††† of all this trouble.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† We have trouble enoughó
††††† Thereís no need for any more.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††Come onó
††††† or my servants will force you into exile.


††††† No, donít do that. I beg you, Creon . . .


[Medea seizes Creonís hand]


††††† Woman, it seems youíre trying to provoke me.†††††††††††††††††††


††††† All right then. I will go into exile.
††††† I wasnít begging to escape from that.


††††† Then why squeeze my hand so hard and not let go?


††††† Let me remain here one day to prepare,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to get ready for my exile and provide
††††† something for my children, since their father,
††††† as one more insult, does nothing for them.
††††† Have pity on them. Youíre a parent, too.
††††† You should treat them kindlyóthatís whatís right.
††††† If I go into exile, I donít care,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† but I weep for them in their misfortune.


††††† For a tyrant my will is by nature tender,
††††† and by feeling pity Iíve been hurt before,
††††† more than once. And now, woman, I see
††††† Iím making a mistake, for you can have†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† your extra day. But let me warn youó
††††† if the sun catches you tomorrow
††††† within the borders of this country,
††††† you or your children, youíll be put to death.
††††† Donít assume Iím not telling you the truth.†††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† So, if you must remain, stay one more day.
††††† In that time you canít do the harm I fear.


[Exit Creon with his attendants]


††††† Alas for you, unfortunate womanó
††††† how wretched your distress. Where will you turn?
††††† Where will you find someone to take you in?
††††† What country, what home will you ever find
††††† to save you from misfortune?††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Things have worked out badly in every way.
††††† Who can deny the fact? But nonetheless,
††††† you should not assume thatís how things will stay.††††††††††††
††††† The newly wedded pair still face some struggles,
††††† and the man who made this marriage happen
††††† might have serious problems yet. Do you think
††††† Iíd prostrate myself before a man like that,
††††† if there was no advantage to be gained?
††††† If I didnít have some plan in mind,
††††† Iíd not have talked to him or grabbed his hand.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† But the manís become completely foolishó
††††† when he had the power to prevent me
††††† from planning anything, by sending me††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† out of his land, he let me stay one day,
††††† a day when Iíll turn three of my enemies
††††† to corpsesófather, daughter, and my husband.
††††† Now, I can slaughter them in many ways.
††††† Iím not sure which one to try out first.
††††† Perhaps I should set the bridal suite on fire
††††† or sneak into the house in silence,
††††† right up to their marriage bed, and plunge†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† some sharpened steel right through their guts.
††††† Thereís just one problem. If I get caught†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† going in their house meaning to destroy it,
††††† Iíll be killed, and my enemies will laugh.
††††† No. The best method is the most direct,
††††† the one at which I have a special skilló
††††† Iíll murder them with poison. Yes, thatís it.
††††† But once theyíre dead, what city will receive me?
††††† Whoíll give me safe shelter as a guest,
††††† and offer me physical protection?
††††† Thereís no one. Still, Iíll wait a little while.
††††† If someone shows up who can defend me,†††††††††††††††††††††††††† 460††††††† [390]
††††† Iíll set my scheme in motion and kill them
††††† without saying a word.
But if events
††††† force me to act openly, Iíll use a sword.
††††† Even though it will bring about my death,
††††† Iíll push my daring to the very limit
††††† and slaughter them. By Hecate, goddess
††††† I worship more than all the others,
††††† the one I choose to help me in this work,
††††† who lives with me deep inside my home,
††††† these people wonít bring pain into my heart†††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† and laugh about it. This wedding of theirs,
††††† Iíll make it hateful for them, a disasteró
††††† Creonís marriage ties, my exile from here,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† heíll find those bitter. So come, Medea,
††††† call on all those things you know so well,
††††† as you plan this and set it up. Let the work,
††††† this deadly business, start. Itís a test of wills.
††††† You know what you now have to deal with.
††††† You must not let Jasonís marriage make you
††††† a laughing stock among Corinthians,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† compatriots of Sisyphus, for you
††††† trace your family from a noble father
††††† and from Helios, the sun. So get to work.
††††† Besides, we have a womanís natureó
††††† powerless to perform fine noble deeds,
††††† but very skilled in all the forms of evil.


††††† The waters in the sacred rivers†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† are flowing in reverse.
††††† And all well-ordered things
††††† are once more turning on themselves.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Menís plans are now deceitful,
††††† their firm trust in the gods is gone.
††††† My life is changingócommon talk
††††† is giving me a better reputation.
††††† Honourís coming to the female sex.
††††† Slander will no longer injure women.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Those songs by ancient poets
††††† will stop chanting of our faithlessness.
††††† Phoebus, god of song and singing,
††††† never put into our minds the gift†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† of making sacred music with the lyre,
††††† or else I would have sung a song
††††† in response to what the male sex sings.
††††† For our lengthy past has much to say
††††† about menís lives as well as ours.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† You sailed here from your fatherís house,
††††† your heart on fire, past those two rocks
††††† that stand guard to the Euxine Sea.
††††† You live now in a foreign land.
††††† Youíve lost your marriage bed,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† your husband, too, poor woman.
††††† And now youíre driven out,
††††† hounded into exile in disgrace.
††††† The honour in an oath has gone.

††††† And all throughout wide Hellas††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† [440]
††††† thereís no shame any more.

††††† Shame has flown away to heaven.
††††† So to you, unhappy lady,
††††† no fatherís house is open,
††††† no haven on your painful voyage.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 520
††††† For now a stronger woman
††††† rules in your household,
††††† queen of Jasonís marriage bed.


[Enter Jason]


††††† Now is not the first time Iíve observed
††††† how a harsh temper can make all things worseó
††††† impossibly so. Itís happened often.
††††† You could have stayed here in this land and house,
††††† if only youíd agreed to the arrangements,
††††† showed some patience with those in command.
††††† Now youíre exiled for your stupid chatter.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††
530†††††† [450]
††††† Not that I care.
You donít have to stop
††††† calling Jason the worst man in the world,
††††† but when you speak against the ruler here,
††††† consider yourself very fortunate
††††† that exile is your only punishment.
††††† Iíve always tried to mollify the kingó
††††† he has a vicious temperóand have you stay.
††††† But you just wouldnít stop this silly rage,
††††† always slandering the royal house.
††††† Thatís why youíve got to leave the country.††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Anyway, I wonít neglect my family.
††††† Iíve come here, woman, looking out for you,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† so you wonít be thrown out with the children
††††† in total need and lacking everything.
††††† Exile brings with it all sorts of hardships.
††††† Although you may well despise me now,
††††† I could never have bad feelings for you.


††††† As a man youíre the worst there isóthatís all
††††† Iíll say about you, no trace of manhood.
††††† You come to me now, you come at this point,†††††††††††††††††††††
††††† when youíve turned into the worst enemy
††††† of the gods and me and the whole human race?
††††† It isnít courage or firm resolution
††††† to hurt your family and then confront them,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† face to face, but a total lack of shame,
††††† the greatest of all human sicknesses.
††††† But you did well to come, for I will speak.
††† ††Iíll unload my heart, describe your evil.
††††† You listen. I hope youíre hurt by what I say.
††††† Iíll begin my story at the very start.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† I saved your lifeóevery Greek who sailed with you
††††† on board that ship the Argo can confirm itó
††††† when youíd been sent to bring under the yoke
††††† the fire-breathing bulls and then to sow
††††† the fields of death. And I killed the dragon
††††† guarding the Golden Fleece, coiled up there,††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††
††††† staying on watch and never going to sleep.
††††† For you I raised the light which rescued you
††††† from death. I left my father and my home,
††††† on my own, and came with you to Iolcus,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† beneath Mount Pelion. My love for you
††††† was greater than my wisdom. Then I killed
††††† Pelias in the most agonizing way,
††††† at the hands of his own daughters,
††††† and demolished his household, all of it.
††††† Now, after Iíve done all this to help you,
††††† you brute, you betray me and help yourself
††††† to some new wife. And we have children!
††††† If youíd had no children, Iíd understand†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† why youíre so keen on marrying this girl.††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††
††††† And what about the promises you made?
††††† I donít know if you think the ancient gods
††††† still govern or if new regulations
††††† have recently been put in place for men,
††††† but you must know youíve broken faith with me.
††††† By this right hand, which you have often held,
††††† and by my knees, at which youíve often begged,
††††† it was all for nothing to be touched like that,
††††† by such a worthless man. Iíve lost all hope.
††††† But come now. Iíll sort things out with you,††† ††††††††††††††††††††
††††† as if you were a friend. Iíve no idea
††††† what sort of kindness to expect from you.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† But letís see. The things Iíll ask about
††††† will make you look even more disgraceful.
††††† Where do I now turn? To my fatherís house?
††††† For your sake I betrayed my country,
††††† to come here with you. Then should I go
††††† to Peliasí daughters in their misery?
††††† Theyíd surely welcome me with open arms,
††††† since I killed their father. Thatís how things stand.††††††††††††
††††† To my family Iím now an enemy,
††††† and by assisting you I declared war
††††† on people I had no need to injure.
††††† For all the ways Iíve helped you, you made me,
††††† in the eyes of many wives in Greece,
††††† a lucky woman, blessed in many things.
††††† But what a wonderful and trusting husband†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† I have in you now, in my misfortune,
††††† if I go into exile, leave this land,
††††† with no friends, all alone, abandoned,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† with my abandoned children. And for you,
††††† what a fine report for a new bridegroom,
††††† his children wandering round like vagabonds
††††† with the very woman who saved his life.
††††† O Zeus, why did you give men certain ways
††††† to recognize false gold, when thereís no mark,
††††† no token stamped on the human body,
††††† to indicate which men are worthless.


††††† When members of a family fight like this,††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††
††††† rage pushes them beyond all compromise.†††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Woman, it seems Iíll need to give good reasons,
††††† and, like a skilled helmsman on a ship,
††††† haul in my sails and run before that storm
†††† blowing from your raving tongue. In my view,
††††† you overestimate your favours to me.
††††† I consider goddess Aphrodite
††††† the only one of gods or mortal men
††††† who saved my expedition. As for you,
††††† well, youíve a subtle mind. But if I told
††††† how Eros with his unerring arrows††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
630††††††† [530]
††††† forced you to save me, I could injure you.
††††† So I wonít press the matter very far.
††††† However you helped me, you did it well.
††††† But by saving me you got in return
††††† more than you gave, as I will demonstrate.
††††† First of all, you now live among the Greeks,
††††† not in a country of barbarians.
††††† Youíre familiar with justice and the laws,
††††† rather than brute force. Besides, all the Greeks
††††† know youíre clever, so you have earned yourself†††††††††††††††††
††††† a fine reputation. If you still lived††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† out there at the boundary of the world,
††††† no one would talk about you. And great fame
††††† Iíd sooner have than houses filled with gold
††††† or the power to sing sweet melodies,
††††† sweeter than all the songs of Orpheus.
††††† Thatís my response to you about my labours.
††††† Remember you started this war of words.
††††† As for your complaints about this marriage,
††††† Iíll show you that in this Iím being wise†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† and moderate and very friendly to you
††††† and to my children. You must have patience.†††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† When I came here from the land of Iolcus,
††††† I brought with me many troubles, hard ones,
††††† things impossible for me to deal with.
††††† What greater good fortune could I have found
††††† than marrying the daughter of the king,
††††† meóan exile? On the point that irks you,
††††† itís not the case I hate our marriage bed,
††††† overcome with lust for some new bride,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† nor am I keen to rival other men
††††† in the number of my many children.
††††† We have enough. Iím not complaining.
††††† The most important thing for us to do
††††† is to live well and not in poverty,
††††† knowing that everyone avoids a friend†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† once heís a pauper. As for my children,
††††† I want to raise them in the proper way,
††††† one worthy of my house, to have brothers
††††† for the children born from you, and make them†††††††††††††††††
††††† all the same. Thus, with a united family
††††† I might prosper. Do you need more children?
††††† In my case, thereís some benefit to have
††††† new children to help those already born.
††††† Was this a bad scheme? Youíd agree with me,
††††† if you werenít so upset about the sex.
††††† But you women are so idioticó
††††† you think if everything is fine in bed,
††††† you have all you need, but if the sex is bad,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† then all the very best and finest things†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† you make your enemies. What mortals need
††††† is some other way to get our children.
††††† We ought to have no female sex and then
††††† men would be rid of all their troubles.


††††† Jason, your reasons here seem logical,
††††† but it strikes me, if I may presume,
††††youíre in the wrong abandoning your wife.


††††† Iím very different from many others,
††††† in all sorts of waysóin my opinion,
††††† the unjust man who speaks so plausibly†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
690††††††† [580]
††††† brings on himself the harshest punishment.
††††† Since heís sure his tongue can hide injustice,
††††† he dares anything. But heís not that clever.
††††† So you should not parade before me now
††††† your clever words and specious reasoning.
††††† One word demolishes your argument:
††††† if you were not corrupt, youíd ask me first,
††††† get my consent to undertake this marriage,
††††† but you did not even tell your family.


††††† O yes, if Iíd told you of the wedding,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Iím sure you would have lent me fine support.
††††† Even now you canít stand to set aside
††††† that immense rage in your heart.†††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††Youíre lying.
††††† You thought as you grew old a barbarian wife
††††† would bring you disrespect.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Get this straightó
††††† this royal bride I have, I did not marry her
††††† because of any woman. As I told you,
††††† I wanted to save you and have children,
††††† royal princes, with the same blood as my sons.
††††† That way my house has more security.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† May I never want a merely prosperous life,
††††† accepting pain or great wealth at the expense
††††† of happiness here in my heart.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Do you think††††††††††††††††††
††††† you can change that prayer and sound more sensible?

††††† You should not consider this advantage
††††† painful or pretend to be so wretched
††††† when things are going well for you.


††††† Keep up the insults. You have your refuge.
††††† Iím alone and banished from this country.


††††† Thatís what youíve chosen. The blame rests with you.†††††††


††††† What did I do? Marry and desert you?


††††† You kept making all those bitter curses
††††† against the ruling family here.


††††† And Iím a curse against your family, too.


††††† Iím not arguing with you any more††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† about all this. But if you want me
††††† to provide some money, some assistance
††††† for you and the children in your exile,
††††† just ask. Iím prepared to give you some,
††††† and with a generous hand. Iíll send my friends†††††††††††††††††††
††††† introductory tokens, so theyíll treat you well.
††††† Youíd be mad not to accept this offer.
††††† Woman, stop being so angry. If you do,
††††† things will turn out so much better for you.


††††† Iíll accept no assistance from your friends,
††††† nor anything from you. Donít make the offer.
††††† Gifts from a worthless man are without value.


††††† All right, but I call the gods to witness
††††† Iím willing to help you and the children.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† But you reject my goods and stubbornly†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† push away your friends, and for that reason
††††† youíll suffer still more pain.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Get out of here.
††††† For someone so in love with his new bride
††††† youíre spending far too long outside her home.
††††† Go act married. The gods will see to it
††††† your marriage changes into one of those
††††† that makes you wish you had rejected it.


[Exit Jason]


††††† Erotic love with too much passion
††††† brings with it no fine reputation,
††††† brings nothing virtuous to men.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† But if Aphrodite comes in smaller doses,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† no other god is so desirable.
††††† Goddess, I pray you never strike me
††††† with one of those poisoned arrows
††††† shot from your golden bow.


††††† I pray that moderation,
††††† the godsí most beautiful gift,
††††† will always guide me.
††††† I pray that Aphrodite
††††† never packs my heart with jealousy†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† or angry quarreling.
††††† May she never fill me with desire
††††† for sex in other peopleís beds.
††††† May she bless peaceful unions,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† using her wisdom to select
††††† a womanís marriage bed.


††††† O my country and my home,
††††† I pray I never lack a city,
††††† never face a hopeless life,
††††† one filled with misery and pain.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Before that comes, let death,
††††† my death, deliver me,
††††† bring a fatal end to all my days.
††† ††For thereís no affliction worse†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† [650]
††††† than losing oneís own land.


††††† I say on this based on what Iíve seen,
††††† not on what other people say.
††††† For you are here without a cityó
†† †††you have no friends to pity you,
††††† as you suffer in this misery,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† suffer in the harshest way.
††††† The man who shames his family,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† who does not open up his heart
††††† and treat them in all honestyó
††††† may he perish unlamented.
††††† With him I never could be friends.


[Enter Aegeus, king of Athens]


††††† I wish you all happiness, Medea.
††††† Thereís no better way to greet oneís friends.


††††† All happiness to you, too, Aegeus,
††††† wise Pandionís son.
Where are you coming from?†††††††††††††† 790


††††† Iíve just left Apolloís ancient oracle.


††††† The prophetic centre of the earth?
††††† What business took you there?


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† To ask a question.

††††† I want to know how I can have some children.


††††† In the godsí name, have you lived so long††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† without ever having any children?


††††† Not one.
Some god is doing this to me.


††††† Do you have a wife? Or have you stayed unmarried?


†††† No, Iím married. My wife shares my bed.


††††† So what did Apollo say about it?††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Words too wise for human understanding.


††††† It is appropriate for me to learn them?


††††† Of course.
They need a clever mind like yours.


††††What was the prophecy? Tell it to meó
††††† if itís all right for me to hear.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† He told me this:
††††† ďDonít untie the wineskinís foot. . .Ē


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††Until when?
††††† Until you do what or reach what country?††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† ď. . . until you come back to your hearth and home.Ē


††††† What were you looking for when you sailed here?


††††† A man called Pittheus, king of Troezen.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Heís Pelopsí son. They say heís a very holy man.


††††† I want to share the godís prophecy with him.


††††† Heís a wise man and skilled in things like that.


††††† And the friendliest of all my allies.


††††† Well, good luck. I hope you find what you desire.


††††† Why are your eyes so sad, your cheeks so pale?


††††† O Aegeus, my husband has been cruel󆆆††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† of all men he has treated me the worst.


††††† What are you saying? Tell me trulyó
††††† what things have made you so unhappy?††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Jasonís abusing me. Iíve done him no harm.


††††† What has he done? Give me more details.


††††† Heís taken a new wife. She now rules his home,
††††† instead of me.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Thatís completely shameful.
††††† He hasnít dared something like that, has he?


††††† Indeed, he has. Heís dishonored me, the wife
††††† he used to love.


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Is this a new love affair,
††††† or did he get fed up with you in bed?


††††† A new love matchóheís betrayed his family.


††††† Leave him, then, since, as you say, heís worthless.†††††††††††††


††††† His passion is to marry royalty.


††††† Whoís giving her to him? Tell me the rest.


††††† Creon, who rules this land of Corinth.


††††Then, lady, itís quite understandable
††††† why youíre in such distress.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Iím done for, finished.
††††† Iím being banished from this country.


††††† By whom?
Youíre speaking now of some new trouble.


††††† Creon is driving me into exile,
††††† forcing me out, away from Corinth.


††††† With Jasonís full consent?
I find that disgraceful.†††††††††††††† 840


††††† He says not. Still, heís planning to accept it.
††††† But, Aegeus, I beg you by your beard,
and at your knees implore youóhave pity.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Take pity on me in my misfortune.

††††† Donít let me be exiled without a friend.
††††† Accept me as a suppliant in your home,
††††† your native land. If you will take me in,
††††† may the gods then answer your desire
††††† to have children. May you die a happy man.
††††† You donít know what a lucky one you are†††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to find me here. Iíll end your childlessness.
††††† I know the sorts of medicines to use,
††††† and I can help you have many children.


††††† Lady, Iíd like to grant this favour to you,
††††† for many reasons. First, thereís the gods.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Then, for the children you say Iíll produce.
††††† For there Iíve lost all sense of what to try.
††††† Hereís what Iíll do. If you get to my country,
††††† Iíll strive to treat you as a foreign guestó
††††† thatís the proper thing for me to do.†††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††
††††† But, Medea, Iíll give you fair warning:
††††† I wonít plot to get you out of Corinth.
††††† If you can reach my household on your own,
††††† you may stay there in safety. Rest assuredó
††††† I wonít surrender you to anyone.
†††† But you must make your own escape from here.
††††† I donít want my hosts finding fault with me.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Thatís fine with me. If you could promise this,
††††† youíll have done me all the good you can.


†††† Donít you trust me? What in this still bothers you?†††††††††††


††††† I do trust you. But the house of Pelias
††††† dislikes me, and so does Creonís, too.
††††† If you bind yourself to a promise now,
††††† youíll not hand me over when they come,
††††† seeking to remove me from your country.
††††† If you use words, and donít swear by the gods,
††††† you may become their friend and then comply
††††† with their political demands. Iím weak,
††††† and they have wealth, a kingís resources.††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† What youíve just said is very shrewd. All right,††††††††††††††††††
††††† if itís what you want, Iím not unwilling
††††† to do what you require. Your proposal
††††† gives me some security. I can show
††††† those hostile to you Iíve a good excuse.
††††† And it makes your position more secure.
††††† Tell me the gods that I should swear by.


††††† Swear by the plain of Earth, by Helios,
††††† my fatherís father, by the family of gods,
††††† by all of them collectively.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††Tell me
††††† what I must swear to do and not to do.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††


††††† Never to cast me out from your own country.

††††† And if some enemy of mine asks you†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† if he can take me off, youíll not agree,
††††† not while youíre still alive.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I swearó
††††† by the Earth, by Heliosí sacred light,
††††† by all the godsóIíll do what Iíve just heard.


††††† Thatís good. And if you betray this promise,
††††† what happens to you then?


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† May I then suffer
††††† the punishment that falls on profane men.


††††† All is well. Now, go your way in peace.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Iíll come to your city as quickly as I can,
††††† once Iíve completed what I mean to do,
††††† and my plans here have been successful.


[Exit Aegeus]


††††† May Hermes, noble son of Maia,
††††† go with you on your return, Aegeus.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† I hope youíll get what your heartís so set on,
††††† for in my eyes youíre a worthy man.


††††† O Zeus and Justice, child of Zeus,
††††† and flaming Heliosónow, my friends,
††††† weíll triumph over all my enemies.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† The plans Iíve made have been set in motion.
††††† Iím confident my enemies will payó
††††† theyíll get their punishment. For at the point
††††† when I was most in trouble, this man came
††††† and helped me plan safe harbour for myself.
††††† Iíll lash my shipís cable to Aegeus,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††
††††† once Iíve made it to Athenaís city.
††††† Now Iíll tell you all the things Iím planning,
††††† though youíll get little pleasure from my words.
††††† Iím going to send one of my household slaves†††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to ask Jason to come and visit me.
††††† Once heís here, my words will reassure him.
††††† Iíll tell him I agree with what heís doing,
††††† that leaving me for this royal alliance
††††† is a fine ideaóheís acted properly
††††† and made the right decisions. Then Iíll ask††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† if my children can remain. My purpose
††††† is not to leave them in a hostile land
††††† surrounded by insulting enemies,
††††† but a trick to kill the daughter of the king.††††††††††††††††††† ††††††
††††† Iíll send the children to her with some gifts.
††††† Theyíll carry presents for the bride, as if
††††† requesting to be spared their banishmentó
††††† a finely woven robe and a tiara
††††† of twisted gold. If she accepts those presents
††††† and puts them on, sheíll dieóand painfully.

††††† And so will anyone touching the girl.
††††† Iíve smeared strong poisons on those gifts.
††††† So much for that. Iíll say no more about her.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† But the next thing Iíll do fills me with pain󆆆††††††††††††††††††
††††† Iím going to kill my children. Thereís no one
††††† can save them now. And when Iíve done this,
††††† wiped out Jasonís house completely, Iíll leave,
††††† evading the punishment Iíd receive
††††† for murdering my darling children,
††††† a sacrilegious crime. You see, my friends,
††††† I wonít accept my enemiesí contempt.
††††† So be it. What good does life hold for me now?
††††† I have no father, no home, no refuge.
††††† I was wrong to leave my fatherís house,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
950†††††† [800]
††††† won over by the words of that Greek man,
††††† who now, with the godsí help, will pay the price.
††††† Heíll never see his children alive again,
††††† the ones I bore him, nor have more children
††††† with his new bride, for sheís been marked to die
††††† an agonizing death, poisoned by my drugs.
††††† Let no one think that Iím a trivial woman,
††††† a feeble one who sits there passively.
††††† No, Iím a different sortódangerous
††††† to enemies, but well disposed to friends.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Lives like mine achieve the greatest glory.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Since youíve shared your plans with me, I urge you
††††† not to do this. I want to help you,
††††† holding to the standards of human law.


††††† In this matter thereís no choice. I forgive
††††† what you just said, because, unlike me,
††††† you donít have to bear this suffering.


††††† But, lady, can you stand to kill your children?


††††† Yes.
It will be a mortal blow to Jason.


††††† But as a woman it will devastate you.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Thatís beside the point. Until that time
††† ††itís useless to continue talking.


[MEDEA goes to door of the house and calls inside]


††††† You in there . . .


[Enter NURSE from the house]


†††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††. . . go and fetch Jason here.††††††† ††††††††††††††††††[820]
††††† When I need to trust someone, I choose you.
††††† If you like your mistress and are a woman,
††††† tell him nothing of what I mean to do.


[MEDEA goes into the house, and the NURSE moves off stage]


††††† Since ancient times, Erechtheusí sons
††††† have been especially blessed,
††††† children of the sacred gods,
††††† from a holy country never conquered,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† never ransacked by its enemies.
††††† Fed on glorious fruits of wisdom,
††††† they stride lithely through the sunlit air,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† where, so the story goes, the Muses,
††††† nine maidens of Pieria, gave birth
††††† to golden-haired Hermione.
††††† And people celebrate how Aphrodite,
††††† while drawing water from the stream,
††††† the flowing river of the lovely Cephissus,
††††† breathes down upon the land††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† sweet, temperate winds,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††
††††† while she binds within her hair
††††† garlands of sweet-smelling roses,
††††† sending Love to sit at Wisdomís side,
††††† to foster all fine things.
††††† How will this city of sacred streams,
††††† this land of strolling lovers,
†† †††welcome youóa murderess
††††† who slaughtered her own children,
††††† an unholy womanóamong its people?†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
1000††††††† [850]
††††† Consider thisóthe killing of your children.
††††† Consider the murder you are going to do.
†† †††By your knees we beg you,
††††† in every way we know,
††††† do not butcher your own children.


††††† Where will your hands and heart
††††† find the strength, the courage
††††† to dare this dreadful action?
††††† How will you look at them,†††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† your children, and not weep††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† for their murderous fate?
††††† When they kneel before you,
††††† and implore your mercy,
††††† youíll find it impossible
††††† to steel your heart,
††††† then soak your hands
††††† in your own childrenís blood.


[Enter MEDEA from the house and, from the side, JASON with the NURSE]


††††† Iíve come, as you requested. You hate me,
††††† but Iím here, and Iím prepared to listen.
††††† Woman, what it is you now want from me?††††††††††† ††††††††††††


††††† Jason, I ask you to forgive me
††††† for what I said before. My anger††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† you should be able to put up with,
††††† since we two have shared many acts of love.
††††† Iíve been debating with myself. I realize
††††† Iíve been in the wrong. I tell myself,


†††††††††† ďIím a fool. Why am I in such a rage,
†††††††††† resenting those who offer good advice?
†††††††††† Why fight against the rulers of this land
†††††††††† or against my husband, whose actions serve†††† †††††††††††††
†††††††††† my own best interests with this royal marriage,
†††††††††† producing brothers for my children?
†††††††††† Why canít I stop being angry? Whatís wrong with me,
†††††††††† when gods are being so kind? Donít I have children?†††††††††††††††
†††††††††† Donít I know weíre going into exile,
†††††††††† where friends are hard to find?Ē


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† With thoughts like these,
††††† I recognized how foolish I had been,
††††† how senseless it was to be so annoyed.
††††† So now I agree with you. It strikes me
††††† youíve been acting prudently, by forging†††††† †††††††††††††††††††††
††††† this marriage link on our behalf. I was mad.
††††† I should have worked with you in this design,
††††† helped you with your plans, stood there beside you
††††† in this marriage, rejoiced along with you
††††† for this union with your bride. But women are,
††††† well, I wonít say badówe are what we are.
††††† You should not copy the bad things we do,††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† repaying foolishness with foolishness.
††††† So I give in. I admit that I was wrong.
††††† But now I see things in a better light. ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


[MEDEA goes to the door of the house and calls inside]


††††† Children, come out hereóleave the house.


[Enter the CHILDREN with the TUTOR]


††††† Come on out. Welcome your father hereó
††††† talk to him with me. You and your mother
††††† will end the bad blood in this family.
††††† Weíve patched things up, and no oneís angry now.
††††† Take his right hand. O itís harsh to think††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† of what the future hides.


[MEDEA hugs her children]


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† O my children,
††††† will you keep holding your dear arms out like this
††††† through all the many years you have to live?
††††† O dear, Iím just too tearful, too afraid!††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††
††††† My delicate eyes keep filling up with tears,
††††† now Iíve stopped this quarrel with your father.


††††† My eyes, too, begin to weep pale tears.
††††† May this bad luck proceed no further.


††††† Lady, I approve of what youíre saying now.
††††† Not that I blame you for what went on before.
††††† For itís quite natural in the female sex
††††† to get angry when their husbands set up
††††† secret schemes for another secret marriage.†††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† But your heart has changed now for the better.†††††††††††† ††††
††††† Although it took a while, you understand
††††† the wiser course of action. In doing so,
††††† youíre acting like a woman of good sense.
††††† Now, as for you, my children, your father
††††† has not been neglectful. With the godsí help,
††††† Iíve made secure provision for you both.
††††† At some future date, youíll be leaders here,
†††† in Corinth, alongside your new brothers.
††††† But first you must grow up. As for the rest,
††††† your father and the god who smiles on him††††††††††††††††††† ††††
††††† will take care of that. I pray I see you††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† mature into fine young men, victorious
††††† over all my enemies.


[MEDEA starts to weep]


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Medea,
††††† why turn away? Why weep and fill your eyes
††††† with these pale tears? What I have said,
††††† does that not make you happy?


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††Itís nothing.
††††† I was thinking of the children.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Cheer up.
††††† I will see that they are well looked after.


††††† I will cheer up. I trust what you have said.
††††† But itís a womanís nature to shed tears.†††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††


††††† But why be so tearful with the boys?


††††† I gave birth to them. When you made that prayer††††††††††† †††††††††††††††
††††† about them growing up, I felt pity,
††††† wondering how things would turn out for them.
††††† But letís discuss the reasons for your visit.
††††† Iíve mentioned some. Now Iíll let you know the rest.
††††† Since the rulers here are keen to banish me,
††††† I recognize the best thing I can do
††††† is try not to stand in their way or yours,
††††† by staying here. This royal house thinks me††††††††††††††† ††††††††
††††† their enemy. So Iíve made up my mind
††††† to leave this country and go into exile.
††††† But you should beg Creon to spare our boys,
††††† not banish them, so they can grow up here,††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† under your direction.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Well, I donít know
††††† if I can convince him. But I should try.


††††† You could tell your wife to ask her father
††††† not to send the children into exile.


††††† A good idea. I think I can persuade her.


††††† You will, if sheís a woman like the rest. †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† And Iíll give you some help. Iíll send her gifts,
††††† by far the finest human gifts I know,
††††† a finely woven gown, a diadem
††††† of twisted gold. The boys will take them.
††††† One of my servants will fetch them here󆆆†††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††


[MEDEA gestures to a SERVANT]


††††† Youóbring me those presents right away.


[The SERVANT goes into the house]


††††† Sheís got more than one reason to be happy,
††††† that wife of yours. Sheís blessed in countless ways.
††††† In you sheís found a very worthy man
††††† to share her bedóand now she gets these gifts,††††††††† †††††††
††††† which my grandfather Helios once gave
††††† to his descendants.


[The SERVANT returns with the gifts. MEDEA takes them and hands them over to the CHILDREN]


†† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Come, children,
††††† take up these wedding gifts and carry them
††††† as offerings to the happy royal bride.
††††† What sheís getting will be worthy of her.


††††† What are you doing, you foolish woman,
††††† disposing of these things of yours? Do you think
††††† the royal house lacks clothes or gold? Keep them.†††††††† †††††††††††††††††
††††† Donít give them away. If my wife values me,
††††† sheíll set more store on what I want to do†††††††††† ††††††††††††††††
††††† than on rich possessions. Iím sure of that.


††††† Donít say that. Even the gods, they claim,
††††† are won by gifts. And among mortal men,
††††† gold works more wonders than a thousand words.
††††† Her fortuneís on the rise. Gods favour her.
††††† Sheís young, with royal power to command.
††††† But to spare my children banishment,
††††† Iíd trade more than gold. Iíd give my life.
††††† Now, children, when you get inside the palace,
††††† you must beg this new wife of your fatherís,†††††† ††††††††††††††††
1140 ††††††[970]
††††† my mistress, not to send you into exile.
††††† When you present these gifts, you must make sure
††††† she takes them from you herself, in her own hands.
††††† Now go and be quick about it. Good luck!
††††† Bring your mother back news of your success,
††††† the happy news she so desires to hear.


[Exit JASON and the CHILDREN, with the NURSE and TUTOR]


††††† Iíve no longer any hope
††††† that these children stay alive,
††††† as they stroll to their own slaughter.
††††† The bride will take her diadem,†††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† sheíll take her golden ruin.
††††† With her own hand sheíll fix
††††† across her lovely yellow hair†††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† the jewelry of death.


††††† The unearthly gleam, the charm
††††† will tempt her to put on the robe
††††† and ornament of twisted gold.
††††† Her marriage bed will lie among the dead.
††††† Thatís the trap sheíll fall in.
††††† Thatís how sheíll die.†††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† She canít escape destruction.


††††† And you, unlucky man,††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††[990]
††††† married to the daughter of a kingó
††††† how ignorant you are right now,
††††† bringing death to both your sons,
††††† to your bride an agonizing end.
††††† You most unfortunate man,
††††† how wrong you were about your destiny.

††††† Next, I mourn your sorrows,
††††† unhappy mother of these children,†† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††1170
††††† intent on slaughtering your sons,
††††† because your lawless husband
††††† left you and your marriage bed††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††[1000]
and now lives with another wife.


[Enter the TUTOR with the CHILDREN]


††††† My lady, your children wonít be exiled.
††††† The royal bride was happy to accept,
††††† with own hands, the gifts you sent her.
††††† Now the boys have made their peace with her.


[MEDEA starts to weep]


††††† Whatís wrong? Why do you stand there in distress?
††††† Things have worked out well. Why turn away again?†††††† ††
††††† Are you not happy to hear my splendid news?


††††† Alas . . .


††††††††††††††† An odd response to the news I bring.


††††† All I can say is Iím so sad . . . .


††††† Have I mistakenly said something bad?
††††† Am I wrong to think my news is good?†††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Youíve reported what you had to tell me.
††††† Iím not blaming you.


††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††Then why avert your eyes?
††††† Why are you crying?


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Old man, I have my reasons.
††††† The gods and I, with my worst intentions,
††††† have brought about this situation.††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† Be happy. Your children will one day
††††† bring you back home again.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† But before that,
††††† I shall bring others to their homesóalas,
††††† how miserable I feel.


†††† Youíre not the only mother whose children
††††† have been separated from her. We mortals
††††† must bear our bad times patiently.


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Iíll do so.
††††† But now go in the house. And carry on.
††††† Give the children their usual routine.†††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


[TUTOR exits into the house. The CHILDREN remain with MEDEA]


††††† O children, my children, you still have†† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††1200
††††† a city and a home, where you can live,
††††† once you have left me to my suffering.
††††† You can live on here without your mother.
††††† But Iíll go to some other country,
††††† an exile, before Iíve had my joy in you,
††††† before Iíve seen you happy, or helped
††††† to decorate your marriage beds, your brides,
††††† your bridal chambers, or lifted high
††††† your wedding torches. How miserable
††††† my self-will has made me. I raised you󆆆†††††††† †††††††††††††††††
††††† and all for nothing. The work I did for you,
††††† the cruel hardships, pains of childbirth󆆆†††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† all for nothing. Once, in my foolishness,
††††† I had many hopes in youóitís trueó
††††† that youíd look after me in my old age,
††††† that youíd prepare my corpse with your own hands,
††††† in the proper way, as all people wish.
††††† But now my tender dreams have been destroyed.
††††† For I will live my life without you two,
††††† in sorrow, and those loving eyes of yours†††††††††† †††††††††††††††††
††††† will never see your mother any more.
††††† Your life is changing. O my children,††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† why are you looking at me in that way?
††††† Why smile at meóthat last smile of yours?
††††† Alas, what shall I do? You women here,
††††† my heart gives way when I see those eyes,
††††† my childrenís smiling eyes. I cannot do it.
††††† Good bye to those earlier plans of mine.
††††† Iíll take my children from this country.
††††† Why harm them as a way to hurt their father††††† ††††††††††††††††
††††† and have to suffer twice his pain myself?
††††† No, I wonít do that. And so farewell
††††† to what I planned before. But whatís going on?
††††† Whatís wrong with me? Do I really want
††††† my enemies escaping punishment,††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† while I become someone they ridicule?
††††† I will go through with this. What a coward
††††† I am to let my heart even admit
††††† such sentimental reasons. Children,
††††† you must go in the house.


[The CHILDREN move toward the house but remain at the door.]


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Anyone forbidden††††††††††††††††††††††††1240
††††† to attend my sacrifice, let such a man
††††† concern himself about these children.
††††† My hand will never lack the strength for this.
††††† And yet . . . My heart, donít do this murder.
††††† Youíre made of stone, but leave the boys alone.
††††† Spare my children. If they remain alive,
††††† with me in Athens, theyíll make you happy.
††††† No! By those avengers in lower Hell,
††††† Iíll never deliver up my children,††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† hand them over to their enemies,†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to be humiliated. They must dieó
††††† thatís unavoidable, no matter what.
††††† Since that must happen, then their mother,
††††† the one who gave them life, will kill them.
††††† At all events itís settled. Thereís no way out.
††††† On her head the royal bride already wears
††††† the poisoned crown. That dress is killing her.
††††† But I am treading an agonizing path
††††† and send my children on one even worse.
††††† What I want to do now is say farewell.†††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††


[MEDEA moves to the CHILDREN near the door, kneels down and hugs them]


††††† Give me your right hands, children. Come on.††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††[1070]
††††† Let your mother kiss them. Oh, these handsó
††††† how I love themóand how I love these mouths,
††††† facesóthe bearing of such noble boys.
††††† I wish you happinessóbut somewhere else.
††††† Where you live now your father takes away.
††††† O this soft embrace! Their skinís so tender.
††††† My boysí breathing smells so sweet to me.
††††† But you must go inside. Go. I canít stand
†† †††to look at you any more like this.††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† The evil done to me has won the day.
††††† I understand too well the dreadful act
††††† Iím going to commit, but my judgment
††††† cannot check my anger, and that incites
††††† the greatest evils human beings do.††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


[MEDEA shepherds the CHILDREN into the house, leaving the CHORUS alone on stage]


††††† Often, before this present time,
††††† Iíve had to make more complex arguments
††††† and struggled with issues more serious
††††† than those which women ought to wrestle with.
††††† But we, too, have an artistic Muse†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††
††††† who lives among us to teach us wisdom.
††††† But not all of usóthe group of females
††††† who can learn anything from her is smalló
††††† in a crowd of women you might find one.
††††† So I can claim that among human beings†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† those who have no experience of children,
††††† who have never given birth to offspring,
††††† such people have far more happiness
††††† than those who have been parents.
††††† With those who have no children,††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††
††††† because they never come to see
††††† whether their children grow up
††††† to be a blessing or a curse to men,
††††† their failure to have offspring
††††† shields them from many grievances.
††††† But those who in their own homes
††††† have a sweet race of children growing,
††††† I see them worn down with cares†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† their whole life long. First,
††††† how they can raise their children well.
†††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††
††††† Next, how they can leave their sons
††††† sufficient livelihood. And then,
††††† itís by no means clear that all the work
††††† produces good or useless children.
††††† Thereís one final problem,
††††† the worst for any mortal human beingó
††††† Iíll tell you: suppose those parents
††††† have found a satisfactory way of life
††††† and seen their children grow
††††† into strong, young, virtuous men,††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††
††††† if Fate so wills it, Death arrives,††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† and carries the childrenís bodies
††††† away to Hades. What profit, then,
††††† is there for us and our love of sons,
††††† if the gods inflict on mortal men,
††††† in addition to their other troubles,
††††† this most painful further sorrow.


[Enter MEDEA from the house]


††††† My friends, Iíve long been waiting in suspense
††††† to see whatís happening in the royal house.
††††† Now I see one of Jasonís servants coming.††††††††††† ††††††††††††††
††††† His frantic breathing indicates to me
††††† he brings fresh news of some catastrophe.†††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††


[Enter the MESSENGER, coming from the royal palace]


††††† Medea, you must escapeóleave this place.
††††† Youíve done an awful deed, broken every law.
††††† Take ship and go by seaóor go overland
††††† by chariot. But you must go from here.


††††† Whatís happened that I have to run away?


††††† The kingís daughter has just been destroyed,
††††† her father, tooóCreon. You poisoned them.


††††† What really splendid news you bring.††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† From now on, Iíll consider you a friend,
††††† one of my benefactors.


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Whatís that?
††††† Are you in your right mind, lady, or insane?
††††† To commit this crime against the royal house,†††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††
††††† and then be happy when you hear the news,
††††† without being afraid?


††††† I have some remarks to offer in reply.
††††† But, my friend, donít be in such a hurry.
††††† Tell me of their deaths. If you report
††††† they died in pain, youíll double my rejoicing.†††††††† †††††††††††††


††††† When your two children came with their father
††††† and entered the brideís home, we servants,
††††† who had shared in your misfortune, were glad,
††††† for a rumour spread at once from ear to ear
††††† that you and your husbandís previous quarrel††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† was now over. Someone kissed the boysí hands,
††††† someone else their golden hair. In my joy,
††††† I went with the children right inside,
††††† into the womenís quarters. Our mistress,
††††† whom we now look up to instead of you,†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††
††††† before she caught sight of your two children,
††††† wanted to fix her eyes on Jason only.
††††† But then she veiled her eyes and turned away
††††† her white cheek, disgusted that theyíd come.
††††† Your husband tried to change the young brideís mood,††† ††††††††††††††
††††† to soften her anger, saying these words,


†††††††††† ďDonít be so hard-hearted with your family.
†††††††††† Check your anger, and turn your face this way,
†††††††††† look at us again, and count as friends of yours
†††††††††† those your husband thinks are friends of his.†††††††† †††††††
†††††††††† Now, receive these gifts, and then, for my sake,
†††††††††† beg your father not to exile these two boys.Ē


††††† Once she saw the gifts, she did not hold out,
††††† but agreed in everything with Jason.
††††† And before your children and their father
††††† had gone any distance from the palace,
†† †††she took the richly embroidered gown
††††† and put it on, then arranged the golden crown,†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† fixing it in her hair at a bright mirror,
††††† smiling at her bodyís lifeless image there.††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Then she stood up from her seat and strolled
††††† across the room, moving delicately
††††† on her pale feet, delighted at the gifts,
††††† with a great many glances to inspect
††††† the straightness of the dress against her legs.
††††† But then it happenedóa horrific sight.
†† †††She changed colour, staggered back and sideways,
††††† trembling, then fell into her chair again,
††††† almost collapsing on the floor. An old woman,†††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††
††††† one of her servants, thinking it was a fit†††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††
††††† inspired by Pan or by some other god,
††††† shouted in festive joy, until she saw
††††† the white spit foaming in her mouth, her eyes
††††† bulging from their sockets, and her pale skin
††††† quite drained of blood. The servant screamed againó
††††† this time, to make up for her former shout,
††††† she cried out in distress. Another slave
††††† ran off at once towards her fatherís palace,
and another to the girlís new husband
††††† to tell him the grim fate his bride had met.††††††† †††††††††††††††††
††††† The whole house rang with peopleís footsteps,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† as they hurried back and forth. By the time
††††† it would take a fast runner to complete
††††† two hundred yards and reach the finish line,
††††† her eyes openedóthe poor girl woke up,
††††† breaking her silent fit with a dreadful scream.
††††† She was suffering a double agonyó
††††† around her head the golden diadem
††††† shot out amazing molten streams of fire
††††† burning everything, and the fine woven robe,†††††††† †††††††††††
††††† your childrenís gift, consumed the poor girlís flesh.
††††† She jumped up from the chair and ran away,††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† all of her on fire, tossing her head, her hair,
††††† this way and that, trying to shake off
††††† her golden crownóbut it was fixed in place,
††††† and when she shook her hair, the fire blazed
††††† twice as high. Then she fell down on the ground,
††††† overcome by the disaster. No one
††††† could recognize her, except her father.
††††† Her eyes had lost their clear expression,††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††
††††† her face had changed. And there was blood
††††† across her head, dripping down, mixed with fire.
††††† The flesh was peeling from her bones, chewed off
††††† by the poisonís secret jaws, just like resin††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† oozing from a pine tree. An appalling sight!
††††† Everyone was too afraid to touch the corpseó
††††† what weíd seen had warned us. But her father,
††††† poor wretch, didnít know what sheís been through.
††††† He came unexpectedly into the house
††††† and stumbled on the corpse. He cried aloud,††††††††††† ††††††††††
††††† embraced his daughter and kissed her, saying,


†††††††††† ďMy poor child, what god has been so cruel
†††††††††† to destroy you in this way? Whoís taken you
†††††††††† away from me, an old man near my death?
†††††††††† O my child, I wish I could die with you.Ē††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† He ended his lamenting cries. But then,
††††† when he tried to raise his old body up,
††††† he was entangled in that woven dress,
††††† like ivy wrapped around a laurel branch.
††††† He struggled dreadfully, trying to get up††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††
††††† onto his knees, but she held him down.
††††† If he used force, he tore his ancient flesh
††††† clear from his bones. The poor man at last gave up.
††††† His breathing stoppedóhe could not stand the pain
††††† a moment longer. So the two of them lie deadó
††††† the daughter, her old father, side by side.††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Itís horrible, something to make one weep.

††††† Concerning you thereís nothing I will say.
††††† For youíll know well enough the punishment
††††† thatís coming to you.
As for human life,†††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††
††††† it seems to me, and not for the first time,
††††† nothing but shadows. And I might say,
††††† without feeling any fear, those mortals
††††† who seem wise, who prepare their words with care,
††††† are guilty of the greatest foolishness.
††††† Among human beings no one is happy.
††††† Wealth may flow in to produce a man
††††† more lucky than another, but no man,††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† is ever happy, no one.




††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† This is the day, it seems,†††††††††††††††††††††
††††† the god tightens troubles around Jason,
††††† and justly so. O poor Creonís daughter,
†††† how we pity your misfortune. Youíre gone,
††††† down in Hadesí homeóthe price you pay
††††† for marrying Jason.


††††† Iíve made up my mind, my friends.
††††† Iíll do itókill my children now, without delay,
††††† and flee this land. I must not hesitate.
††††† That would hand them over to someone else
††††† to be slaughtered by a hand less loving.†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††
††††† No matter what, the children have to die.
††††† Since thatís the case, then I, who gave them life,††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††
†††† will kill them. Arm yourself for this, my heart.
††††† Why do I put off doing this dreadful act,
††††† since it must be done? Come, pick up the sword,
††††† wretched hand of mine. Pick up the sword,
††††† move to where your life of misery begins.
††††† Donít play the coward. Donít remember now
††††† how much you love them, how you gave them life.
††††† For this short day forget they are your children ††††††††††††††††
††††† and mourn them later. Although you kill them,
††††† still you loved them. As a woman, Iím so sad.†††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††


[Exit MEDEA into the house]


††††† Hail to Earth,
††††† Hail to the Sun,
††††† whose rays illuminate all things.
††††† Turn your eyes, look down,
††††† see this destroying woman,
††††† before she sets her bloody hands,
††††† her instruments of murder,
††††† onto her own children,††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† those offshoots of your golden race.
††††† Itís a fearful thing for men
††††† to spill the blood of gods.
††††† O light which comes from Zeus,
††††† stop her, take from the house
††††† this blood-thirsty savage Fury
††††† gripped by the spirit of revenge.†† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† The pain you felt in giving birth
††††† was useless, wasted.
††††† Those children you so love,†††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† you bore them all in vain.
††††† You who left behind you
††††† the inhospitable passage
††††† where the Symplegades dance,
††††† those deadly, dark-blue rocks,
††††† you unhappy woman,
††††† why does your anger
††††† fall so heavily upon your heart,
††††† and one harsh murder
††††† follow so quickly on another?†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† The polluting moral stain
††††† that taints all mortal men
††††† who shed their family blood
††††† upon the earthóthatís hard to bear.
††††† For the gods send down
††††† onto the houses of the ones who kill
††††† sorrows to match their crimes.†††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


CHILD [from inside the house]
††††† Help me . . . help . . .


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Did you hear that?
††††† Did you hear the children cry?
††††† That wretched, evil woman!†††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


CHILD [from within]
††††† What do I do? How can I escape
††††† my motherís hands?


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I donít know, dear brother.
††††† Itís over for us . . .


CHORUS [shouting in response]
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Should I go in the house?
††††† Iím sure I must prevent this murder.


††††† Yesófor the love of gods, stop this! And hurry!


††††† The sword has almost got usólike a snare!


††††† You hard and wretched woman,
††††† just like stone or ironó
††††† to kill your children,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† ones you bore yourself,†††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††† ††sealing their fate with your own hands.
††††† Of all women that ever lived before
††††† I know of one, of only one,
††††† who laid hands on her dear childrenó
††††† and that was Ino,
††††† driven to madness by the gods,
††††† when Hera, Zeusí wife,
†††† sent her wandering in a fit
††††† away from home,
††††† that sad lady leapt into the sea,††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† because sheíd killed her sons
††††† a most unholy murder.
††††† She walked into the surf
††††† at the seaís edge, perishing
††††† so she could join in death
††††† her own two children.
††††† But what horror still remains
††††† after whatís happened here?
††††† A womanís marriage bed󆆆††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† so full of painóhow many evils,††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††
††††† has it brought on humankind?


[Enter JASON with attendants]


††††† You women standing there beside the house,
††††† whereís Medea, whoís done these awful things?
††††† Is she still inside? Or has she left here?
††††† Sheíll have to hide herself under the earth
††††† or else fly up to heavenís overarching vault,
††††† if sheís going to avoid her punishment
††††† from the royal house. Did she really think
††††† she could kill the rulers of this country
††††† and get away unharmed? But at this point †††††††††††††††††††††††††1550 ††††††[1300]
††††† sheís no concern of mine.
Iím worried
††††† for my children. Those whom she has wronged
††††† will take care of her. Iíve come for the boys,
††††† to save their lives, in case the next of kin
††††† try to harm me and mine, retribution
††††† for their motherís profane murders.


††††† Unhappy man, you donít know the full extent
††††† of your misfortune, or you would not say this.


††††† What is it? Does she plan to kill me, too?


††††† Your boys are dead, killed by their motherís hand.††††† †††††††


††††† No.
What are you telling me? Woman,††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††[1310]
††††† you have destroyed me.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The boys are dead.
††††† You must fix your mind on that. Theyíre gone.


††††† Where did she do this? Inside or outside?


††††† Open the doors and you will see them,
††††† your slaughtered children.


JASON [shouting into the house]
††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††You slaves in there,
††††† remove the bar from this door at once,
††††† withdraw the bolts, so I may see two thingsó
††††† my dead sons and their murderer, that woman
††††† on whom I shall exact revenge.†††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††


[JASON shakes the doors of the house, which remain closed. MEDEA appears in a winged chariot, rising above the house. The bodies of the two CHILDREN are visible in the chariot]


††††† Why are you rattling the doors like that,
††††† trying to unbar them so you can find
††††† their bodies and me, the one who killed them?
††††† Stop trying. If you desire something from me,
††††† then say so, if you want to. But youíll never†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† have me in your grasp, not in this chariot,
††††† a gift to me from my grandfather Helios,
††††† to protect me from all enemy hands.


††††† You accursed woman, most abominable
††††† to the gods and me and all mankind.

††††† You dared to take the sword to your own boys,†††††† †††††††††††
††††† youóthe one who bore themóand to leave me
††††† destroyed and childless. Having done this,
††††† after committing this atrocious crime,
††††† can you still look upon the earth and sun?
††††† May you be destroyed! Now I understandó
††††† I must have lost my mind to bring you here,
††††† from that savage country, to a Greek home.†††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† You were truly evil thenóyou betrayed
††††† your father and the land that raised you.
††††† But the avenging fury meant for you†††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††
††††† the gods have sent to me. You slaughtered
††††† your brother in your home, then came aboard
††††† our fine ship, the Argo. Thatís how you began.
††††† When you married me and bore my children,
††††† in your lust for sex and our marriage bed,
††††† you killed them. No woman from Greece would dare
††††† to do this, but I chose you as my wife†† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† above them all, and that has proved to be
††††† a hateful marriageóit has destroyed me.
††††† Youíre not a woman. Youíre a she-lion.††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† Your nature is more bestial than Scylla,
††††† the Tuscan monster. But my insults,
††††† multiplied a thousand fold, donít hurt you.
††††† Your heartís too hard for that. So be off,
††††† you shameful murderer of your children.
††††† Let me lament my fate. Iíll get no delight
††††† from my new bride, nor will I ever speak
††††† to my own living children, the two boys
††††† I bred and raised. Theyíre lost to me.††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† I would reply to your words at length,††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††
††††† if father Zeus did not already know
††††† what I did for you and what you did to me.
††††† You werenít going to shame my marriage bed
††††† and have a pleasant life ridiculing me,
††††† nor was that royal bride or Creon,
††††† who gave her to you, going to banish me,
††††† throw me from here with impunity.
††††† So if you want, call me a lioness
††††† or Scylla, who lives on Tuscan shores.
††††† For Iíve made contact with your heart at last.††††††††† †††††††††††
1620†† †††††[1360]


††††† You have your own share of pain and sorrow.


††††† Thatís true. But thereís relief in knowing
††††† you cannot laugh at me.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††O my children,
††††† you had such an evil mother!


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††O my children,
††††† victims of your fatherís evil actions!


††††† At least it was not my hand that killed them.


††††† No.
It was an insultóyour new marriage.


††††† Was it right to murder them for that?


††††† Do you think an insult to a woman
††††† is something insignificant?


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Yes, I do,†††††† ††††††††††††††††
††††† to a woman with good sense. But to you
††††† it is completely evil.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Well, your sons are gone.
††††† That should cause you pain.††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I think their spirits live
††††† to take out their revenge on you.


††††† The gods are aware who began this fight.


††††† Yes, they well know your detested heart.


††††† Keep up your hate. How I loathe your voice.


††††† And I hate yours. It wonít be difficult
††††† for the two of us to part.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††Tell me how.
††††† What shall I do? For thatís what I want, too.††††††††† ††††††††††††


††††† Let me bury these dead boys and mourn them.


††††† Never.
My own hands will bury them.
††††† Iíll take them to Heraís sacred lands
††††† in Acraia, so no enemy of mine
††††† will commit sacrilege against them
††††† by tearing up their graves. And in this place,†††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† this land of Sisyphus, Iíll initiate
††††† a solemn celebration, with mystic rites,
††††† future atonement for this profane murder.
††††† Iíll now go to the land of Erechtheus,††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to live with Aegeus, son of Pandion.
††††† As for you, youíll have a miserable death,
††††† as is fitting for a coward. Now youíve seen
††††† the bitter ending of your marriage to me,
††††† your head will be smashed in, when youíre hit
††††† by a moldy relic of your ship the Argo.


††††† May the avenging Fury of our children
††††† destroy youómay you find blood justice.†††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††† What god or spirit listens to you,
††††† a man who doesnít keep his promises,†††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† a man who deceives and lies to strangers?


††††† You polluted wretch! Child killer!


†††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Go home.
††††† Bury that wife of yours.


†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Iíll go.
††††† Iíve lost both my sons.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Your griefís not yet begun.
††††† Wait until youíre old.


†††††††††††††††††††††††††† O such loving children!


††††† Their mother loved them. You did not.


††††† And yet you killed them?


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Yes, to injure you.


††††† Alas, how I long to see my dear boysí faces,
††††† to hold them in my arms.††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††So now, at this point,
††††† youíll talk to them, youíll give them an embrace.††††† ††††††††††
††††† Before this, you shoved them from you.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††By the gods,
††††† I beg you, let me feel their tender skin.


††††† No.
Your words are wasted.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††O Zeus,
††††† do you hear how Iím being driven off,
††††† what I must endure from this child killer,
††††† this she lion, this abomination?
††††† But Iíll use the strength I have for grieving
††††† and praying to the gods to bear witness†††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† how you have killed my children and refuse
††††† to let me hold their bodies or bury them.††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††
††††† How I wish Iíd never been a father
††††† and had to see you kill my children.


[MEDEAíS chariot takes her and the CHILDREN up and away from the scene. Exit JASON]


††††† Zeus on Olympus,
††††† dispenses many things.††††
††††† Gods often contradict
††††† our fondest expectations.
††††† What we anticipate
††††† does not come to pass.
††††† What we donít expect
††††† some god finds a way†††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
††††† to make it happen.
†† †††So with this story.








1The Symplegades were two rocky outcrops at the entrance to the Black Sea that clashed together and destroyed ships. Jason and his crew had to sail past them on their way to and from Cholchis. [Back to Text]

2Pelion was a mountain in Thessaly whose trees had provided the wood to construct Jasonís boat, the Argo. [Back to Text]


3When Jason and Medea sailed away from Colchis with the Golden Fleece, Medeaís father, king Aeetes, sailed in pursuit of them. To slow down her fatherís forces, Medea killed her brother Absyrtus and scattered his remains on an island, because she knew Aeetes would have to stop to collect his sonís body. [Back to Text]


4Apolloís ancient oracle was his shrine at Delphi. The navel stone in the temple there was believed to be the central point of the earth. [Back to Text]


5Erechtheus was a legendary king of Athens, founder of the polis. Erechtheusí sons is a phrase that commonly denotes citizens of Athens. [Back to Text]


6Ino was a mortal queen of Thebes, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia. She helped to nurse the infant god Dionysus, Zeusí child born to her sister Semele. Zeusí divine wife, Hera, enraged at the birth of Dionysus, drove Ino and her husband, Athamas, mad, so that they killed their two sons (accounts differ as to how the children died). [Back to Text]





[For a list of other translations by Ian Johnston, please check johnstonia]