(KLYTEMNESTRA and IPHIGENIA enter in a chariot.)
- CHORUS: But hail, oh hail! It is the Princess Iphigenia and her mother, Klytemnestra, daughter of Tyndareus! What a noble ancestry they have! How high they have risen in fortune! The wealthy seem like gods to common women like ourselves.
CHORUS LEADER: Women of Chalkis, let us guide this great queen down from her chariot. Let us lead her with gentle hands, so she and her daughter may descend without fear. Daughter of Agamemnon, we are strangers here, like you. Do not be frightened. -
[CHORUS ALL: But hail, oh hail! It is the Princess Iphigenia and her mother, Klytemnestra, daughter of Tyndareus!
CHORUS B: Can you believe that’s her?
CHORUS A: She’s sort of like a God, isn’t she?
CHORUS B: And her daughter, too.
CHORUS LEADER: Women of Chalkis, let us guide this great queen down from her chariot.
CHORUS A: Don’t worry Iphigenia, we won’t hurt you.
CHORUS B: We’re strangers here, too.]
KLYTEMNESTRA: Here is good fortune, to be greeted with such kindness. An auspicious beginning for a young woman about to be married. Please be careful with the gifts I have brought for my daughter’s dowry. My child, step cautiously, the maidens here will help you down. Someone see to the horses, they grow fearful without soothing. Might one of you give me your hand, so I can descend with some grace? Oh, but hold the baby first. He is Orestes, Agememnon’s son. Look, he is asleep, lulled by the movement of the chariot. Wake up, my dozing prince, it is your sister’s wedding day. You will have a new brother today, the son of a sea nymph. Stand next to me, Iphigenia, so these strangers can see how happy we are together.
Look, it is your father!
(IPHIGENIA runs to AGAMEMNON and hugs him.)
IPHIGENIA: Do not be angry with me, Mother, I must hold him first. Oh, Father, I have so yearned to see you again that I must outrun everyone in order to embrace you.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Of course. Of all our children, you love your father the most.
IPHIGENIA: I am so glad to see you, Father! How long it has been.
AGAMEMNON: Yes. Your words speak for me too.
IPHIGENIA: Thank you, Father, you were so clever to bring me here to you.
AGAMEMNON: As for that—I cannot say one way or the other.
IPHIGENIA: You say you are happy, but you look so upset.
AGAMEMNON: I have many things on my mind, as kings and generals do.
IPHIGENIA: Think about your daughter, not your worries.
AGAMEMNON: I am thinking only of you, now.
IPHIGENIA: Then smile. Stop knitting up your brow and smile.
AGAMEMNON: You cannot imagine how I feel to see you.
IPHIGENIA: And yet your eyes are filled with tears.
AGAMEMNON: I am thinking of our next parting—it will be a long one.
IPHIGENIA: You should stay at home, Father, with your children.
AGAMEMNON: If only I could. That is what’s making me so sad.
IPHIGENIA: Then forget about the war! Forget about Menelaus’s troubles. Let the whole thing come to an end.
AGAMEMNON: It is putting an end to me, and to others as well.
IPHIGENIA: You have been here in Aulis such a long time.
AGAMEMNON: And yet I still cannot leave.
IPHIGENIA: Will your voyage be very far?
AGAMEMNON: Your voyage, I think, will be farther. But we will meet again.
IPHIGENIA: I wish you could take me with you.
AGAMEMNON: When you are gone, you will forget all about me.
IPHIGENIA: Will my mother come too, or just me alone?
AGAMEMNON: Alone, without your mother or your father.
IPHIGENIA: Do you mean, in my new home with my husband?
AGAMEMNON: Hush. It is not proper for maidens to speak of such matters.
IPHIGENIA: When you have returned home from Troy, you will have to come straight to me.
AGAMEMNON: Before I leave, I have a sacrifice I must perform.
IPHIGENIA: Of course. The gods need their sacrifices.
AGAMEMNON: You will attend. You will stand right next to the purifying water.
IPHIGENIA: Will we dance round the altar?
AGAMEMNON: How happy you are in your innocence. But give me a kiss and your hand, then go inside. I know young girls are shy about having the world observe them. Soon, you will embark on a trip that will take you far away from me.
(IPHIGENIA kisses him.)
Oh, to touch your cheek, your hair, to hold you close . . . how unfair it is that you have to suffer for Helen and for Troy. But enough, I must stop my tears. Go inside.
Daughter of Leda, forgive me for my weakness. I know I have shed too many tears over this marriage to Achilles. It is a time of joy, of course, but a father’s heart breaks when he sends his daughter to live in a stranger’s home.
KLYTEMNESTRA: I feel the same way. I don’t blame you for feeling grief. I too will shed some tears when I lead my daughter to her marriage and hear the marriage hymns. But this is a common grief, and it disappears in time. So tell me about the man who is going to wed our daughter. I want to know more about his family.
AGAMEMNON: They say Zeus himself was his great-grandsire. Asopos, the river god, is in his lineage, and his mother Thetis is a nymph, the daughter of Nereus, god of the sea.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Did Peleus marry Thetis with the gods’ blessing or against their wishes?
AGAMEMNON: It was Zeus who gave the bride away.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Where was the wedding? In the sea?
AGAMEMNON: At the foot of Mount Pelion, where Cheiron lives.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Where the Centaurs live, they say.
AGAMEMNON: And the gods made them a feast.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Was Achilles raised by Thetis or his father?
AGAMEMNON: By Cheiron, far from wicked men.
KLYTEMNESTRA: A wise tutor, and an even wiser father, to entrust his son.
AGAMEMNON: This is the man who will marry our daughter.
KLYTEMNESTRA: There seems little to find fault with. And where in Achaea does he call home?
AGAMEMNON: He comes from Phthia, overlooking the river Apidanus.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Is this where he will take our daughter?
AGAMEMNON: If he wishes. That will be his decision, as her husband.
KLYTEMNESTRA: May they find joy in their marriage. When will it be?
AGAMEMNON: The next full moon will be the most auspicious time.
KLYTEMNESTRA: What about the sacrifice? Will it be made?
AGAMEMNON: It will. It is my next task.
KLYTEMNESTRA: With the feast afterwards?
AGAMEMNON: After the required sacrifice. Yes.
KLYTEMNESTRA: And the women’s feast? Where will it be?
AGAMEMNON: Here, by the ships.
KLYTEMNESTRA: I suppose we have no choice. Yet perhaps it will bring luck.
AGAMEMNON: Remember this: you must obey me, now.
KLYTEMNESTRA: I always do.
AGAMEMNON: I will take charge of everything. When the bridegroom’s here—
KLYTEMNESTRA: Of everything? Will you play the mother’s part?
AGAMEMNON: My soldiers and I will take care of this marriage.
KLYTEMNESTRA: And where will I be?
AGAMEMNON: In Argos, caring for our daughters.
KLYTEMNESTRA: What of my eldest daughter? Who will raise the bridal torch, if not me?
AGAMEMNON: I will provide all the light needed.
KLYTEMNESTRA: No, these customs are important. That should not be.
AGAMEMNON: There are only soldiers here. It is not right for you to be alone among them all.
KLYTEMNESTRA: It is not right for me to be absent during my child’s wedding.
AGAMEMNON: Your other daughters need you, at home.
KLYTEMNESTRA: They are safe inside the virgin chambers of Athena’s temple.
AGAMEMNON: Let me persuade you, please.
KLYTEMNESTRA: No, by the goddess queen of Argos. Go and take care of what business you need to outside of the home, but everything inside it is mine to rule. I will go now and help the bride prepare.
(KLYTEMNESTRA exits into the hut.)
AGAMEMNON: Alas, it is no use. I am thwarted in every way. I cannot even get my wife to leave. I try to use trickery to protect those I love most, but my schemes all fail. Now I must face Kalchas and discuss with him the sacrifice he says the goddess demands. It is my duty to my country. A wise man should have a wife he can use for good purpose, or no wife at all.