ACHILLES: Where is the Achaean commander? Are there any servants here to announce that I, Achilles son of Peleus, am standing here? Not everyone who waits on this beach with you is in the same situation. Some of us have no wives or children, and we have left our homes unattended, because of the passion that the gods have placed in our hearts. It is a passion that has sent our whole nation with you on this journey. I can only speak for myself. Let others speak for themselves. I have travelled from Pharsalus, left behind my father Peleus, and here I am now beside the Euripus, waiting for the whisper of a breeze that blows aright. My Myrmidon soldiers press me, asking “Why do we wait? How much more time must we spend on this expedition to Troy? If we are to do something, lead us to it, or else lead us away from here and away from these two dallying sons of Atreus.”
KLYTEMNESTRA: Son of the sea nymph, I heard you speak so I came out to see you.
(ACHILLES averts his eyes.)
ACHILLES: Most holy modesty, who is this woman so blessed by beauty?
KLYTEMNESTRA: You have not seen me before, so of course you do not know me. I appreciate your reverent modesty.
ACHILLES: But who are you? Why are you, a woman, in this place of men and shields?
KLYTEMNESTRA: I am Klytemnestra, daughter of Leda, wife to Agamemnon.
ACHILLES: Well answered, quick and clear. But it is not seemly for me to talk to women.
(ACHILLES begins to leave.)
KLYTEMNESTRA: Don’t leave so quickly. Stay and join your right hand with mine, as a prelude to a happy marriage.
ACHILLES: Take your hand? What are you suggesting? I have no right. I could never look Agamemnon in the eyes, if I did.
KLYTEMNESTRA: You have every right, son of the sea nymph. You are marrying my daughter.
ACHILLES: Marrying your daughter? I . . . don’t know what to say. Is this some delusion?
KLYTEMNESTRA: Men shy away from their new family, when marriage is in the air. It is natural.
ACHILLES: I have never sought your daughter in marriage, nor have the sons of Atreus spoken to me about these plans.
KLYTEMNESTRA: How can this be? I am as surprised as you must have been a moment ago.
ACHILLES: Then let’s try to find the truth behind it. Perhaps we are both right. It may just be a misunderstanding.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Can I have been deceived? Can this marriage exist only in my mind? I feel so ashamed.
ACHILLES: Maybe someone is playing a trick on us. Pay no attention to it; it doesn’t matter.
KLYTEMNESTRA: I must leave. I am humiliated, to have been made into a liar like this.
ACHILLES: I feel the same. But I must go inside to see your husband.
(OLD SERVANT peeks his head out from the hut.)
OLD SERVANT: Wait! Stranger, son of the gods, wait! And you too, daughter of Leda.
ACHILLES: Who calls us from that half-opened door? He sounds so frightened.
OLD SERVANT: I am a slave, nothing more. Why pretend better?
ACHILLES: Whose slave?
OLD SERVANT: That woman’s, over there. I was a gift from her father.
ACHILLES: Well, I am still here. What do you want? Why did you stop me?
OLD SERVANT: Are the two of you alone?
ACHILLES: We are alone. Come out from there and speak.
(OLD SERVANT emerges.)
OLD SERVANT: May fortune and my own foresight be enough for those I hope to save.
ACHILLES: Portentous words, though your point is slow in coming.
(KLYTEMNESTRA holds out her hand.)
KLYTEMNESTRA: Here, take my right hand. Speak to me.
(The SERVANT takes her hand and kneels before her.)
OLD SERVANT: You know I am a good man and devoted to you and your children.
KLYTEMNESTRA: I know that you have served my house for many years.
OLD SERVANT: And that King Agamemnon received me as part of your dowry?
KLYTEMNESTRA: Yes, you came with me to Argos, and you have always been my servant.
OLD SERVANT: Yes. So you know I am loyal to you first—you, above your husband.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Come, tell me what you have to say.
OLD SERVANT: It is about your daughter. Her father is about to kill her—
KLYTEMNESTRA: What? What sort of mad story are you telling me?
OLD SERVANT: He will cut her white throat open with his sword.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Are you telling me my husband’s gone insane?
OLD SERVANT: No, he is sane, except when it comes to you and your daughter. There, he is mad.
KLYTEMNESTRA: What reason would he have? What avenging god possesses him?
OLD SERVANT: It is the Oracle, according to Kalchas. So that the fleet may sail.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Where will it sail? Alas for me, alas for the girl whose father waits to slay her.
OLD SERVANT: To Troy, so Menelaus can bring back Helen.
KLYTEMNESTRA: So Helen’s rescue dooms Iphigenia?
OLD SERVANT: Now you know everything. Agamemnon intends to sacrifice her to Artemis.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Then why talk of her marriage to Achilles?
OLD SERVANT: To lure you into bringing your daughter here.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Oh my daughter, this journey we have taken, it will bring death to us both.
OLD SERVANT: I pity the two of you. It is an awful deed that Agamemnon plans.
KLYTEMNESTRA: I am finished. I cannot hold back my tears.
OLD SERVANT: Go ahead and weep. What mother would not weep at the loss of her children?
KLYTEMNESTRA: Where did you hear all this? How did you discover it?
OLD SERVANT: I was given a letter that referred to the earlier message you received.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Did it tell me not to bring my child to her death, or did it urge me on?
OLD SERVANT: It was meant to prevent you from coming. Your husband momentarily regained his reason.
KLYTEMNESTRA: And if this is really true, why did you not deliver this letter to me?
OLD SERVANT: Menelaus took it from me. He is to blame for everything.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Son of Peleus and the sea nymph, do you hear all this?
ACHILLES: I hear your misery. I am sorry that my name was used in the matter.
KLYTEMNESTRA: They will murder my daughter. They tricked me by pretending she would be wed to you.
ACHILLES: I am angry with your husband as well. I do not take this lightly.
(KLYTEMNESTRA kneels in front of ACHILLES and embraces his legs.)
KLYTEMNESTRA: I am not ashamed to fall at your knees. What should be more important to me than the well-being of my daughter? Oh please help me, son of a goddess, help me and help the young bride who was said to be your own, although I know it was a lie. It is for your sake that I placed a bridal wreath upon her head, and when she is murdered, it is you who will be blamed for it. For even though you were never married to her, your name is now connected to this poor maiden. I beg you by your hand, by your noble chin, by your own mother. I have been brought so low because of the power of your name, and that is something you are bound to defend. My only altar is your knee. I have no friends here to turn to. You know how heartless Agamemnon has been. I am a woman alone among unruly soldiers, all ready to do the worst to me, useful as they may be otherwise. But if you stretch out your hand and hold us under your protection, we will be safe. If not, we are lost.
CHORUS LEADER: Mothers have a great and mysterious power, every one of them. They will risk anything for their children’s sake.
ACHILLES: It seems I have been made into the worst of men, a nothing, no better than Menelaus in all this, not the son of a king but of a vengeful demon, for your husband is using my name to commit murder. I pledge to you this: Agamemnon will not touch your daughter. If he does, it will be a mark of dishonor not only on my name, but the name of Thetis, my exalted mother, and Nereus, her exalted father. My sword will bear witness: it will be covered in Agamemnon’s barbarian blood well before we reach Troy if your daughter is taken from me.
OLD SERVANT: May you be blessed for the rest of your life for helping those in need!
ACHILLES: Listen to me, and perhaps all will be well.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Go on, I am eager to hear.
ACHILLES: We will try to restore her father back to sanity.
KLYTEMNESTRA: He is too cowardly. He fears the army.
ACHILLES: One argument can win out against another.
KLYTEMNESTRA: That seems a faint hope. But tell me what you propose.
ACHILLES: First you must beg him not to kill his daughter. If he refuses to listen, come to me. But if luck is with you, perhaps things can turn out well for your family even without my aid.
KLYTEMNESTRA: Sensible enough. I will do so. But if my pleas fail to work, how will I find you? Shall I wander forlornly, searching for your hand to clasp in aid?
ACHILLES: I will keep an eye out for you. I will make sure you do not have to run frantically among the soldiers. You will not shame your father’s house. Tyndareus is a great man and deserves a good reputation.
KLYTEMNESTRA: I will do as you say. Lead me, and I will follow. If there are gods, they will reward you. If there are not, then perhaps nothing matters.
(KLYTEMNESTRA and the OLD SERVANT go inside the hut and ACHILLES exits.)