Andromache/Act V

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Act IV Andromache
Act V
written by Jean Racine, translated by A. S. Kline

Act V Scene I (Hermione, alone)

Where am I? What’s done? What more awaits me?
What mood has gripped me? What grief devours me?
I wander, purposeless, about this place.
How can I know whether I love or hate?
Cruel! With what a look he dismissed me,
Without sorrow or a trace of pity!
Was he troubled about me for a moment?
For me, was there the smallest sigh present?
Deaf to my moans, calm, so it appears,
Did he even seem to register my tears?
And I mourn him; fill my cup to the brim;
My coward’s heart is still involved with him,
I tremble at the menace of that blow,
And, verging on revenge, forgiveness show!
No, I’ll not halt the course of my anger:
Let him die! He lives for me no longer.
Perfidious, he triumphs, scorns my rage,
He thinks this storm in tears will dissipate;
Believes that weak, and with a wavering heart,
One hand will ward off what the other starts.
And he still judges me by my past kindness.
Or rather other things his thoughts possess.
Triumphant in the temple, he’ll not know
Someone elsewhere dreams the mortal blow.
He leaves me, then! Oh, sad predicament.
No, one act more: Orestes’ fell intent.
Let Pyrrhus die, since he foresaw it,
And since he’s forced me to desire it.
Desire it? What? Who chooses, is it I?
Through Hermione’s love shall he die,
This prince, whose deeds in other days,
Gave my heart joy in so many ways,
To whom, in secret even, I was destined
Before they planned that fatal wedding,
For whom I crossed so many lands and seas,
Travelled so far to bring him to his knees,
To assassinate him? Oh, before he dies….!

Act V Scene II (Hermione, Cleone)

What have I done, Cleone? What say your eyes?
How is Pyrrhus?
With joy delirious,
Proudest of mortals and most amorous.
I saw him near the temple, there to wed,
Who as a conqueror his new conquest led;
And, with eyes where joy and hope shone,
Drunk with the sight of her, he strode along.
Andromache, midst a thousand cries of joy,
Bears to the altar memories of Troy:
Incapable of love or hate, I say,
Joyless and silent: seeming to obey.
And the ingrate, will he end this outrage?
Paid you close attention to his visage?
Does he sip at pleasure’s brimming chalice?
Did he look back once towards the palace?
Tell me, did you keep yourself in view?
Did the ingrate blush on seeing you?
Did anxiety reveal his faithlessness,
Is he proud to the end, now, confess?
He sees naught: safety and honour too
Seem to flee his memory, along with you.
Careless of who’s by him, foe or subject
He merely pursues his amorous project.
He’s ranged his guard round Hector’s son,
Thinking the boy threatened, if anyone.
So Phoenix leads the lad to a far place:
Distant from the temple, and the palace.
That is Pyrrhus’ only care today.
Faithless, he dies! What did Orestes say?
Orestes entered the temple with his men.
Ah! Was he ready to exact revenge?
I know not.
You know not? Orestes too,
Orestes betrays me?
He adores you.
But a thousand things confuse his mind,
Now to love, now to honour, he is blind,
In Pyrrhus sees the virtue of the crown;
In Pyrrhus sees Achilles; in both, renown:
He fears Greece, and a hostile universe,
But fears himself, he claims, the very worst.
He’d bring you Pyrrhus’ head, his victim,
Only the thought of murder prevents him.
Well, he has entered, not knowing whether
He’ll be a murderer or mere spectator.
Oh, he’ll see them wed without obstacle;
He’ll not trouble that fine spectacle.
I know what conscience stays men’s spears:
The coward fears death, that’s all he fears.
What! Without uttering a single cry
Did not my mother summon Greece to die?
Did not her eyes in those ten years of war,
Draw twenty kings to death, not hers before?
And I ask only a perjurer’s death,
And charge a lover with his dying breath;
With ease he can, as his prize, now win me;
Shall I give myself, and none avenge me?
Come: she that deals justice must be I.
What cries of sorrow from that shrine will fly;
We’ll end this fateful marriage with lament,
If they’re joined, let it last one brief moment.
I’ll distinguish none in that last frenzy:
All shall be Pyrrhus, Orestes, trust me.
I’ll die; yet at least I’ll be avenged so,
Some there will follow, I’ll not die alone.

Act V Scene III (Orestes, Hermione, Cleone)

Madame, it’s done, yours was the knife:
Pyrrhus has yielded up his faithless life.
He’s dead?
Dying: and our Greeks, still angry,
Bathed him in blood, for his perjury.
I gave my promise; and yet my courage
Found in this plot a sad funereal image,
I ran to the temple, our Greeks had vowed
To reach the altar mingled with the crowd.
Pyrrhus saw me. But with calm expression,
Sight of me seemed to confirm his mission,
The Greeks defiant, their ambassador,
Only confirming his wedding splendour.
Then, with delight, lifting a royal crown,
He placed it thus on Andromache’s brow:
‘I give you,’ he said, ‘my crown, my fealty,
Andromache; rule Epirus and me.
I pledge your son the love of a father;
Witness the Gods: I swear it to his mother.
I hold as enemies all those of this boy,
And recognise him now as King of Troy.’
To words that thrilled his people, so I gauge,
Our Greeks responded with a cry of rage;
The man was hemmed in, Greeks about him,
And I could find no clear place to strike him.
Each sought the glory of his destruction.
I saw him struggle, in the heat of action,
Trying to escape all blood-wet from their blows;
Yet, at the altar at the last, brought low.
The crowd were stunned: I pushed through the press,
To reach, and take from here, my own Princess,
And gain the harbour, where our allies soon,
Will gather stained with blood they shed for you.
What have they done!
Forgive their impatience:
They have, I know, forestalled your vengeance.
You wished my hand to strike the final blow,
So that your hand, in dying, he might know;
But my ardour served as their example:
For you I deployed them in the temple,
Madame: and you alone are honoured
By a death they merely executed.
You alone struck the blows…
Silence, traitor,
It’s yours alone this cowardly murder.
Go let the Greeks admire your anger,
Go, I spurn it, you fill me with horror.
Barbarian, what have you done? Fury
Cuts short a life ever formed for glory!
Have you killed a man today? Then tell,
Did not one drop of blood in you rebel?
Speak. Who made you his fate’s arbiter?
Why did you kill? On what grounds? What for?
Who told you to?
You Gods! What, did not you though,
Yourself, here beg his death an hour ago?
Must one then credit every crazed lover?
Could you my deeper thought not discover?
Could you not see by my inner torment,
My heart spurred my speech in every moment?
Though I wished it, why must you then agree?
Did you have to make me say it endlessly?
Before the deed you came to question me,
To return again: or rather to avoid me?
Why not leave me then to my own vengeance!
Who brought you here where they shun your presence?
Of your love, this, the detestable fruit,
You bring me, the horror that follows you.
It’s you whose embassy, fatal to us both,
Made him pursue my rival: to his loss.
We would be still the sharers of his heart;
Perhaps he’d have loved me yet; for his part.
Farewell. Go now. I’ll stay in Epirus:
I renounce Greece; Sparta; all my house;
All my family; it is enough for me
That she produced you: you, monstrosity.

Act V Scene IV (Orestes, alone)

Was this Hermione? What did I hear?
For whom then did I play the murderer?
I am, it seems, the assassin who killed.
Is Pyrrhus dead? Am I Orestes still?
I quell the thought that makes all clear.
I’ve killed, alas, a king whom I revere;
I’ve violated rules of embassy,
The sanctity of kings, humanity,
The very altars where my fury raged:
A regicide, dealt murder; sacrilege.
For whom? She to whom I gave my word, she,
Who, if he’d not died, would have shunned me,
Whose cause I wed. And yet now he is dead,
She asks his blood and breath again, instead!
She loves him! And I’m the raging monster!
Far from my sight, I lose her now, forever!
Ungrateful, fleeing, leaves me for my prize,
Her slave, all the harsh names she can devise.

Act V Scene V (Orestes, Pylades, Orestes, soldiers)

We must go, my Lord, quit this place
Or learn never to do so after this.
Our Greeks hold on awhile within the gate,
A crowd has gathered, armed now and irate.
All here submit themselves to Andromache:
They call her queen, us foes, whom they attack.
Andromache herself, who jibbed at Pyrrhus,
His loyal widow, now declares against us,
Calls out for vengeance, harshly would demand
Payment for Troy now, and her first husband.
Don’t wait for them to gather. Come quickly,
Our Greeks are here; and while Hermione
Held the crowd there, suffered her arrest,
Here lay our road, the safest and the best.
No, my friends, Hermione I’ll follow.
Her arrest steals from me my tomorrow.
Go: I caused the crime, and I will pay.
Hermione, my Lord, you must forsake.
What! Ever the tool and object of her rage,
Do you seek to do the dead fresh outrage,
Because she meets her death, must you die too?
Dead? You Gods! Who says it?
No one told you?
Returning here we met her, all distraught,
Running towards the temple; hearing naught.
She saw Pyrrhus, borne high by his men,
His blood inciting them to swift revenge.
Her frenzy was doubtless stirred by the sight.
For we saw her there, from the gate’s height,
Dagger in hand, bow above Pyrrhus’ head,
Look heavenwards, strike and fall as dead.
Wretchedness beyond all, you Gods! I bless,
I praise you, for your endless thoroughness.
Bent on scourging me my whole life through,
I touch the depths of agony, formed by you.
Your hatred, set on causing me despair;
I only served as object for your anger,
To become the model of a life’s defeat.
Well! I die happy, and my fate complete.
Where are those lovers? This joy to crown,
I’ll bathe now in their blood, and in my own,
I want to view them as I meet my sword.
Let’s merge three hearts never in accord.
But what dark is this that now is rising,
Surrounding me? Why am I shivering?
What terror grips me? You Gods, I see…
Ah! What rivers of blood flow round me?
My lord!
Pyrrhus! Do I see you once more?
Must I always find the rival I abhor?
Pierced by blows, how have you survived?
Wait, wait! Here’s one you were denied.
What’s this? Hermione embraces him?
She comes perhaps to save him from his sin?
You Gods! What poisoned looks fly from her!
What demons, what snakes, drag behind her!
Ah! Daughters of Hell, are you prepared?
Who are those snakes for, hissing in your hair?
Who is this destined for, infernal sight?
Do you come to take me to eternal night?
So, Orestes yields to you, the Furies.
Yet, turn back, leave me to Hermione:
She, more than you, knows how to rend me;
My heart she shall devour, I’ll not defend me.
He loses consciousness, and time presses:
Employ the moments that this fit leaves us.
Save him now. Our effort will prove worthless,
If, sense returning here, his nightmares surface.