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She will robe herself in the robe: and anon >
The gifts are envenomed. Glauce and Creon, wrapt in a sheet of phosphoric flame, expire in torments. Jason is a widowed bridegroom; all Corinth is aroused to take vengeance on the barbaric sorceress. Surely this must be the end of the tragedy. No; "bad begins, but worse remains behind." One more blow remains to be dealt. Jason is wifeless, he shall be childless too, before Medea speeds in her dragon-borne car—the chariot of the Sun, her grandsire—to hospitable Athens.
Never, perhaps, has a more terrible scene been exhibited on any stage than this final one of Medea. To it may be applied the words spoken of another spectacle of "woe and wonder:"—
"This quarry cries on havock! O, proud death!
Jason, who has been witnessing the charred remains of Glauce and Creon, rushes on the stage to arrest their murderess. He cries frantically:—
"Hath she gone away in flight?
But "one woe doth tread upon another's heels." "Seeks she to kill me too I" he demands of the Chorus. "Nay," they reply, "you know not the worst: "—
"The boys have perished by their mother's hand: Open these gates, thou'lt see thy murdered sons.
Jason. Undo the bolt on the instant, servants there; Loose the clamps, that I may see my grief and bane, May see them dead, and guerdon her with death."
He sees them dead, indeed, but may "not kiss the dear lips of his boys;" "may not touch his children's soft flesh." Medea hovers over the palace, taunts him with her wrongs, mocks at his new-born love for the children he had consented to banish, and triumphs alike over her living and her dead foes :—
"'Twas not for thee, having spurned my love,
The story of Medea, unconnected as it- is with any workings of destiny or fatal necessity—such as humbled the pride of Theban and Argive Houses—has been taxed with a want of proper tragical grandeur, as if a picture of human passion were less fit for the drama than one of the strife between Fate and Free-1 will.
THE TWO IPHIGENIAS.
"I was cut off from hope in that sad place,
Which yet to name my spirit loathes and fears:
I, blinded with my tears,
As in a dream. Dimly I could descry
—tennyson: "A Dream of Fair Women."
About the fate of Iphigenia many stories were current in Greece, and the version of it adopted by Euripides is one among several instances of the freedom which he permitted himself in dealing with old legends. ^Eschylus in his "Agamemnon" and Sophocles in his "Electra" make her to have been really sacrificed at Aulis. Euripides chose a milder and perhaps later form of the story; and if we have the conclusion of the drama as he wrote it, Diana, at the last moment, rescues the maiden, and substitutes in her place on the altar—a fawn. To this change his own humane disposition may have led him, although he had in earlier plays not scrupled to immolate Polyxena and Macaria. Perhaps in the case of Iphigenia consistency required of him to save her, since in the play, of which the scene is laid at Tauri, the princess is alive twenty years after her appearance at Aulis. Pausanias, as diligent a collector of legendary lore as Sir Walter Scott himself, says that a virgin was offered up at Aulis to appease the wrath of the divine huntress, and that her name was Iphigenia. This victim, however, was not a daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, but of Theseus and Helen, whom her mother, through fear of M-enelaus, did not dare to own. In the Iliad, that common source of the stage-poets when they dealt with the tale of Troy, nothing is said about substitute or sacrifice, nor about Iphigenia's ministering to Diana at Tauri. On the contrary,* the Homeric Iphianassa —for that is her epic name—is safe and well with her mother and sisters at Argos, and ten years after her supposed death or escape is offered by Agamemnon as a bride to Achilles.
The "Iphigenia in Aulis," in its relation to the Grecian world, possessed, we may fairly surmise, universal interest. For an audience composed, as that in the Dionysiac theatre was, of Athenians, allies, and strangers, there were associations with the first
* "In his house
—Iliad, ix. (Cowper.)
general armament of the Greeks against foreigners, with which a modern reader can but imperfectly sympathise. Priam, Paris, Hector, Agamemnon, Achilles, Helen, and Iphigenia had indeed, centuries before, vanished into the shadow-land of Hades, and the quiet sheep. fed or the tortoise crawled over the mounds where Troy once stood. Yet if the city built by Gods now excited neither wrath nor dread in Greece, Persia and the great King, though no longer objects of alarm, were not beyond the limits of Hellenic anxiety or vigilance, and were still able to vex Athens by their "mines of Ophir," as once they had made her desolate by their Median archers and the swarthy chivalry of Susa. To Greece and the islands, the dwellers beyond Mount Taurus represented the ancient foe whom it had taken their ancestors ten years to vanquish; and scenic reminiscences of their first conflict with an eastern adversary were still welcome to the third and fourth generation of spectators, whose sires had fought beside Miltiades and Cimon.*
The opening scene of the "Iphigenia in Aulis" has, for picturesqueness, rarely if ever been surpassed. The Centre of the stage is occupied by the tent of Agamemnon: supposing ourselves among the audience, we see on the left hand of it the white tents and beyond them the black ships of the Achaeans; on the right, the road to the open country by which Iphigenia and her
* When Agesilaus, king of Sparta, was about to pass into Asia, as commander of. the Greek army, he offered sacrifice to Diana at Aulis, so lively an impression still remained of the rash vow of "the king of men."