HOUSE OF ATREUS
Boojingaga: Here’s an old play I found in one of my old USBs. Thanks to Julia Mutoomul for encoding. Ricardo Abad was instrumental in the conception of this Oresteia. There is already a newer, well honestly, completely different version of this play which i cannot post in this site. Weird though, they share the same title. Anyway, enjoy.
(A harrowing chant is heard – drumbeats follow, primal rhythmic, similar to a mother’s heartbeat.)
(Light follows. A MAN is presented onstage. Whether mad or sane, we do not know. His eyes are blank. At times feverish, at times calm, he fore-sets our gruesome tale. He fills the stage with red paint, a mural on the house of Atreus. He leaves the painting unfinished.)
(CASSANDRA enters. There is a dignity to her even if her robes have been worn by war and travel.)
CASSANDRA: What house is this?
(The man draws the insignia of Atreus on the palace gates.)
CASSANDRA: I see. I see. I see it all now. (She lets a long hollow scream.) Connect. Connecting our gruesome dot to the next. Bloodshed follows bloodshed. Childfuckers and childeaters. This is the home of the grotesque of cruelties forbidden to man. Or divine. No mortal man or god evades justixe. Cruel Pallas Athena. Cocksure Apollo! Don’t you hear it. Listen. Listen! A cauldron generations away simmering a new born babe and with his deaf screams the whole of their lot. Tantalus who roasted Pelops.Pelops who slew Ingrilitus. Atreus who suffered his own brother to feast on kin. And then he… he… cruel God King Agammemnon, slayer of own daughter, murderer to both Argos and Troy! Tantalus.Pelops.Atreus.Agammemnon.Tantalus.Pelops.Atreus.Agammemnon.Cruel men.Bearer of cruel names. Time is the only true victor. Your names are but sounds in the end of history, squiggles in a book no one will read. Cease the honor. Listen. Listen. Leave the horror. Oresteia! Oresteia!
(The man enters once more.)
CASSANDRA: Listen. Cease the horror. Save us all.
THE MAN (Otherwise, PYLADES): I am sorry. I am mute.
CASSANDRA: I see. I see. Connect one tragedy to the next. I am mute too. (Pause.)Fuck. Fuck this.
(CASSANDRA reluctantly enters the castle doors. PYLADES watches her. Screams are heard from the inside.)
CLYTEMNESTRA & AGAMMEMNON: Spare your King! Fatherer to your children.Husband to your wife. Die with your whore, murderer! (Thuds of breaking bone and sinew. PYLADES throws blood onstage.) The King is dead! Long live the King!
Lights out. End of scene.
1: The Fire
(Not a few seconds after PYLADES exits, a curious fire is set ablaze from the seats of the audience. It is followed by another and another until the entire theaterspace is covered by fire’s glow. Voices will come from the torch bearer. Their lines and names will be defined by their order.)
1: Victory, victory! Troy has won!
2: Tell the woman-man.
3: Long live the king.
4: Tell the woman-man.
5: Why does the King bother with that wench. She spouts nothing but false prophesies.
6: Victory, victory!
7: Tell the woman-man to prepare her wedding bed!
(An intensity of volume must accumulate until the 7th speaker has shouted an unmentionable for the entire kingdom to hear.)
(One by one the torch bearers extinguish their flames after saying)
7: (Alone now) What? I mean they’ve been apart for ten years. I’m sure the King and Queen want to f–!
1-6: Hush. The woman-man is not bedded. The woman-man beds. Hush.
7: Fine. (He extinguishes his flames.)
End of scene.
3: The Woman-man
(Day in front of the castle. CLYTEMNESTRA rushes from the doors; a throng of servants follow her – some seeking orders, others already following them. AEGISTHUS hangs ominously at the back.)
CLYTEMNESTRA: Perfect. I want everything perfect for his return. You, prepare the meat. Slaughter all the cows in the kingdom. Let the young to our tables and the old to the gods, their meat will no long be tender.
SERVANT 1: But madam, the famine.
CLYTEMNESTRA: What famine?
SERVANT 1: The young were sent to war. None left was strong enough to till the pastures.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Your King arrives after ten years of gruesome war and you talk about famine. What have you endured of suffering old man, you who were left behind to feast on cow and wine? There is no famine.
SERVANT 1: Of course madam, there is no famine. (Scuttles away.)
SERVANT 2: The theater troupe, madam?
CLYTEMNESTRA: The theater? What a bore. I have no need of their poetry and trapdoors. Call me clowns so I may laugh. And him his dancing girls. You know how much he likes his women.
SERVANT 2: But madam, our girls are not yet… ripe… for the secrets of a bed chamber.
CLYTEMNESTRA: The younger, the better.
SERVANT 2: Yes, madam.
CLYTEMNESTRA: And my children, the remaining of my brood. Where are Orestes and Electra?
SERVANT 3: My apologies, my queen, we could not find them anywhere in the castle.
CLYTEMNESTRA: O leave the ungrateful to their games. No good child has ever been born to me by that wretch except… except… (AEGISTHUS tries to assist but is denied by CLYTEMNESTRA. She regains her composure.) Bring wine. Bring enough wine for the feast enough to drug the armies of Greece.
SERVANT 3: Wine for the world, madam.
CLYTEMNESTRA: (A public address, the servants cease their tasks.) I am Queen Clytemnestra, wife to Agammemnon, high King of the Greeks. I will not be denied. Tonight we will have a feast, the envy of Olympus. We shall wine and dine for we are victors. It is our right. We have no famine. We have not suffered at the hands of war. We are not, dare I say it, poor. Wretches. Tonight, out King returns. He shall be met by a carpet befitting his status as Lord of the House of Atreus.
SERVANT 4: But madam, we have no more silks.
CLYTEMNESTRA: What is that you are wearing. It seems to be of the right color. (To the crowd.)Long live the King!
(AEGISTHUS grabs CLYTEMNESTRA’s ass from behind.)
CROWD: Long live Agammemnon!
(CLYTEMNESTRA and AEGISTHUS exit.)
4: The Labors of War
(A chorus of old men are disrobing, gently carrying their garments before placing it down to be stepped on as a cumulative silence.)
CHORUS: O shut your ears from out maudlin woe. Soe your earls from old men’s moans. Our homes have been tethered. Our eyes have no tears left to shed. Our souls hold no more revolution. Children you have won your war for such reeking creaking pile of woe. We are silent to a traitor whose goal is but horror, another murder for this house storied love. Argos is no more. Clytemnestra, please, we implore not add horror upon horror in this house’s storied door. Agammemnon your kingdom is a creeking, reeking, pile of woe. O sew your ears from old men’s moans.
End of scene.
5: King Agammemnon
(Drumbeats sound from afar.)
(CLYTEMNESTRA dressed to receive her King, enters from the castle door.)
(Chanting is heard from the distance: Agammemnon! Agammemnon!)
CLYMENESTRA: Judgment, justice lend me your blades. Give me my strength, to provide you what is rightfully yours. But no. No! The will through my trap. He will see through my smiles, and see not a woman’s love but a mother’s wrath! (She attempts to go back to the castle to flee. Her servants try to bring her to her wits.)
(The chanting and drumbeats cease. The stage is bathed in silence. In slow motion: CLYTEMNESTRA looks back to her King. AGAMMEMNON lets out a deafening sigh. The Chorus turns around to bow to their King. Her expression shifts from terror to mad excitement.)
(AGAMMEMNON stands in a sedan chair carried by four strong men. He wears around his neck the bones of Argive soldiers as a prize or as guilt. Beside AGAMMEMNON is another sedan chair carrying CASSANDRA. Her hair hangs from her head, braided with stars. Behind AGAMMEMNON and CASSANDRA are a trail of bones and stars.)
CLYTEMNESTRA: (Suddenly jovial.) My liege, let me welcome you back to Argos’s strong arms. Let her hand as well as mine heal your wounds and fill your appetite.
AGAMMEMNON: We are here, unsung heroes of Troy. We are home, my children.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Husband, tonight all the pleasures of the world are your boon. Surely you mush crave some song, wine, and women.
AGAMMEMNON: Who is this silly thing that speaks like a parakeet?
CLYTEMNESTRA: Why, it is your Queen, Clytemnestra.
AGAMMEMNON: Queen? Well, I suppose I did leave a wife but more of you anon. (To a servant.) My children are to be lain well. Give them rest and all the proper rites.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Orestes and Electra are nowhere to be found, my sire.
AGAMMEMNON: Stop your insolent babbling, wench. I talk not of my children but the children of Argos. And now a King must bow for penance. (AGAMMEMNON bows. CLYTEMNESTRA gasps.)I offer you, my country, apologies. Apologies of a once proud man now broken by toil and gried. Come, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. Take from me the bones of your dead. War has taught me the humility to rest of my arrogance. Come, my people, if you still deem me King. Come and take your beloved.
(Silently, one by one, the chorus takes a skull from AGAMMEMNON.)
CLYTEMNESTRA: Come cease this foolishness. To merriment, to merriment. Exchange sighs for laughter.
(The oldest and the wisest takes the last skull.)
OLDEST SERVANT: And what of your dead, my liege?
AGAMMEMNON: Her death weighs heaviest in my heart. I was a proud man, a proud King and in my heart I could sacrifice a daughter for the grave of the gods for war and glory. Sweet Iphegenia, if you hear me, take my life as penance.
CLYTEMNESTRA: (Snaps.) No more!
OLDEST SERVANT: Long live Agammemnon!
AGAMMEMNON: Thank you.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Now your rituals are past. Leave the cloaks of a saint for the robes of a King.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Step on Greece’s finest linens.
AGAMMEMNON: Food, you give me the trappings of a victor when I have lost so much, too much that my strong spine has crooked and my crown too heavy for my head.
CLYTEMNESTRA: But look you now this is your right, your prize, O lord marauder.
AGAMMEMNON: Shut your mouth and keep your tongue still, or my blade shall make it so.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Agammemnon, the surviving of your troops, of your land, need a king to look up to. To say what is just and unjust. Agammemnon, we need you strong.
AGAMMEMNON: Aye, another jewel to an already heavy crown.
(AGAMMEMNON walks slowly to the palace gates. His gait is heavy and slow. As he walks, CLYTEMNESTRA takes her own council.)
CLYTEMNESTRA: I hold no counsel but to my own gospel. Ten years before you had a heart of stone which would not even bleed at the thought of murder. And you did. You did and the first of them my loveliest and most beloved. Ten years later, you bemoan all your victims. You catch a conscience. Well, a beating heart is better to sever, there’s just more pleasure in it.
AGAMMEMNON: (Now by the palace gates) This woman. Take care of her. She was the comfort of me in my time of need. Her name is Cassandra. (He exits.)
CASSANDRA: What house is this?
CLYTEMNESTRA: Why this is Argos, rules by the house of Atreus.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Servants! Servants! Take care of my husband’s whore! I have more to deal with than a madwoman.
(Servants enter. CLYTEMNESTRA exits.)
End of scene.
6: Cassandra’s Prophecy
CASSANDRA: It feels like I have been here before.
SERVANT: (A whisper in reverence) Her hair.
CASSANDRA: Or someone like me.
(The CHORUS takes strands of her hair, filling the performance space with night.)
CASSANDRA: I feel I’ve seen. I feel I’ve said these words before in a thousand plays and thousand places like this. People listen as these sad men do but alas I am always but a mild attraction. You see, the words don’t really matter. My message remains the same. Nothing but foul springs from foul, a death follows a death. But no one listens or rather no one understands. I would be better off mute.
(Her hair glows. The CHORUS are lit by epiphanies speaking in the flame.)
CHORUS 1: Tantalus wanted to better gods therefore he fed them his only son. He was found out and sent to stare (?) in the presence of a feast.
CHORUS 2: Pelops killed a father for this daughter.
CHORUS 3: Atreus, son of Pelops, fed his brother’s children to him. Afterwards he taunted his brother with little hands with little fingers saved from the cauldron.
CHORUS 4:Thyestes, brother of Atreus wanted revenge. For a son to carry out his cruel will, he sired a child from his own daughter. The boy was named Aegisthus.
CHORUS 5: Aegisthus grew strong but too late for revenge. Atreus had already passed and his plot moves to Atreus’s eldest born, Agammemnon.
CHORUS 6: Agammemnon, slaughtered his own daughter so his fleet of a thousand ships may have wind to blow them to Troy.
CHORUS 7: Clytemnestra watched. And everything began again.
CHORUS: The blade was raised once more to swing back and forth surely like a pendulum. Child fuckers. Child killers! One two three four five six seven and again!
CASSANDRA: Sad epiphanies to be broken in waking. They see truth like stars, asking for revelation by shape and constellation. But the meaning is ultimately lost on them. Stars are reminders of dead planets and dead civilizations of dead Agammemnons a thousand infinite fold glittering reminder of how blood is infectious as lust.
(The CHORUS falls.)
CASSANDRA: Sleep my tired audience I go once again to die. Fuck. Fuck this
CLYTEMNESTRA: (From the castle.) Let her in. The feast is about to begin.
(Screams from inside the castle. The CHORUS exits.)
(In front of the castle a small group of chorus members with ELECTRA & ORESTES beside a fire.)
CASSANDRA: What if these stones could speak? (Exits.)
(ORESTES and PYLADES stand in an expanse, a clearing. They are dressed as travellers.)
ORESTES: Finally, Pylades, we have reached the land of my fathers. I know you are mute but given voice you would scream jubilation. Argos! Mycenae! (?) After long exile and travel, we are home. Here at my father’s tomb. O but what cruel deed I am tasked by a dream, a cruel portent. It is unthinkable, unmentionable. But dreams are the language of gods and it does not do well to anger them. A plan, a triumph, came so lucidly, in a vision to claim what is mine, Orestes – Agammemnon’s heir and claim what is his – revenge. O Pylades, I wish you had tongue to speak, your silence is eloquently damning, a chord. What am I to do, friend? So it is. First, I pay my respects. (Cuts hair and places it on the tomb.) Long live Agammemnon!
(From a distance, ELECTRA screams are heard.)
ELECTRA: (offstage) Oi moi, oi moi!
ORESTES: Her voice disfigured, but I do remember it being gentle once. Willing me to sleep, “Take care, brother.”
(ELECTRA and a retinue of old men and women enter dressed in rags of mourning.)
ELECTRA: Stranger, do you spit on Agammemnon’s tomb in Agisthos’s demand?
ORESTES: I came to pay respects.
ELECTRA: Respects? You could be hanged, stranger. It is law in this land that we should spit or scream or wail at this, my house’s former glory.
ORESTES: Your house, stranger. May I inquire, are you she who is sole surviving child of Agammemnon? Are you Electra?
ELECTRA: Aye, it is my curse to bear such a name.
ORESTES: And why do you wail so, Electra?
ELECTRA: So that my brother would return from long exile. Come here brother, you lazy son of a bitch! There are respects to be paid to our father.
ORESTES: Would this brother be named Orestes?
ELECTRA: Come home, brother. It is time to kill our mother fucker and our fucker mother!
ORESTES: Why do you speak so foul. And why are you not dressed as you should be? You resemble a servant, a market woman.
ELECTRA: I am cursed not to be wed, and to remain a servant to Agisthos and Clytemnestra! Servant to my father’s murderers. They are afraid I may bear a child to revenge Agammemnon’s untimely death. Ha! I have carried away Agammemnon’s Avatar, Orestes. I did take willing him with some song, the very same song, the very same day my father was slain. Ha! Orestes it is time to come home! (She goes into mad convulsions.) Home now, kill those sons of bitches so cruel and unkind! Kill! Kill! Kill!
(ORESTES hugs her sister.)
ORESTES: I am home, sister.
ORESTES: I am he.
(ELECTRA slaps ORESTES.)
ELECTRA: How dare you give your identity so easily? What if I was some spy and assassin? What then of retribution?
ELECTRA: For now, hide. Come to this place tonight brother, we can talk more as the traitors and their agents sleep.
ORESTES: This is my friend, Pylades.
ELECTRA: I care not. Come. Tonight.
(ELECTRA and the Nuns exit.)
ORESTES: (To PYLADES) I imagined our reunion differently. Go and secure us some beds, Pylades. You definitely will be our salvation. No one will ask questions to a mute.
ORESTES: My fathers, house of Atreus, I pray thee. I do not seek revenge, but my purpose is set. Must I be my father’s avenger only to become my mother’s murderer. (Exits.)
End of Scene.
8: The Bitch, Electra
ELECTRA: (At the servants’ entrance) Oi moi moi moi! My father has has been murdered! My mother slew him with an axe! And she sleeps with a lover named Agisthos! No! No! I will not stop bitching. I will never cease my lament. I am a bitch sired by a bitch.
BLACK NUN: Please sister, silence your tongue.
ELECTRA: All the more bitch should howl the night. These are things he must hear.
BLACK NUN: So he might, but alas also the whole kingdom might hear!
ELECTRA: You are wise as I am wretched filthy disgusting and unwanted.
ELECTRA: I am godless, the gods have not heeded my prayer but you will, won’t you, brother Orestes. I pray you revenge.
ORESTES: But sister, this task I am set is too grave to burden my soul.
ELECTRA: Soul! Your soul must burn in fire red hot for retribution. Our father, Orestes, was slain unduefully after ceasing victory and renown in Troy. And the victor’s reward was an axe to his back. Doubling the pain it was his wife. His fucking wife.
BLACK NUN: Language, sister.
ELECTRA: What of my language? I speak as I should! The unwanted child of a traitor, a mere impediment to Agisthos and Clytemnestra’s reign. But speak for me trustful retainers, you who are old enough and remember my mother whore’s atrocities. My tongue is not made to tell stories. I am only to curse!
ORESTES: Sister, please still your heart. I am here, present from long exile. I have come to save you and this land.
ELECTRA: I need no salvation. I am a priestess to the altar of lamentation. A tombstone to my father’s grave.
BLACK NUN: Orestes, rightful heir of Agammemnon, of Atreus. Hear our tale, our lament, and receive our eucharist.
End of scene.
9: A play
(The story of AGAMMEMNON’s death by the BLACK NUNS. Actors who play AGAMMEMNON, AGISTHUS, CLYTEMNESTRA, CASSANDRA, and ELECTRA play their parts. Shadows are cast by the fire, perhaps making the story more truthful of horrid in exaggeration.)
BLACK NUN: This is a story told in whispers by those of us who remember. We, Black Nuns of St. Electra. We may moan what Agisthos said but pay no honor to Agammemnon. And so we moan our kingdom’s undoing. You may be surprised to find women in the fold. It is a woman’s job to tell stories, and man’s business is to listen. This is our libation.
(AGAMMEMNON, CLYTEMNESTRA, and AGISTHOS enter in a dead trance.)
BLACK NUN: A feast was set before the King. Before the night was over Agammenon was drunk but in sobriety. This demeanor unchanged by music and dance. His eyes a stone gaze on the wall unfaltering even after his cup has been filled and been refilled with wine. We saw Clytemnestra then looking at Agisthos – swift and foxlike that comunicae were, the message was simple: How do we go on. Such terror may erode any one’s fortitude for murder but as we all know Clytemnestra is normal woman. She is singular in revenge. Not long after Agammemnon waived his hand the party was over, the remnants of the night’s debaucle but a thin mist waiting for a photograph no one will fake. Agammemnon asked hiself to be bathed with his Trojan prize, Cassandra. And they were bathed. Bathed in blood. Not after the pair was disrobed was an axe sticking red blood deep into Agammemnon’s back. And woe he looked back to see Clytemnestra held by Agisthos by the hand. The next was of course, Cassandra. If you listen to this tomb, you might hear that event’s first words.
(In a deadpan manner the following speak)
CLYTEMNESTRA: Take a mother’s wrath and fall as did our only bond my sweet Iphigenia.
AGISTHUS: This is the justice of Thyestice. It may be harsh but it is just.
AGAMMEMNON: So this is how I die, and justly so.
BLACK NUN: And she who is renowned for her babbling and prophecy, who screamed so adamantly of Troy’s fall and her own death said…
BLACK NUN: There the story is once again told. And the remnants of that night’s debaucle dissipated like fire smoke into the quiet of black night.
End of scene.
10: Talks of matricide
ELECTRA: And for my part, I stole you away brother into the arms of your friend Pylades. I could sing but now I am good for nothing else. Brother Orestes, now you are older and stronger, freedom has done you good and servitude damned me. It is in your power brother, to right what is wrong.
ORESTES: But —
ELECTRA: But what? You are the rightful king of Mycenae. You hide like a thief when you should be King.
ORESTES: I shall not kill my mother for the throne. It is vile and unnatural for a son to slay the womb which bore him.
ELECTRA: Then do it for our father, whose life was unjustly taken by his own wife. Isn’t the bond and promise of marriage more putridly broken than that of Blood. Our father adored his wife, and she betrayed him because her thighs were wet after ten years of drought?
ORESTES: You have been hurt. I have no right to reproach you.
ELECTRA: Do it for me.
ELECTRA: Do you love me, brother?
ELECTRA: We are one and the same, brother. We were betrayed and stolen from us was our right to rule. Both our fathers were murdered but you were made strong, your arms good for swords and axes, your body to wear a warrior’s heavy garb, and your thighs to quicken pace to action.
ELECTRA: And I was left to wither thinner and thinner everyday deprived of my youth and my life. I am Electra, the unmarriable, the the unhappy.
ORESTES: I am sorry sister, but-
ELECTRA: Fuck! Then do what you think is right! The people are suffering under a tyrant. Famine follows famine. And there is no true king who people fear but not respect, Agisthos is a mere figurehead to a whore, Clytemnestra!
ORESTES: What is right? I a believer of what is right and what is just. I have been taught the path to goodness, schooled from boyhood to be king and I am to follow that path. But is this good, sister, is it good to kill a mother for justice and the right?
ELECTRA: You are not killing a mother, kind prince, but a monster.
(ORESTES pauses to think.)
ELECTRA: Orestes, the time for action is now.
ORESTES: I pray that this might bring peace to my father and his land. Come, we are to talk more privately.
End of scene.
11: A mother’s woes
(In a grotto inside the castle. CLYTEMNESTRA and AGISTHOS enter.)
AGISTHOS: How goes the day, my love?
CLYTEMNESTRA: Like so many before it Agisthos, long and worrisome.
AGISTHOS: Would you like some wine? Some entertainment?
CLYTEMNESTRA: You know I have no more appetite for such things.
AGISTHOS: What burdens your thoughts?
CLYTEMNESTRA: Things, stuff of women’s fancy when they have grown old and tired.
AGISTHOS: There is still vigor in our bones, darling. We can yet rule.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Make no mistake, Agisthos. I know my responsibilities as given and it revolves more than your bed.
AGISTHOS: My love, I made no such implication. You are and will be more queen than I will be king. This is your land and your home. Ten years ago we stole it from a madman who would slaughter his own child. And now it is good, our rule is strict but it must be strict in times like these.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Your words, remind me further of my thoughts. Be gone.
AGISTHOS: My sweet bird of Argos, do not be cruel to the man who loves you. Tell me what ailment invades your perfection.
CLYTEMNESTRA: I am three persons ingrained to one. I am queen, and I am well. I a woman, and you make that well. But I am also mother… my womb itches affection.
AGISTHOS: O, if we might only persuade Electra to take her place on the throne.
CLYTEMNESTRA: I fear she hates us too much; but who are we to blame her? She was the apple of her father’s eye.
AGISTHOS: If only we could make amends.
CLYTEMNESTRA: What of the boy, Orestes, can we not send a messenger to fetch him?
CLYTEMNESTRA: But he is my son!
AGISTHOS: And I am your king. He will do what boys do and revenge his father’s death.
CLYTEMNESTRA: I hold real power here. I am perished Agammemnon’s queen. And you are only king by marriage.
AGISTHOS: I am son of Thyetes wronged by Atreus. My father has suffered the inhumane. He ate his own children, served by Atreus. Agammemnon was the son of Atreus. By right of Thyetes, I slew Agammemnon when Atreus was not present. But, Queen, it must end somewhere. This long lonely line to the gallows.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Then I am damned as a mother. I have no more children.
ELECTRA: Oi moi moi moi! Queen-monster, I come now twice a mourner.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Child, come to your mother.
ELECTRA: You have lost the privilege of my love when you binded a blade on my father’s back.
CLYTEMNESTRA: But I am still your queen, come, embrace me.
ELECTRA: Never! I come bearing your triumph. Orestes is dead, your crown is now secure from any usurper and I am now damned to my fate.
AGISTHOS: Orestes dead.
ELECTRA: Burned to ashes. Nothing left but shit-fuck ashes.
CLYTEMNESTRA: How so!
AGISTHOS: By what do you come by this providence!
ELECTRA: By these two gentlemen. They hold the tale, waiting for some reward.
AGISTHOS: Then let them have their fill of our coffers. Let them in!
ELECTRA: Vile horned thing, you would add theft to your crimes.
AGISTHOS: If the queen wills it.
CLYTEMNESTRA: My will is to cradle the ashes of my child. You, you who hate me so much, what name would you give a mother’s grief? Orphan is the name whose parents died. But what is mine who was severed from all my kin.
ELECTRA: By the slice of an axe.
CLYTEMNESTRA: No more of you, we are lost to each other. Bring me my son.
ELECTRA: (Smiles) As you wish, my queen.
AGISTHOS: Tell no guard to impede them, let them into the heart of Argos.
ELECTRA: Yes, my king.
(A procession of ORESTES’s ashes as he’s followed by ELECTRA. Strangely, it is ORESTES cloaked, who holds them.)
AGISTHOS: What evidence have you that this is Orestes, son of Agammemnon? Answer and you shall be rewarded well.
CLYTEMNESTRA: It is him. It has his scent still. What are your names, strangers?
ORESTES: My companion’s name is Pylades. I talk for him because he cannot.
CLYTEMNESTRA: And what is yours? From what land do you come from?
ORESTES: A land so similar as this. As rich. And as beautiful, they tell me. You see, I was banished from my home when I was young. An old man took care of me and taught me the ways of the sword and the scepter. He also told me stories of a tyrant queen who bedded my father’s enemy, conspired with him. And as he returned from war, my father, after ten long arduous years, what met him was an axe. Betrayed.
CLYTEMNESTRA: Damn you, stranger. You open new scars when I have just received a new wound.
AGISTHOS: We shall have your head. Uncloak yourself. What is your name?
ORESTES: I lost it the day you killed my father and here I am to reclaim it. My name is Orestes.
(ORESTES stabs. ELECTRA laughs. AGISTHOS dies.)
CLYTEMNESTRA: Don’t! Don’t!
ORESTES: Did my father also plead?
CLYTEMNESTRA: His death was merciful compared to what he did to your sister.
ELECTRA: Yours will not be hag.
(ELECTRA stabs CLYTEMNESTRA in the thigh.)
CLYTEMNESTRA: I am your mother.
ELECTRA: And from filth is filth.
(ELECTRA turns her blade.)
CLYTEMNESTRA: Save your mother, Orestes! Stop her!
ORESTES: Did you love him, Agammemnon?
CLYTEMNESTRA: As wife would a husband but there is love stronger, more real than that. You will learn when you have children of your own.
ORESTES: You stole his land and his right. The people have no use for a thief, for this you must die.
ELECTRA: Kill her! Do it! Do it.
(Pylades stops ORESTES’s hand.)
ORESTES: I am sorry, friend. I am sorry, mother. (He stabs CLYTEMNESTRA on her breast.)
CLYTEMNESTRA: Come, my children. Suckle at your mother’s breast. Here, take it. (Splatters blood on ELECTRA.) The blood of your father who loved you. Take it, the pink mix of Clytemnestra’s milk and blood (Splatters blood on ORESTES.) — here is your father’s peace!
ELECTRA: (A mad shriek.) We are revenged! Long live the king! The king is dead! Long live the king!
(The CHORUS enters.)
CHORUS 1: Clytemnestra and Agisthos dead!
CHORUS 2: Who will lead?
CHORUS 3: Not mad Electra!
CHORUS 4: We are fallen.
ELECTRA: I present to you, Orestes, Agammemnon’s true heir. Bow before your King.
CHORUS 4: He has his father’s eyes and hair!
CHORUS 5: Then his father’s blood surely floes through his veins.
ELECTRA & CHORUS: (Bow in reverence.) Long live the King. The King is dead! Long live the King. The King is dead!
ORESTES: (Staring dumbstruck at his hands) All the while I thought myself some here of some grave tale. But aye! My father’s blood runs through me and death comes to death. “Come suckle at my breast,” she said. What contrition can cleanse me of this y mother’s blood?
ELECTRA: Come, baby brother. Celebrate! Jubilate! Bachalate! You are king and all is well.
ORESTES: Voices. I hear voices primal and beating pulsating waiting for man’s first sin to be committed. They drill into my ear breaking bone, blood, and sinew. And simply, they say “We are coming! We are coming!” Away! Away all of you, before the grizzly bearers of the voices come! Away!
(PYLADES embraces ORESTES.)
CHORUS: You are king by right and sword. Take throne and scepter, helms of your title.
ORESTES: I am no king. I am Orestes the vagabond. Oreste the unjust. Orestes the mother-killer. There is a curse upon this house. Left unspoken, a fairy tale told in whispers, but I am proof of its truth — that kin would kill kin until there is no one left and I say let the curse end with me. I reject my right and my title. I am no king! (He exits with PYLADES.)
OLDEST OF THE CHORUS: My king, then let you be weighed in our way. You will receive glory or death. We shall cast votes whether you be king or murderer, whether right or sword.
ELECTRA: Why the sad faces? Celebrate! Jubilate! Bachalate! All Greece is avenged. Clytemnestra and Agisthos are slain.
(The CHORUS exits.)
(Tired, ELECTRA takes a seat on the chair.)
End of scene.
ORESTES: (From the wings) Open. Open!
VOICE FROM WITHIN: This is the house of Pallas Athena; seat of wisdom. You are not welcome here, mother-killer.
(Enter PYLADES and ORESTES.)
ORESTES: Yes. Yes. I am tired, weak, and weary and from my periphery I see teary women haunting me. I seek judgment! Judgment! A prophetess, a screaming mess. A sibling, crumbling from neglect. And a mother! My brain is addled by my mother’s pitter patter splattering blood. Admit me in and give me judgment, wise men. I beg of you.
JUDGE: You are already King by your people, Orestes.
ORESTES: But I am not even a man in my own eyes. Let me be tried. Let me be weighed and punished.
JUDGE: You are sure? Death is the guilty verdict.
ORESTES: I am willing to die.
OLDEST OF THE CHORUS: Here are white stones and black. Place a white stone in the center if you wish Orestes to be king and black if you would see him dead.
CHORUS 1: You are your mother’s murderer (Places a black stone in the center.).
OLDEST OF THE CHORUS: It is your brethren right (Places a white stone in the center.).
CHORUS 3: You have saved us from traitors (Places a white stone.).
CHORUS 4: You have avenged your father’s death.
CHORUS 5: You have damned this house once again with its people (Places a black stone.).
CHORUS 6: You are your father’s son and your mother’s son. You have betrayed us. Your family has betrayed us all once again. No more! (Places a black stone.)
ELECTRA: You are my brother and my savior.
ORESTES: And you, silent friend, what shall be my fate?
(PYLADES puts a black stone.)
ORESTES: I see. But alas, we are at a tie.
OLDEST OF THE CHORUS: That is not true. There is still one person in the room who has not yet voted.(Hands two stones to Orestes.)
August 17, 2011