Sunday, June 27, 2010

Phaedra on playing the hand you've been dealt

I am contriving to win glory from my shame.

ἐκ τῶν γὰρ αἰσχρῶν ἐσθλὰ μηχανώμεθα.

Phaedra, in Euripides' Hippolytus, l. 331, trans. James Morwood (Medea, Hippolytus, Electra, Helen, trans. & ed. James Morwood, Oxford world's classics (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 48).  The verb is a plural (we), and either indicative (as in the Morwood translation here) or subjunctive.  Greek from p. 188 here.
"Contriving" indeed!  In the end she played it badly:  "I began with this policy--to stay quiet about this sickness and to keep it hidden. . . . My second course was this--I planned to conquer my madness through self-control and thus to bear it easily.  My third course--since I was failing to win victory over Cypris by these means--was to resolve on death" (ll. 391 ff.).  And her fourth course?  Deadly false witness (ll. 885 ff.).
Where did that come from?
"She tried to conquer Cypris by reason but suffered ruin she did not wish for through the schemes of her nurse who made known her sickness to your son under oath" (ll. 1304 ff.).

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