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Iphigenia in Tauris by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Iphigenia in Tauris

A Tragedy


subjects: Plays: Classic & Pre-20th Century

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In King Thaos’s kingdom, Iphigenia is the priestess of Artemis who takes the lives of strangers in sacrifice for the gods. Until the day two special strangers are brought to her – strangers who she recognizes: Orestes, her brother, and Pylades, their cousin. To keep the king from sacrificing her family, the three begin to devise a plan of escape. But when the fateful day comes, will they manage to escape or will their plans be discovered resulting in the forfeiture of all their lives?

63 pages with a reading time of ~60 minutes (15860 words), and first published in 1786. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Beneath your leafy gloom, ye waving boughs Of this old, shady, consecrated grove, As in the goddess’ silent sanctuary, With the same shudd’ring feeling forth I step, As when I trod it first, nor ever here Doth my unquiet spirit feel at home. Long as the mighty will, to which I bow, Hath kept me here conceal’d, still, as at first, I feel myself a stranger. For the sea Doth sever me, alas! from those I love, And day by day upon the shore I stand, My soul still seeking for the land of Greece. But to my sighs, the hollow-sounding waves Bring, save their own hoarse murmurs, no reply. Alas for him! who friendless and alone, Remote from parents and from brethren dwells; From him grief snatches every coming joy Ere it doth reach his lip. His restless thoughts Revert for ever to his father’s halls, Where first to him the radiant sun unclos’d The gates of heav’n; where closer, day by day, Brothers and sisters, leagu’d in pastime sweet, Around each other twin’d the bonds of love. I will not judge the counsel of the gods; Yet, truly, woman’s lot doth merit pity. Man rules alike at home and in the field, Nor is in foreign climes without resource; Possession gladdens him, him conquest crowns, And him an honourable death awaits. How circumscrib’d is woman’s destiny! Obedience to a harsh, imperious lord, Her duty, and her comfort; sad her fate, Whom hostile fortune drives to lands remote: Thus I, by noble Thoas, am detain’d, Bound with a heavy, though a sacred chain. Oh! with what shame, Diana, I confess That with repugnance I perform these rites For thee, divine protectress! unto whom I would in freedom dedicate my life. In thee, Diana, I have always hop’d, And still I hope in thee, who didst infold Within the holy shelter of thine arm The outcast daughter of the mighty king. Daughter of Jove! hast thou from ruin’d Troy Led back in triumph to his native land The mighty man, whom thou didst sore afflict, His daughter’s life in sacrifice demanding,– Hast thou for him, the godlike Agamemnon, Who to thine altar led his darling child, Preserv’d his wife, Electra, and his son. His dearest treasures?–then at length restore Thy suppliant also to her friends and home, And save her, as thou once from death didst save, So now, from living here, a second death.


The king hath sent me hither, and commands To hail Diana’s priestess. This the day, On which for new and wonderful success, Tauris her goddess thanks. The king and host Draw near,–I come to herald their approach.


We are prepar’d to give them worthy greeting; Our goddess doth behold with gracious eye The welcome sacrifice from Thoas’ hand.


Oh, priestess, that thine eye more mildly beam’d,– Thou much-rever’d one,–that I found thy glance, O consecrated maid, more calm, more bright, To all a happy omen! Still doth grief, With gloom mysterious, shroud thy inner mind; Still, still, through many a year we wait in vain For one confiding utt’rance from thy breast. Long as I’ve known thee in this holy place, That look of thine hath ever made me shudder; And, as with iron bands, thy soul remains Lock’d in the deep recesses of thy breast.


As doth become the exile and the orphan.


Dost thou then here seem exil’d and an orphan?


Can foreign scenes our fatherland replace?


Thy fatherland is foreign now to thee.


Hence is it that my bleeding heart ne’er heals. In early youth, when first my soul, in love, Held father, mother, brethren fondly twin’d, A group of tender germs, in union sweet, We sprang in beauty from the parent stem, And heavenward grew. An unrelenting curse Then seiz’d and sever’d me from those I lov’d, And wrench’d with iron grasp the beauteous bands. It vanish’d then, the fairest charm of youth, The simple gladness of life’s early dawn; Though sav’d, I was a shadow of myself, And life’s fresh joyance bloom’d in me no more.


If thus thou ever dost lament thy fate, I must accuse thee of ingratitude.