The Scene: In Euripides’ Helen, Proteus’ son wants to marry her and Menelaos has been shipwrecked outside of Egypt. He arrived with a fake-Helen but has now found the real one and they are trying to persuade the seer Theonoe not to tell her brother that Menelaos is there. Just in case the plan fails, Menelaos has a contingency plan:
Menelaos: Come on, what if she doesn’t accept our arguments?
Helen: The you die. And wretched me, well I will be married by force
M: You would be a traitor. You use ‘force’ as an excuse.
H:No—I swear a sacred oath on your head…
M: What are you saying, you will die? You will never leave our bed?
H: By the same sword. I will lie near you.
M: Take my right hand to swear these things.
H:I take it: I will leave the life when you die.
M: And I, deprived of you, will end my life.
H: How will we die in a way that gains us fame?
M: After killing you over the back of this grave I will kill myself.
But first we will fight a great fight over your bed.
Let any man who wants to come near.
I will not bring shame to my Trojan fame,
Nor will I have left Greece to get great blame,
I, the man who deprived Thetis of Achilles,
Who saw Telamonian Ajax slaughter himself
And saw Neleus’ son made childless! Should I not
Think it right that I should die for my own wife?
Oh, it really is. For if the gods are wise,
They will make a light burden of the earth’s tomb
For the brave man struck down by his enemies,
While they expel cowards from onto lonely stone.”
Με. φέρ’, ἢν δὲ δὴ νῶιν μὴ ἀποδέξηται λόγους;
Ελ. θανῆι· γαμοῦμαι δ’ ἡ τάλαιν’ ἐγὼ βίαι.
Με. προδότις ἂν εἴης· τὴν βίαν σκήψασ’ ἔχεις.
Ελ. ἀλλ’ ἁγνὸν ὅρκον σὸν κάρα κατώμοσα …
Με. τί φήις; θανεῖσθαι; κοὔποτ’ ἀλλάξεις λέχη;
Ελ. ταὐτῶι ξίφει γε· κείσομαι δὲ σοῦ πέλας.
Με. ἐπὶ τοῖσδε τοίνυν δεξιᾶς ἐμῆς θίγε.
Ελ. ψαύω, θανόντος σοῦ τόδ’ ἐκλείψειν φάος.
Με. κἀγὼ στερηθεὶς σοῦ τελευτήσειν βίον.
Ελ. πῶς οὖν θανούμεθ’ ὥστε καὶ δόξαν λαβεῖν;
Με. τύμβου ‘πὶ νώτοις σὲ κτανὼν ἐμὲ κτενῶ.
πρῶτον δ’ ἀγῶνα μέγαν ἀγωνιούμεθα
λέκτρων ὑπὲρ σῶν· ὁ δὲ θέλων ἴτω πέλας.
τὸ Τρωϊκὸν γὰρ οὐ καταισχυνῶ κλέος
οὐδ’ ῾Ελλάδ’ ἐλθὼν λήψομαι πολὺν ψόγον,
ὅστις Θέτιν μὲν ἐστέρησ’ ᾿Αχιλλέως,
Τελαμωνίου δ’ Αἴαντος εἰσεῖδον σφαγὰς
τὸν Νηλέως τ’ ἄπαιδα· διὰ δὲ τὴν ἐμὴν
οὐκ ἀξιώσω κατθανεῖν δάμαρτ’ ἐγώ;
μάλιστά γ’· εἰ γάρ εἰσιν οἱ θεοὶ σοφοί,
εὔψυχον ἄνδρα πολεμίων θανόνθ’ ὕπο
κούφηι καταμπίσχουσιν ἐν τύμβωι χθονί,
κακοὺς δ’ ἐφ’ ἕρμα στερεὸν ἐκβάλλουσι γῆς.