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Iphigenia’s speech of self-sacrifice

How does Iphigenia respond to the demand on her life? Read this speech from the climax of the play to find out.
© Alison Findlay Lancaster University

In this step you will see how Iphigenia responds to the demand on her life.

Read through Iphigenia’s speech below in which she willingly embraces the role of sacrifice to save her country and become a hero of Greece. She appeals to her mother to accept this.

  • Take note of any phrases which suggest a conventional female role and, by contrast, any which you think contradict that.

  • Think too about the tone of the speech. How would you imagine it being delivered?

  • How does the play challenge traditional ideas about the cost of war for women?

Post a comment to share your thoughts.


Hearken, O mother, I pray you unto my words, for I perceive you are angry with your husband, which you may not do. For you can not obtain your purpose by that means. … I would counsel you, therefore, to suffer this trouble patiently, for I must needs die, and will suffer it willingly. Consider, I pray you mother, for what a lawful cause I shall be slain. Doth not both the destruction of Troy and also the wealth of Greece, which is the most fruitful country of the world, hang upon my death? And if this wicked enterprise of the Trojans be not revenged, then truly the Grecians shall not keep neither their children, nor yet their wives in peace. And I shall not only remedy all these things with my death, but also get a glorious renown to the Grecians for ever. Again, remember how I was not born for your sake only, but rather for the commodity of my countty. Think you, therefore, that it is meet that such a company of men, being gathered together to revenge the great injury, which all Greece hath suffered, should be let of their journey for my cause? Surely mother, we cannot speak against this, for do you not think it to be better that I should die, than so many noble men to be let of their journey for one woman’s sake? For one noble man is better than a thousand women. Besides this, seeing my death is determined amongst the gods, truly no mortal man ought to withstand it. Wherefore, I will offer myself willingly to death, for my country. For by this means I shall not only leave a perpetual memory of my death, but I shall cause also the Grecians to rule over the barbarians, which doth, as it were, properly belong to them. For the Grecians by nature are free, like as the barbarians are born to bondage.
Surely you are happy, O Iphigenia, that you can suffer so patiently all this trouble.

To pursue study of Iphigenia’s sacrifice, its relation to the historical case of Lady Jane Grey and how issues of gender and war were taken up in the Rose Company production of 2014, you can download and read the article ‘Re-producing Iphigenia at Aulis’

© Alison Findlay Lancaster University
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