Apollo’s Woman is a one-act verse-play depicting the home-coming of Agamemnon at the end of the Trojan War with all the looted treasure he has managed to pack into his ship, and his special prize, the captive princess Cassandra of Troy.
His wife Clytemnestra, the sister of Helen, has a nasty surprise in store for him. Only it is no surprise to Cassandra, for she is Apollo’s Woman, the seeress, the famous soothsayer whom no one believes. She knows what is about to happen to Agamemnon, just as she knows what is about to happen to her – and what will eventually happen to Clytemnestra.
A dramatic scene out of the distant past as extraordinary people come face to face with death.
Here is a taster:
Show me, then. Show me how you do it. Your system.
Your method. Then I will decide if you are crazed.
I don’t rave and scream, if that is what you are wondering.
I go out by myself, up on the hill sometimes,
or down by the sea. There is a sunless cove
much favoured by seals for it faces north
and is surrounded by cliffs. There, Apollo
cannot spy on me. I clamber down
at sunset when I am free – no noble Trojans
whose lust to worship the Goddess in me
may not be denied, no important guests from the east –
a Mede or a Babylonian, a prince of Egypt –
or a rich trader from the west – from the furthermost
reaches of the west, it may be – I had one
once who had sailed beyond the pillars of Hercules
and the mountains of Atlas where, he said, the sea
that encircles the world swirls and rolls for ever
in great green breakers. Such travellers I love,
but wherever they come from, whatever colour they are,
whatever language they speak, we at the Temple
must show them hospitality.
And in that sunless cove much favoured by seals …?
I spend the night on the beach in a trance.
And at dawn, when the first gull calls and the sea turns grey,
dreams – visions – come.
something foolish, it may be – sometimes?
Oh, very often.
And sometimes not the future, not our world at all,
but another world, another time?
But sometimes it is our world, our future.
And then it is always bad.
And that is why
they call you crazed? For I see no madness in
your method. You do not wail and prophesy
and tear your hair out.
Oh, but I do. Or I seemed to,
when I cried out to the passing crowds at the door of the Temple
the fate the goddesses had in store for them.
The goddesses? Moira?
But you are her priestess!
So far as Athena’s concerned,
I am Apollo’s woman. That is what all of them
believe – apart from Artemis, the huntress.
Apollo’s sister. She has hunted me
relentlessly. Now I am finished. I can
flee no further. Here, the sun will shine on
my dead body, and Artemis will laugh.
Paris should never have been exposed! He should have
been chopped into gobbets, and each bleeding gobbet
sent to some different island resting place.
Or burnt to ashes.
You cannot fight fate.
They would have found some other pretty boy
to award the Apple of Discord and claim Helen.
Orestes? My son?
Clytemnestra stares at Cassandra for a long moment, suddenly filled with suspicion.
What do you know of my son? … Tell me, you whore!
What have you seen?
On board the ship, your husband –
He is not my husband!
– kept me chained to the mast
for fear I might jump overboard. I would have.
And there each night while the sailors slept and
Agamemnon snored –
He doesn’t snore.
He does now. He is ten years older, and –
oh, what does it matter? The whole ship silent –
apart from Agamemnon –
and the lap, flap, slap of the waves against
the hull, I would go into a trance. And last night –
if only we had arrived here yesterday! –
at dawn today, when I was woken by
the look-out’s cry, still far out to sea but with
the hills – your dark hills – these hills – his hills –
spread out along the horizon from north to south,
and everyone started shouting and laughing and patting
each other on the back, I saw your son
avenge his father.
Avenge his father? You mean – ?
Oh, don’t be silly. The boy adores me –
There is a roar of fury from somewhere nearby.
I must go! – and he hardly remembers his father.
That net was meant to hold a wild boar
but he will tear it open!
She hurries out, knife in hand.
Agamamnon’s raging suddenly increases in volume.