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Phaedra (eBook)

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Jean Baptiste Racine was a 17th century French dramatist. Racine along with Moliere and Corneille are considered the Big Three in 17th century drama. Racine is best known for his tragedies although he did write several comedies. Phaedra is a 5 act tragedy written in Alexandrine verse. In this tale from Greek mythology Thesee Phaedre in the absence of her royal husband decl Jean Baptiste Racine was a 17th century French dramatist. Racine along with Moliere and Corneille are considered the Big Three in 17th century drama. Racine is best known for his tragedies although he did write several comedies. Phaedra is a 5 act tragedy written in Alexandrine verse. In this tale from Greek mythology Thesee Phaedre in the absence of her royal husband declares her love to Hippolyte who is Thesee's son from a previous marriage.


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Jean Baptiste Racine was a 17th century French dramatist. Racine along with Moliere and Corneille are considered the Big Three in 17th century drama. Racine is best known for his tragedies although he did write several comedies. Phaedra is a 5 act tragedy written in Alexandrine verse. In this tale from Greek mythology Thesee Phaedre in the absence of her royal husband decl Jean Baptiste Racine was a 17th century French dramatist. Racine along with Moliere and Corneille are considered the Big Three in 17th century drama. Racine is best known for his tragedies although he did write several comedies. Phaedra is a 5 act tragedy written in Alexandrine verse. In this tale from Greek mythology Thesee Phaedre in the absence of her royal husband declares her love to Hippolyte who is Thesee's son from a previous marriage.

30 review for Phaedra (eBook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Renato Magalhães Rocha

    Phèdre is hydrogen. Phèdre is helium. Phèdre is a star. I say this not only because she's the main character in this glorious play, and even less because she's been played by some of the greatest actresses in the world (Sarah Bernhardt, Helen Mirren, Fernanda Montenegro - yes, even Brazil adapted this famous play!), but because she's constantly in a thermonuclear fusion between reason and emotion that ultimately leads to self-destruction in such a powerful blast that affects all the other bodies th Phèdre is hydrogen. Phèdre is helium. Phèdre is a star. I say this not only because she's the main character in this glorious play, and even less because she's been played by some of the greatest actresses in the world (Sarah Bernhardt, Helen Mirren, Fernanda Montenegro - yes, even Brazil adapted this famous play!), but because she's constantly in a thermonuclear fusion between reason and emotion that ultimately leads to self-destruction in such a powerful blast that affects all the other bodies that gravitate around her. In general terms (hey, I'm not a scientist!, just an enthusiast, so bear with my simplifications here), a star, during the course of its life, suffers from a combat of gigantic proportions between internal pressure - caused by the fusion of hydrogen into helium in high temperature and high pressure reactions - and gravity. Once the fusion has been through enough for millions of years and exhausted its elements, the radiation pressure becomes too much, winning the battle against gravity, and the star explodes. Phèdre, Jean Racine's protagonist, suffers from an inner turmoil while trying to control her forbidden desires through her conscience - the gravity that holds everything together within her -, wishing to transform love into hate (to be able to keep Hippolyte away). Exhausted by her constant struggle, she collapses when she can't take the heat no more through an explosion of unparalleled precedents, gushing to unimaginable distances her true feelings, like lava from a dormant volcano that's been inactive for centuries and that once active won't stop showing its true power, its true magnitude, and creating drastic consequences which, in Phèdre's case, is the awaited confession of her incestuous feelings that have been suppressed for so long towards her stepson. Leaving the stars in the sky and volcano activity, for own on safety, extinct, this is a very intense, fascinating tragedy (so much that I couldn't help but to read every line more than a couple of times, as if I was producing a stage adaptation of my own where I would play all characters and needed to memorize everything.) You will find here no filler scenes, no unnecessary characters, no gimmicks. Instead of that, Racine brought all big feelings into play: there is guilt, there is jealousy, there is self-loathing and, of course, there is love. This is not a good vs evil confrontation, which I find modern and down-to-earth as, let's agree, we all have good and bad inside of us, so Racine excels in not creating determined heroes and villains, but by writing of the conflicts between confused feelings which, in their turn, drive the actions between what has been decided, pre-established against desire in its purest form - pure as in free from all boundaries and conventions: Hippolyte loves Aricie, even though she has to remain chaste and is prohibited territory by his father; and Phèdre falls in love with her stepson, the main arch of this fascinating play. This is such a heavy psychological story that Racine had no need to resort to showing violence on stage: feelings and words were enough. An interesting parallel to be made here is how these characters were - obviously - fruits of the playwright’s wishes and commands, from his dialogues to his stage directions, just like we, in our real lives, can be controlled by such feelings as love and jealousy - as if they were ruthless playwrights on their own - writing and changing our lines and actions the way they see fit, ignoring previous established thoughts and behaviors, changing everything on the go, leaving their 'actors' (us) to work without any rehearsal, waiting for the spectacle to begin to then change everything, leaving all that was planned behind. Phèdre, the woman, had to improvise many times as well for she wasn't able to go on with what her reason had imposed on her, losing control on stage. This gave me a sense of realism - although, of course, there were mythological elements involved. Still on the fact that there are no villains or heroes here, even though Phèdre's (or Oenone's) actions were to be condemned, still they are somehow understandable - even if not agreeable - once you consider the situation they're in. Racine's own words of Phèdre is that she "is neither entirely guilty nor altogether innocent. She is involved by her destiny, and by the anger of the gods, in an unlawful passion at which she is the very first to be horrified. She prefers to let herself die rather than declare it to anyone. And, when she is forced to disclose it, she speaks with such embarrassment that it is clear that her crime is a punishment of the gods rather than an urge flowing from her own will.” It may seem Phèdre's ordeal would be enough material to make this play so enchanting, but no. As I mentioned before, there's another forbidden love blooming simultaneously: that of Aricie and Hippolyte. I have once more to applaud Racine for his writing as I always found a fascinating topic that love's disguise is normally hatred, instead of indifference. Hippolyte, in order to camouflage - not hide - his feelings for Aricie (and the same applies, in the beginning, to how his stepmother acted towards him), made use of hate. It seems the desire of receiving something in return, of awakening in the other any sentiment - even hate - is better than to go on unnoticed (for receiving indifference back would be too harsh), as if it would be easier to transform that sentiment into love than to generate a brand new feeling from scratch. I’m beyond happy to have read this gorgeous play. I find it delightful that in literature, just as in life, things are all interconnected. Artists, in their works, generously offer us new material, new books, new writings to pursue, as if to not abandon us - knowing that ending a book leaves us with a sense of being lost -, so they show us the way to new knowledge, to new books, to new writers, to whom we will devote ourselves until the time has come for us to jump on the next train, which will in its turn connect us to others and unexplored roads. That's how I came to know Racine and Phèdre at this time, from reading another Frenchman work, which came to me from another book and so on infinitely, both onwards and backwards, to an endless and very satisfactory journey. Rating: for a play that is, to my knowledge, psychologically accurate - written in 17th century - in depicting its characters' actions in a believable way and for Racine, masterful writer and, I must say, the true protagonist here: 5 stars that will keep on shining for a very long, long time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    When is one guilty of something, when one commits the reprehensible deed, and only one knows it, or when it is made known to others? Phèdre thinks that the latter case is a great deal worse, worse even than death: je meurs pour ne point faire un aveu si funeste je n’en mourrai plus, j’en mourrai plus coupable And so probably did Racine, because in his Phèdre, the action is activated by Phèdre’s avowal of her guilt which she makes three times. These three long soliloquies are amongst the most fam When is one guilty of something, when one commits the reprehensible deed, and only one knows it, or when it is made known to others? Phèdre thinks that the latter case is a great deal worse, worse even than death: je meurs pour ne point faire un aveu si funeste je n’en mourrai plus, j’en mourrai plus coupable And so probably did Racine, because in his Phèdre, the action is activated by Phèdre’s avowal of her guilt which she makes three times. These three long soliloquies are amongst the most famous parts of the play. She is guilty of loving her stepson and she acknowledges this to her “confidente” (Oenone), to her stepson (Hyppolite), and to her husband (Thésée). These three confessions trigger the drama that unfolds irremediably fast, bringing the tragic downfall of both guilty and non guilty. But the interest of this play is not in the plot, but in the themes that Racine so lyrically develops. Love coupled with jealousy as a fatal damnation. Treachery as the worst ignominy that can be suffered and inflicted. Choices that remain captive and render Destiny unavoidable. And expectedly in Racine, the power of the word as the vehicle for the human soul. Racine’s tragedies are distilled drama. They are tragedies at their purest in which there is the very minimum of extraneous material. Respecting the three Aristotelian units of one place, one theme and one unit of time (one day), Racine also added the typically 17th century French concept of “bienséance” or “propriety”. He approached the three units by emptying them as much as possible. The place is no place, but just an enclosing undefined lieu that traps the tragic heroes and heroines in their own disarrays. The action takes place elsewhere and the messengers just inform the enclosed heroes about them. The resulting single action we see acted is no action at all, but the soul’s suffering them (in a way similarly to Baroque opera in which the recitatives tell the story and the arias sing the feelings). With so much material stripped out, then everything can happen quickly. We end up not been aware of whether it all happened in one day, or in an accelerated, condensed and immeasurable eternity. On the stage are left the abstract concepts that do not resolve. For Phèdre has remained guilty. I have reread this play as a complement to reading Marcel Proust’s La recherche du temps perdu as part of the 2013: The Year of Reading Proust Group. And since it is a play I have sought to watch it acted out. I found this DVD http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ph%C3%A8dre-D..., and therefore my review will comment on this production as well. I should add that, sadly, this is the only filmed production of a Racine play that I have been able to find. Are they commercially so unattractive? When I lived in Paris I was on a budget but was willing to stand and queue, for sometimes close to two hours, to be able to get the cheapest tickets (FF12.-) for the Comédie Française performances (Corneille, Marivaux, but mostly Molière and Racine). In one year I did not miss one single production. I am lucky that I have seen some wonderful productions of Racine at the CF then. The stage settings were bare. The accoutrements for emphasizing the Drama were almost only the costumes that the characters wore, with their flowing tunics and floating capes and veils. They were simple but made out of absolutely exquisite materials. Contrasting hues in the clothing paralleled opposite personalities while subtle gradations in color tones marked allegiances. Only tenuously would they distract from the declaimed verses. The acting was selective. Racine’s characters do not move abruptly nor do they gesticulate while they converse. They do not need to touch since they reach each other with their words. Racine’s heroes and heroines are walking and speaking souls. When in this DVD Phèdre first appears on the stage as a crouching and limping neurotic woman I was shocked that this could be a Racine Queen. I had been expecting a dignified dame whose august and majestic body carried the full weight of suffering in a stately manner. Phèdre is most famous for her remarkable and very long monologues, known to be so difficult to deliver well that they can make or unmake an actress. It seems that theatre critics count their career in France by the number of Phèdres they have attended. The legendary Sarah Bernhardt was unforgettably photographed in this role. But this unappealing first entrance of a broken and bent Phèdre in my DVD is, furthermore, followed by somewhat hysterical characters who shout at each other their love and longings. Their incensed and broken sentences and undue emphasis at invented syncopations ruins Racine’s verses and rhyme. For Racine was a master of the Alexandrines, the twelve syllable verses with a clear caesura in its exact middle. His iambic hexameters establish a cadential rhythm which measures an even pace. True, at selected times he breaks and joins the verses with a skillful “enjambement” (the continuation of a thought in the following verse) that has an effect of an accelerated train of thought, but this enjambement ought not to interfere with a mellifluous enunciation of the lines. His verses should have the lulling effect of a hypnotic lullaby. In the DVD production, with its broken chants and histrionic acting, a worthy exception is Théramène’s account of Hyppolite’s death. Were a film director of Steven Spielberg’s kind get hold of Théramène’s speech, it would be inflated it into a fantastic rendering of monsters, seas opening into abysms, and a hair-raising run of frenzied and desperate horses with a fatal consequence. Instead, true to Racine, a sad man, barely moving, declaims this succession of horrors, without blinking, depicting with only words the dreadful scene that gradually sinks the listening father into an unavoidable sorrow. What a wonderful speech. It is not surprising that Racine’s selected use of words and exquisite ability with the Alexandrines would fascinate someone as careful and sensitive to the power of language as Marcel Proust. We have Proust’s explicit admiration for the way Racine could twist the very formal structure of his verses and with a broken syntax add ambiguity and richness to his meaning. These examples he gave are from Andromaque: Pourquoi l’assassiner, Qu’a-t-il fait? A quel titre ? Qui te l’a dit ? But it was the poignant portrayal of guilty love in Phèdre that obsessed Proust. And it is this play, which he knew in its entirety by heart, that he has associated to his fictional actress La Berma and which figures in La recherche repeatedly. -------------------------- After this wonderful reading I will proceed with the rereading of more plays by Racine and with the listening of Rameau’s Opera, Hippolyte et Aricie.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Imane

    I missed these French classics.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Let's see: thwarted love, betrayal, implied incest, heinous lies, father-son love triangle with wife/stepmother, and a whole lot of death at the end. Um, yeah, that's the recipe for a pretty awesome story. Phaedra, married to Theseus, has always nurtured a secret love for his son, Hippolytus. When she receives news that Theseus is dead, she finally confesses her love to Hippolytus, who is in love with Aricia and is disgusted by his step-mother's advances. But, hey, guess what? Theseus isn't dead Let's see: thwarted love, betrayal, implied incest, heinous lies, father-son love triangle with wife/stepmother, and a whole lot of death at the end. Um, yeah, that's the recipe for a pretty awesome story. Phaedra, married to Theseus, has always nurtured a secret love for his son, Hippolytus. When she receives news that Theseus is dead, she finally confesses her love to Hippolytus, who is in love with Aricia and is disgusted by his step-mother's advances. But, hey, guess what? Theseus isn't dead and returns just in time for all Hades to break loose . . . Soap operas have nothing on ancient Greek drama. Plus, on All My Children, you never get a half bull/half dragon sea beastie sent by Neptune to torch our hero into a crispy critter before his horses go mad, crash the chariot, and then drag him to death. And I have to believe that's worth something. Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hend

    a tragic play , Explores the Depths of the Human Soul ... fascinating in its complexity..... Phèdre the young and second wife of the king Theseus, fall in love with his son Hippolytus,her obsession disrupts her,she was losing her mind, sees Hippolytus everywhere. her offerings and prayers to change destination was in vain..... she had Hippolytus exiled,and dismissed him from her presence.... However, she soon discovered that she could not remove his love from her heart. It remained. So she wished a tragic play , Explores the Depths of the Human Soul ... fascinating in its complexity..... Phèdre the young and second wife of the king Theseus, fall in love with his son Hippolytus,her obsession disrupts her,she was losing her mind, sees Hippolytus everywhere. her offerings and prayers to change destination was in vain..... she had Hippolytus exiled,and dismissed him from her presence.... However, she soon discovered that she could not remove his love from her heart. It remained. So she wished for death as the only way to end her Destined Love and, to punish herself for her betrayal and forbidden and cursed love...... but the sudden announcement of Theseus' death changed everything,she gives up her suicide plan and decided to enjoy life again ....... She lost control over herself and confess to Hippolytus her secret and passionate love, her confession has had an unexpected result,he has no pity on her and was in disgrace because of her shameful confession...... Theseus' return. And stopped the false rumors of his death,At first, Phèdre panic,again threatens suicide,but knowing Hippolytus's crush on the princess Aricia. her hysterical rage ,fear and jealousy make her leave Oenone(her nurse) accuses Hippolytus of attempting to seduce her, Theseus is completely deceived. Theseus believed her and cursed Hippolytus with one of the three curses he had received from Poseidon. As a result, Hippolytus' horses were frightened by a sea monster and dragged him to his death..... Phaedra feels guilty , she felt a total horror of herself, Recognizing the atrociousness of her crime, and the excruciating pain and feeling of disgust ,she declared the innocence of Hippolytus,and then committed suicide.......

  6. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    There's an old Communist-era joke, quoted in the movie The Lives of Others, about the Party Leader's conversation with the Sun. (The punchline is "Fuck off, I'm in the West now"). In Racine's play, Phèdre also has a conversation with the Sun. When I looked at the footnote, I discovered that they were in fact close relatives. Well... as everyone knows these days, being born into a rich, powerful family isn't exactly a guarantee that you're going to have a happy life. Generally, you marry someone y There's an old Communist-era joke, quoted in the movie The Lives of Others, about the Party Leader's conversation with the Sun. (The punchline is "Fuck off, I'm in the West now"). In Racine's play, Phèdre also has a conversation with the Sun. When I looked at the footnote, I discovered that they were in fact close relatives. Well... as everyone knows these days, being born into a rich, powerful family isn't exactly a guarantee that you're going to have a happy life. Generally, you marry someone you don't much like, get involved in an affair with a nasty but attractive person, and then it all goes from bad to worse. That's pretty much what happens to Phèdre. But at least Racine makes it into a great story, which is more than you can say for your average royal gossip columnist.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Greek families! Histrionics, rash reaction instead of considered response, inability to control emotion. Tragedy. THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN CURTAILED IN PROTEST AT GOODREADS' CENSORSHIP POLICY See the complete review here: http://arbieroo.booklikes.com/post/33... Bonus GR only bit: So if Goodreads was ever a family, it's now clear that it was one that escaped from a Greek Tragedy. It's fairly obvious that all the things in the first sentence of this review can be applied to the GR family - the only ques Greek families! Histrionics, rash reaction instead of considered response, inability to control emotion. Tragedy. THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN CURTAILED IN PROTEST AT GOODREADS' CENSORSHIP POLICY See the complete review here: http://arbieroo.booklikes.com/post/33... Bonus GR only bit: So if Goodreads was ever a family, it's now clear that it was one that escaped from a Greek Tragedy. It's fairly obvious that all the things in the first sentence of this review can be applied to the GR family - the only questions now is how many corpses are going to pile up as the Tragedy unfolds and whether we can summon a Diety to resolve the conflict for the future...no sign of Athena yet, more's the pity.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laurence R.

    I was pleasantly surprised by this play, even though I think it lacks originality (which I know is one of caracteristics of this genre at this time).

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    A pretty brutal love triangle 12 August 2013 This is apparently Racine's last play before he gave up the theatre scene to return to a religious life within the Jansenist sect. For those who don't know what a Jansenist is (and that would probably include most of us) then picture a god who is mean, nasty, and smacks you over the head with a baseball bat when you step out of line, and you have the god that the Jansenists worship. Why would anybody worship a god like that I don't know, but it probabl A pretty brutal love triangle 12 August 2013 This is apparently Racine's last play before he gave up the theatre scene to return to a religious life within the Jansenist sect. For those who don't know what a Jansenist is (and that would probably include most of us) then picture a god who is mean, nasty, and smacks you over the head with a baseball bat when you step out of line, and you have the god that the Jansenists worship. Why would anybody worship a god like that I don't know, but it probably has something to do with the fact that they are a monotheistic cult, and when you only have one god, and that god is a mean and nasty brute that smacks you over the head with a baseball bat when you step out of line, then you don't have much of a choice. Fortunately for us, we don't have to believe that God is actually like that, but that is another story for another time. Anyway, Phaedre is based on an Ancient Greek myth that has been the subject of a number of other plays, including Phaedra by Seneca and Hippolytus by Euripides. Racine also used Plutarch's biography of Theseus as a source for this work. The play, which probably suits Racine's style because he tended to write tragedies (unlike Shakespeare, who was a well rounded individual), and this is quite a violent tragedy with a pretty nasty love triangle. Basically the story involves the son of Theseus (Hippolytus) and the second wife of Theseus (Phaedre) didn't happen to be Hippolytus' mother. As the story goes, Phaedre was in love with Hippolytus but that was a forbidden love because she was his step mother, and such a relationship would be incestuous. However, before I go further, I assume you all know who Theseus is, and if you don't well he was the guy that travelled to Crete and killed this dude: and then married this woman: that is Ariadne, who is not to be confused with this woman: but after sailing away from Crete, he dumped on on the island of Naxos to leave her like this: (There are some other photos that came up when I typed Ariadne into Google Images, but I think I will leave it at that). Anyway, Theseus was what some would call a stud, and what others would call a sleaze, but hey, when you are king of Athens, and a hero to boot, particularly in the world of the Ancient Greeks, it is not surprising that you end up having your way with women. However, to cut a long story short, Theseus killed the king of Athens (because he was a prick, that is the King of Athens, but then you could say that Theseus was a prick as well, because he did dump Ariadne on a island and hey, I think the name Ariadne pretty cool) and then banned the former king's daughter from marrying so that he would not have a contender to the throne. However the problem turned out that Hippolytus was actually in love with her, so you have this really bizarre love triangle which pretty much doesn't resolve itself because Hippolytus ends up dying in a tragic chariot accident, or to use a modern example, something like this: You can probably picture it, Theseus discovers that there is an affair going on between his wife and his son and bursts into a rage. However his son knows that this is rubbish because, well, it's incest and Hippolytus will have nothing to do with it, and anyway he's in love with this woman that he's not allowed to marry, so father and son have a massive fight and the son jumps into his chariot and rushes out of the city in a rage and ends up getting himself killed. It then turns out that Theseus discovers that Hippolytus is innocent and the whole thing was set up by Phaedra (and her nurse) because she is pissed that Hippolytus isn't returning her advances (because it is incest, and he will have none of it). Anyway, I could probably write more, but I don't really want to, but may do so in the future if I feel like it, but I don't really feel like it now, even though this play is a masterpiece and Racine is a master tragedian, but then again, I think I have said enough, so here is a picture by Pablo Picasso.

  10. 4 out of 5

    N.

    I am surprised at how easy this was to read. After reading little bits on my commute, I sat down and finished it in a day. Shame colors Phaedra’s life and blinds her completely to any solution other than death. She is not a reasonable person at any point until the very end when she has seen the consequence of her passion. She had hoped in vain that Hippolyte would return her feelings and save her from the shroud of guilt that covered her. Ultimately, he became so disgusted by her sentiments that I am surprised at how easy this was to read. After reading little bits on my commute, I sat down and finished it in a day. Shame colors Phaedra’s life and blinds her completely to any solution other than death. She is not a reasonable person at any point until the very end when she has seen the consequence of her passion. She had hoped in vain that Hippolyte would return her feelings and save her from the shroud of guilt that covered her. Ultimately, he became so disgusted by her sentiments that it made her shame grow into a monster she couldn’t control and that would be the cause for Hippolyte’s unjust demise. I was not a fan of the false rape accusation at all. It perpetuates this bullshit that women falsely accuse men of rape out of spite. Not here for this.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Markus

    Phaedra, a tragedy by Racine Racine (1639 – 1699) This play by Racine is based on Phedre by Euripides, not modified in its content, but provided with brilliant dialogs in the French language, in order to bring this classic tragedy alive on the stage of a theatre. It had its first presentation on the 1st of January 1677 in Paris, Hotel de Bourgogne. And what an accumulation of tragically and dramatically human emotions to be seen and heard. Love and hate, faithfulness and betrayal, hope and despair, Phaedra, a tragedy by Racine Racine (1639 – 1699) This play by Racine is based on Phedre by Euripides, not modified in its content, but provided with brilliant dialogs in the French language, in order to bring this classic tragedy alive on the stage of a theatre. It had its first presentation on the 1st of January 1677 in Paris, Hotel de Bourgogne. And what an accumulation of tragically and dramatically human emotions to be seen and heard. Love and hate, faithfulness and betrayal, hope and despair, friendship and jealousy, arrogance and submission, suicide and death. In the absence and with rumors of the death of Thesée, Phedre his wife is ready to betray him, for love of her stepson, Hippolyte. In order to hide this incestuous love, she has long been pretending to hate Hippolyte. Just when she reveals her love, news of the return of Thesée arrive at the court. Phedre is devastated and prepares to commit suicide, but Oenone, Phèdre’s maid turns the story around and informs Thesée that Hippolyte, his son, had abused Phedre in his absence. Now Thesée in a rage of revenge appeals to Neptune, to punish his son. And so it happened that Hippolyta, racing along the seashore in his horse-chariot gets carried away among the rocks and gets killed in a most atrocious way. Soon Thesée learns the true side of the story, of the betrayal of Phedre, to himself and his son. Phedre takes a poison brought to Athens by Medea and dies. Such is the fame of this play that no actress of any fame in the world was not favored with the interpretation of Phedre. The first one was ‘la Champmeslé’ to create the role. It is told that Racine himself taught her every verse and reply. I am going to read Euripides again in comparison.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I loved this. Racine makes one big change from Euripides: he blames Phedre's false accusation mostly (though not wholly) on her nurse, instead of on her. Coincidentally, that's the one thing that really stuck out for me in the original: I found Phedre's final accusation jarring, unearned and unexplained. So...nice job, Racine! He also throws a love interest for Hippolytus in, though, in order to make him a little less...y'know, above it all. This was less successful. I think he'd have achieved th I loved this. Racine makes one big change from Euripides: he blames Phedre's false accusation mostly (though not wholly) on her nurse, instead of on her. Coincidentally, that's the one thing that really stuck out for me in the original: I found Phedre's final accusation jarring, unearned and unexplained. So...nice job, Racine! He also throws a love interest for Hippolytus in, though, in order to make him a little less...y'know, above it all. This was less successful. I think he'd have achieved the effect more cleanly simply by having Hippolytus acknowledge some attraction to Phedre. And I have now managed to second guess Euripides and Racine in two paragraphs. And screw Shakespeare, too! Yeah! *ahem* Translation review: not so great. Rawlings delivers with the original French on preceding pages, which is terrific but also serves to make obvious her own shortcomings. Her translation is loose, and it ignores the rhyme of the original. Richard Wilbur manages the same rhyme scheme with ease in his Moliere translation. I'd heard that he failed hard when he attempted Racine, so I didn't read it. With hindsight, I'd give him a shot - or recent dead Laureate Ted Hughes, who also attempted it. Without anything to compare it to, Rawlings' interpretation is functional but not great.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sesana

    I love mythology, especially Greek mythology. And Phaedra's story is a particularly juicy myth. Married to heroic Theseus, who features in many stories himself, Phaedra has fallen in love with her stepson, Hippolytus. (Remind anyone else of A Little Night Music? Not for long.) Now word has come that Theseus is dead, and Phaedra confesses her love to Hippolytus. Problem: Hippolytus is already in love, with Aricia, a captive of his father. Further problem: Theseus isn't dead at all. Like all the re I love mythology, especially Greek mythology. And Phaedra's story is a particularly juicy myth. Married to heroic Theseus, who features in many stories himself, Phaedra has fallen in love with her stepson, Hippolytus. (Remind anyone else of A Little Night Music? Not for long.) Now word has come that Theseus is dead, and Phaedra confesses her love to Hippolytus. Problem: Hippolytus is already in love, with Aricia, a captive of his father. Further problem: Theseus isn't dead at all. Like all the really good Greek myths, Phaedra's story is passionate, violent, and tragic. That much is inherent in the story before Racine. How much holds up in Racine's version? Well, that depends on the reader. If you're the sort of person to read 300+ year old French play based on an ancient Greek myth for fun, then you'll probably find it a lovely adaptation of a great story. And I am exactly that sort of person. Sadly, I can't read French, so I had to get this in translation. I have no doubt that it's even better in the original French. My translation used the standard English version of the characters' names, instead of the French ones that Racine used.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    4/5 - Probably my favourite book from my university reading list so far! Thoughts: 1. 17th century French theatre has always interested me and this didn't disappoint. Despite being written in the 1600s, to this day it is still an enjoyable, gripping story that's relatively easy to follow. 2. Phèdre was such an intriguing, multifaceted character; I never knew what was going to happen with her and what she was going to do next. She originates from Greek mythology and although I don’t know loads abou 4/5 - Probably my favourite book from my university reading list so far! Thoughts: 1. 17th century French theatre has always interested me and this didn't disappoint. Despite being written in the 1600s, to this day it is still an enjoyable, gripping story that's relatively easy to follow. 2. Phèdre was such an intriguing, multifaceted character; I never knew what was going to happen with her and what she was going to do next. She originates from Greek mythology and although I don’t know loads about that, I want to research it further when I start studying the text for lectures and seminars. I might read some similar texts by Seneca and Euripides if I have time, just so I can compare the presentation of Phèdre as a character. 3. Beautifully written in alexandrine verse; very poetic. 4. The themes of forbidden love, lust and desire were particularly poignant that ran throughout the entire play, introducing the play and ultimately concluding it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lau

    My problem with this is that Hippolytus was supposed to be devoted to Artemis and here HE WAS NOT. He was supposed to be an asexual little hero who despised Aphrodite and her gifts and who was scandalized by Phaedra's advances. But nooo, Racine made him being in love with Aricie, whoever the girl was, because "wishing to stay chaste is suspicious." Well, curse you, Racine. (I'm giving this three stars because of the dialogues, they're just wonderful.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    Read this play (translated by Robert Henderson) as it appeared in an old Modern Library book called Six Plays by Corneille and Racine. Will I have time to read it again?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    What a powerful tragedy about forbidden love! And what a difference reading this Richard Wilbur translation made in my enjoyment. And Phaedra makes such a contrast to whiny Gwenevere in The Mists of Avalon (which I recently finished); like Gwenevere she knows her love to be impossible but she doesn't blame either the man (Hippolytes) or her husband (Theseus). And even in her jealous rage, she doesn't really blame Aricia either.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    Read & listened to the LibriVox recording 4 December 2016 My rating reflects the translation by Robert Bruce Boswell more than Racine's tragedy. The play I liked enough that I have requested the Richard Wilbur version from the library.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mél ☽

    To be in-love is to destroy oneself. To be human is to be torn between reason and the heart. *Raising a glass* Here's to Phèdre and all the lovers out there, who happen to be kings and queens with so much power to abuse, and even more heartache to endure.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    On my second trip through Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu I've been trying to slow down and check out some of the works mentioned by Proust throughout, focusing mainly on the paintings referenced in the work, but also on a few of the texts, for instance, this one, Jean Racine's Phèdre. Phèdre is based on a Greek myth and has been explored by many ancient Greeks, including Euripides, who wrote the play Hippolytus (the name of Phaedra's stepson and love interest), Virgil, who include On my second trip through Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu I've been trying to slow down and check out some of the works mentioned by Proust throughout, focusing mainly on the paintings referenced in the work, but also on a few of the texts, for instance, this one, Jean Racine's Phèdre. Phèdre is based on a Greek myth and has been explored by many ancient Greeks, including Euripides, who wrote the play Hippolytus (the name of Phaedra's stepson and love interest), Virgil, who included his version of the story in The Aeneid and Plutarch. I was already familiar with the basic story told in Racine's play, but thought I should actually read it, goaded on by my reading of Proust. While the story itself is very interesting (as are many Greek myths), I don't necessarily feel there was much to be gained from actually reading it, very likely because of the translation. Racine wrote Phèdre in Alexandrine verse, and rhymed couplets appear throughout the play (as is evident from the side-by-side translation). This translation, by Margaret Rawlings, is intended for actors to make Racine accessible to English audiences, but so much of Racine's richness is lost in the translation (I'm sure as is also the case with translations of Shakespeare into French or other languages, which Rawlings acknowledges). Rawlings' intention was to not only develop a translation of Phèdre that is well-suited for the English stage, but to introduce audiences to the playwright, who remains unknown to many English-speaking audiences. Perhaps in the future I'll try a different translation. This one just left me with the impression that Racine is best appreciated in French, and while I think that his work should be better-known in the UK and US this translation just leaves me a bit cold. Translators of Racine (and this goes for translation in general, especially when it comes to verse) may try to retain the style and lose some of the meaning or else try to retain the meaning but distort the author's intended style. Rawlings here opts for the latter. I'd be interested to compare her translation with one who favors style and structure over literal meaning. But either way it's certain that something will be lost. And so it goes with the art of translation.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    I was a bit nervous after reading Rawling's Translator's Introduction because 1) she is not a professional translator but an actor who translated this as a kind of hobby project, and 2) her introduction suggests a kind of slavish devotion to the genius of Racine. Both of these throw up red flags for me. But this is a really beautifully translated play. Although the French is printed on the facing page I don't know any French, so I am not evaluating how accurate a translation it is. I mean that th I was a bit nervous after reading Rawling's Translator's Introduction because 1) she is not a professional translator but an actor who translated this as a kind of hobby project, and 2) her introduction suggests a kind of slavish devotion to the genius of Racine. Both of these throw up red flags for me. But this is a really beautifully translated play. Although the French is printed on the facing page I don't know any French, so I am not evaluating how accurate a translation it is. I mean that the poetry here is beautiful, and Rawlings is right that this is an eminently performable script. The language flows wonderfully, and it walks that line between the formality of verse and the speakability of colloquialism, without falling particularly into either extreme. The only reason I gave this play four stars instead of five is that I don't like the Aricia love plot. I get that French drama of Racine's age generally involved a love plot, but I think having Hippolytus fall in love fundamentally alters the character, and makes it hard to understand why he needs to be horribly killed (why in cosmic terms, that is). In Euripides Hippolytus is doomed because Aphrodite curses him for rejecting her worship, and both Seneca and Racine do away with this, but at least in Seneca that can remain part of the background of the myth because Hippolytus remains stridently abstinent. In Racine Hippolytus does fall in love, so why should Aphrodite/Venus (Racine uses the Roman names for deities) want him punished? It takes away much of the fatal aspect of the play, while still evoking Phaedra's familial curse as an element of fate.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David

    It's Yukio Mishima's favourite play! A mad old queen, a macho young man, plotting and confusion ... and then death comes to them both. But enough about Mishima (boom, boom), Racine's play is a spin on the classic(s). I saw a very cool Croatian production of "Hippolytus" quite soon after the Yugoslav war. Artemis was fully bandaged and moved about in a very curious manner. Hippolytus and chums spent the whole time worshipping her, in tiny loincloths. "Phaedra: Thanks be to Heav'n, my hands are fre It's Yukio Mishima's favourite play! A mad old queen, a macho young man, plotting and confusion ... and then death comes to them both. But enough about Mishima (boom, boom), Racine's play is a spin on the classic(s). I saw a very cool Croatian production of "Hippolytus" quite soon after the Yugoslav war. Artemis was fully bandaged and moved about in a very curious manner. Hippolytus and chums spent the whole time worshipping her, in tiny loincloths. "Phaedra: Thanks be to Heav'n, my hands are free from stain. Would that my soul were innocent as they!"

  23. 5 out of 5

    M

    without a doubt the best play I've read

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sixtine

    In all honesty, what really is tragic about this book is how high school kids in France are forced to read and analyze it in detail. I admit my bad experience with this may have biased my judgment of it. In my defense, even after the ordeal of studying this extensively, I still don't understand the point the author is trying to make.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    Maybe it was the translator Robert Lowell (Jean Racine's 'Phedre' was originally in French) and his style and language or my particular version that have contributed to my adoration of this play. However, although these factors do contribute substantially, it was Racine himself who showed his stature and dignity as a prominent French playwright. I chose the words 'stature' and 'dignity' for a reason by the way. For Racine, although his basis is essentially Greek mythology and tragedy, had baptize Maybe it was the translator Robert Lowell (Jean Racine's 'Phedre' was originally in French) and his style and language or my particular version that have contributed to my adoration of this play. However, although these factors do contribute substantially, it was Racine himself who showed his stature and dignity as a prominent French playwright. I chose the words 'stature' and 'dignity' for a reason by the way. For Racine, although his basis is essentially Greek mythology and tragedy, had baptized a new form of style in his play writing, shedding a light on previously ignored aspects that make 'Phaedra' simply delightful. The intricate splendour of the French court is evident in most of the interactions in this play, at least when compared with the Greek originals which inspired it. That is why Phaedra constantly questions the morality of her passions for her stepson Hippolytus and her 'shame' is constantly highlighted. Of course the most striking difference is that the chorus has been eliminated, but I do believe it was for the better in Racine's play. Compare this with Aeschylus' 'The Libation Bearers', in which the chorus is practically a protagonist. There is also a point in the play when Phaedra confesses her love for Hippolytus when the turn of events are almost humouristic, Theseus' death is announced and Hippolytus' upcoming visit is made known to Phaedra. I mean, talk about coincidence. However, make no mistake about it, the 'Phaedra', on my famous 'Tragicometer', would rank about the Titanic's being shipwrecked. That is how tragic it is (Euripides had met a strong contender). In fact it is hard not to shed some tears near the ending, and I can only imagine what the difference would be were I was to see it staged. But even this is not the reason why I thought this play was amazing. Quite simply it is the diction and the imagery, the way "the lines combine into one harmonious whole without superfluous decoration or irrelevancy" (though Lowell, the translator of my version, might have 'improvised', I think it is unlikely to a certain extent). I would heartily recommend reading this play, be it the French original or a French-English translation. Some French plays are not credited as being masterpieces for nothing, especially when one considers that 'Phaedra' was written in 1677.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maan Kawas

    A beautiful tragedy by the great French playwright Jean Racine! It is based on Euripides’ tragedy “Hippolytus”, but at the same time it shows many differences. Unlike Euripides’ play, Phedre here is depicted more as an ordinary human being, who is not totally good and not totally bad. Although she was doomed by fate to fall in an incestuous love his her own stepson, Hippolytus, but originally Phedre is a virtuous woman by nature, who suffered and resisted her unacceptable feelings and urges towa A beautiful tragedy by the great French playwright Jean Racine! It is based on Euripides’ tragedy “Hippolytus”, but at the same time it shows many differences. Unlike Euripides’ play, Phedre here is depicted more as an ordinary human being, who is not totally good and not totally bad. Although she was doomed by fate to fall in an incestuous love his her own stepson, Hippolytus, but originally Phedre is a virtuous woman by nature, who suffered and resisted her unacceptable feelings and urges toward Hippolytus. Hence, reading the play, one feels that Phedre is somehow a victim rather than a villain, which makes us sympathize with her rather the condemn her; especially, as she was hiding her feelings and trying her best to avoid her step son. One point I particularly loved about the play is its implication that one should not act or judge actions or other’s behaviors impulsively, but must take time and consider matters from different angles, as an incorrect and impulsive judgment may lead sometimes to destructive and irrevocable endings; which is hear the curse and the consequent death of Theseus’ own son. I also loved the depiction of the conflicts between the urges of one’s “Id” and the taboos and prohibitions imposed by the “Ego” and “Super-Ego”; that is, the conflict between the unconscious deep human drives (biological) and the Conscious part of a person (which makes one aware of the potential threats to his or her entity if the drive would be satisfied) and society with its norms and rules that become part of one’s “Ego”. Finally, the language is beautiful and attractive, coupled with the dramatic plot.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sara Rahimi

    it's ok, im not a big fan of theater, so i can never properly get into it. but it was fine enough.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I was really impressed by this play. It's a page-turner. I didn't want to put it down. Hughes' translation has a delightful terse lyricism. I rarely felt like I was reading a translation of a French play recreating an ancient Greek atmosphere and style. The deviations from the plot helped me appreciate the play for what it is, rather than continually comparing it with Euripides' "Hippolytus." The biggest changes are Aricia (Hippolytus' lover), the order/progression of events, diminished role of I was really impressed by this play. It's a page-turner. I didn't want to put it down. Hughes' translation has a delightful terse lyricism. I rarely felt like I was reading a translation of a French play recreating an ancient Greek atmosphere and style. The deviations from the plot helped me appreciate the play for what it is, rather than continually comparing it with Euripides' "Hippolytus." The biggest changes are Aricia (Hippolytus' lover), the order/progression of events, diminished role of the gods, and lack of a quote-un-quote Greek chorus. These changes make for a more modern take and I think this would be a good entry point for people interested but not well-versed (oh puns) in Athenian drama; a basic understanding of Greek drama and the family trees of Theseus and Phaedra are all that's necessary to understand the background of the play.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    Phedre is one of the great classics of European literature. Doing what the French do best, Racine takes Euripides Hippolytus and transforms into a forceful statement for Jansenism (a movement within Roman Catholicism that subscribed to Jean Calvin's belief in predestination.) Anyone able to read this work in French will be treated so some of the greatest verse every written in French. If you read it in translation, you will come away with a stronger understanding of Jansenism and the doctrine of Phedre is one of the great classics of European literature. Doing what the French do best, Racine takes Euripides Hippolytus and transforms into a forceful statement for Jansenism (a movement within Roman Catholicism that subscribed to Jean Calvin's belief in predestination.) Anyone able to read this work in French will be treated so some of the greatest verse every written in French. If you read it in translation, you will come away with a stronger understanding of Jansenism and the doctrine of predestination.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eilymay

    Had to read this for college and I have to say I wasn't expecting it to be particularly good - I thought it would be more of a chore than anything else. I was seriously proved wrong! Once I got into the language and managed to figure out what they were saying the story was amazing - talk about dramatic! Literally couldn't put it down (unfortunately had to though!) Positive: Epic story Negative: Trying to get my head around the language!

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