Phädra Trauerspiel in 5 Aufzügen

by Jean Racine

Other authorsFriedrich Schiller (Translator), Hermann Gmelin (Afterword)
Paperback, 1992

Status

Available

Call number

IF 8451 P532

Collection

Publication

Stuttgart Reclam 1992

Description

Based on Euripides' Hippolytus, this play by one of France's greatest playwrights is a magnificent example of character exposition. When the title character, Hippolytus' stepmother, receives false information that her husband, Theseus, is dead, Phèdra reveals a passionate love for her stepson -- an act that eventually spells doom for both characters.

User reviews

LibraryThing member wrmjr66
Racine's tragic dramatization of the Theseus-Phaedra myth is very classical in form and style. He reads more like a Jonsonian tragedian than a Shakespearean one. The play is full of long speeches of florid, classical language, and all of the real action in the play occurs off-stage. Still, the
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emotion of the main characters--Phaedra, Theseus and Hyppolitus--shines through the language and brings the characters to life. The more minor characters like Phaedra's maid are less well drawn (a weakness in this play because Phaedra's maid is the catalyst for much of the language). I enjoyed the play well enough to seek out other works by Racine.
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LibraryThing member snat
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
I had a hard time with the inevitability of Phaedra's love for Hippolytus - I'm not a believer in love that you can't resist. This play demonstrated to me the importance of integrity. Phaedra knew what she felt was wrong - but she "gave in" to to the bad advice of her confidant and destroyed the
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lives of all those around her. While the story may seem old and out of touch with the modern world, I find it particularly timely given our modern inclination to just follow our desires without regard to who may get hurt.
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LibraryThing member BayardUS
It is stated in the introduction to Phèdre that Racine did not intend to challenge any of the conventions to playwriting with this work, but merely write the strongest possible play while adhering to the established structure of five act dramatic tragedies. Because of this, the play Phèdre by
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Racine and Hippolytus by Euripides are similar, not only in subject matter, but in structure as well, despite being written over 2,000 years apart. Unfortunately for Racine, this allows a direct comparison between the plays, and for me Hippolytus easily comes out on top.

Racine makes Phèdre a longer play, focusing on the passions that are driving the characters, and adds a plotline where Hippolytus and Aricia fall in love and attempt to elope. The longer length means that things that happened in the heat of the moment in Euripides’ play (and made sense in that context) are stretched over a longer span of time (and therefore defy common-sense). Euripides’ Theseus believes the accusations against his son only when he finds a note alleging them clutched in the cold hand of his wife, who has just killed herself. In a rage, and with his wife’s suicide putting her accusations almost beyond reproach, he curses his son and seals his fate. Racine’s Theseus believes accusations brought against his son by his wife’s nurse, and holds onto them stubbornly while one character after another tells him the accusations are false. “Can nothing clear your mind of your mistake?” asks Hippolytus. Obviously not, for the sake of the story, but such a refusal does strain credulity. Racine also has characters take other actions that aren’t very believable, and his commitment to making his characters voice their motivations draws attention to just how unbelievable these actions are. Toward the end of the play Hippolytus states “[l]et us trust to Heav'n my vindication, for the gods are just.” No they aren’t, and Hippolytus should know this based on the earlier parts of the play (and nowhere is Hippolytus previously portrayed as stupid or naïve). Euripides would never have written such a nonsense and cliché line.

The Hippolytus-Aricia subplot must have been added as a crowd-pleaser, because it adds little to the story. There are thousands of plays about forbidden romance, death separating young lovers, and everything else this plotline does, and it distracts from the play’s portrayal of a woman’s love spurned and a father harboring such rage for his son that he calls on the gods to kill him. Alicia’s introduction changes Phaedra’s actions to ones of jealousy just as much as uncontrollable passion, and thus waters down an interesting character. In general Phèdre does a disservice to the character Phaedra, giving many of the key actions to her nurse instead of having Phaedra perform them herself. It is the nurse Oenone who makes the accusations against Hippolytus, which absolves Phaedra of blame in his death but also turns her character into one doomed always to react and never to act of her own volition.

Euripides’ take on this tale is the better one, and is one of his strongest plays. Comparatively, Phèdre is less impressive, and despite Racine’s attempt to imbue the characters with uncontrollable passion, in fact he turns them duller than they had been for the 2,000 years before him. It’s not bad, just not as good as the classic version.
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LibraryThing member jpsnow
Absolutely hilarious modern translation (performed in NY) of a Frenchman's rendition of the Greek tragedy. Each main character has one exceptional part: Aricia, Hipplytus, Phedre, and Theseus. The story of Hippolytus' death is told very clearly relative to the Greek, with Neptune coming out of the
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sea after Hippolytus slays the beast.
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LibraryThing member jasonlf
A Greek tragedy by Racine, a web of interlocking and tragic loves and misunderstandings propels this play from beginning to end. Although I enjoyed Andromache more, this was also a pleasure from beginning to end. And like Andromache, added greater psychological depth and complexity to characters
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caught in what would otherwise appear to be the inevitably unfolding clockwork gears of their fates.
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LibraryThing member librarianbryan
Made me want to read more Ted Hughes. Never thought I would say that.
LibraryThing member Audacity88
Why do modern authors insist on retaining both the characters and the predictable outcomes of these ancient dramas? Racine's French prose is great but the story fails to excite.
LibraryThing member nosajeel
A Greek tragedy by Racine, a web of interlocking and tragic loves and misunderstandings propels this play from beginning to end. Although I enjoyed Andromache more, this was also a pleasure from beginning to end. And like Andromache, added greater psychological depth and complexity to characters
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caught in what would otherwise appear to be the inevitably unfolding clockwork gears of their fates.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
What a powerful tragedy about forbidden love! And what a difference reading this Richard Wilbur translation made in my enjoyment (I had read/listened to the public domain translation a few weeks ago).

And Phaedra makes such a contrast to whiny Gwenevere in The Mists of Avalon (which I recently
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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.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
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.
LibraryThing member leslie.98
This full cast recording of Racine´s play used the public domain translation by Robert Bruce Boswell which, as I mentioned in my review of the Kindle edition, wasn't very good.

I also found that a few of the "players" had difficulty matching the text to the meaning (pausing at the end of a line of
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text when the pause was inappropriate, for example).
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Language

Original language

French

Original publication date

1677

Physical description

63 p.; 15 cm

ISBN

3150000548 / 9783150000540
Page: 1.7935 seconds