Phaedra, Jean Baptiste Racine
Phaedra
Jean Baptiste Racine
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Phèdre (French: [fɛdʁ]; originally Phèdre et Hippolyte) is a French dramatic tragedy in five acts written in alexandrine verse by Jean Racine, first performed in 1677 at the theatre of the Hôtel de Bourgogne in Paris. The play is set at the royal court in Troezen, on the Peloponnesus coast in Southern Greece. In the absence of her royal husband Thésée, Phèdre ends by declaring her love to Hippolyte, Thésée's son from a previous marriage.

Phaedra

by
Jean Baptiste Racine

Translated by
Robert Bruce Boswell


CHARACTERS

THESEUS, son of Aegeus and King of Athens.
PHAEDRA, wife of Theseus and Daughter of Minos and Pasiphae.
HIPPOLYTUS, son of Theseus and Antiope, Queen of the Amazons.
ARICIA, Princess of the Blood Royal of Athens.
OENONE, nurse of Phaedra.
THERAMENES, tutor of Hippolytus.
ISMENE, bosom friend of Aricia.
PANOPE, waiting-woman of Phaedra.
GUARDS.

The scene is laid at Troezen, a town of the Peloponnesus.

Act I

Scene I
Hippolytus, Theramenes

HIPPOLYTUS
My mind is settled, dear Theramenes,
And I can stay no more in lovely Troezen.
In doubt that racks my soul with mortal anguish,
I grow ashamed of such long idleness.
Six months and more my father has been gone,
And what may have befallen one so dear
I know not, nor what corner of the earth
Hides him.

THERAMENES
And where, prince, will you look for him?
Already, to content your just alarm,
Have I not cross’d the seas on either side
Of Corinth, ask’d if aught were known of Theseus
Where Acheron is lost among the Shades,
Visited Elis, doubled Toenarus,
And sail’d into the sea that saw the fall
Of Icarus? Inspired with what new hope,
Under what favour’d skies think you to trace
His footsteps? Who knows if the King, your father,
Wishes the secret of his absence known?
Perchance, while we are trembling for his life,
The hero calmly plots some fresh intrigue,
And only waits till the deluded fair —

HIPPOLYTUS
Cease, dear Theramenes, respect the name
Of Theseus. Youthful errors have been left
Behind, and no unworthy obstacle
Detains him. Phaedra long has fix’d a heart
Inconstant once, nor need she fear a rival.
In seeking him I shall but do my duty,
And leave a place I dare no longer see.

THERAMENES
Indeed! When, prince, did you begin to dread
These peaceful haunts, so dear to happy childhood,
Where I have seen you oft prefer to stay,
Rather than meet the tumult and the pomp
Of Athens and the court? What danger shun you,
Or shall I say what grief?

HIPPOLYTUS
That happy time
Is gone, and all is changed, since to these shores
The gods sent Phaedra.

THERAMENES
I perceive the cause
Of your distress. It is the queen whose sight
Offends you. With a step-dame’s spite she schemed
Your exile soon as she set eyes on you.
But if her hatred is not wholly vanish’d,
It has at least taken a milder aspect.
Besides, what danger can a dying woman,
One too who longs for death, bring on your head?
Can Phaedra, sick’ning of a dire disease
Of which she will not speak, weary of life
And of herself, form any plots against you?

HIPPOLYTUS
It is not her vain enmity I fear,
Another foe alarms Hippolytus.
I fly, it must be own’d, from young Aricia,
The sole survivor of an impious race.

THERAMENES
What! You become her persecutor too!
The gentle sister of the cruel sons
Of Pallas shared not in their perfidy;
Why should you hate such charming innocence?

HIPPOLYTUS
I should not need to fly, if it were hatred.

THERAMENES
May I, then, learn the meaning of your flight?
Is this the proud Hippolytus I see,
Than whom there breathed no fiercer foe to love
And to that yoke which Theseus has so oft
Endured? And can it be that Venus, scorn’d
So long, will justify your sire at last?
Has she, then, setting you with other mortals,
Forced e’en Hippolytus to offer incense
Before her? Can you love?

HIPPOLYTUS
Friend, ask me not.
You, who have known my heart from infancy
And all its feelings of disdainful pride,
Spare me the shame of disavowing all
That I profess’d. Born of an Amazon,
The wildness that you wonder at I suck’d
With mother’s milk. When come to riper age,
Reason approved what Nature had implanted.

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