I only read Phaedra, but this is the version I read from I picked this up as a way of understanding Proust better, who references this play several times throughout In Search of Lost Time Little Marcel even goes to see it on two occasions It was illuminating, and well worth the read The complications of sin and pre emptive guilt are moving, even if disturbing. Iphigenia An amazing play with a terrible ending Agamemnon, Achilles, and Ulysses are spectacularly realized here, and this play reminded me so very much of Euripides Trojan Women, my favorite classical Greek drama Agamemnon s weakness and conflict is highlighted spectacularly in his interactions with Ulysses, Achilles, Clytemnestra, and Iphigenia herself Unfortunately, the deux ex machina ending is bad, if kind of inevitable because Achilles and Agamemnon can t actually be in a civil war before the Trojan War.Phaedra This reminded me of Sophocles, maybe even Aeschylus Everything happens at exactly the right time for the maximum amount of tragedy it s so well constructed that it s a bit overconstructed Phaedra is an interesting character, but her supporting cast Theseus, Hippolytus, Aricia are weaker and less interesting I thought this was the weakest play of the three despite its general acclaim.Athaliah Another excellent play Athaliah herself dominates the play despite not really showing up very much and being, like Phaedra, past her prime, so to speak But Jehoida and Mattan are both excellent characters in their own right, amazingly Machiavellian high priests who hate each other Unfortunately for Mattan, Athaliah, in her newfound weakness, doesn t listen to his advice but instead the advice of the one good man in the play, Abner, and so Jehoida triumphs But despite being the high priest of Yahweh it s hard to say that good has won and Racine knows it, and gets some nice foreshadowing of the next godly reign thrown in for good measure. Popular Book, Iphigenia Phaedra Athaliah Penguin Classics By Jean Racine This Is Very Good And Becomes The Main Topic To Read, The Readers Are Very Takjup And Always Take Inspiration From The Contents Of The Book Iphigenia Phaedra Athaliah Penguin Classics , Essay By Jean Racine Is Now On Our Website And You Can Download It By Register What Are You Waiting For Please Read And Make A Refission For You Racine has always been on my periphery as someone I should read but to be honest, I ve not bothered till I wandered into an Oxfam bookstore and found this book with the play Athaliah in it Let me just say that as if the drama of the Greeks lacked in anything, when arranged, so to speak, by the courtly romance of the French Enlightenment court, you get one big sha BAM of drama Though it s clear through Racine s expositions and prefaces that he struggles with various aspects of religion and his own faith, as well as the role of virtue in society, he brilliantly displays complex human emotion and motif in these ancient stories The twist on Iphigenia is truly genius and like his mostly atheistic audience, nodding to the Pope, I though a Christian appreciate this alternate ending to the Deus ex machina ending usually adopted in this type of tragedy He nearly turns this play into a comedy, ending with the marriage of Iphigenia to Achilles, and reuniting Achilles to Agammemnon His use of minor characters to drive the plot and throw wrenches into the machinery of the play is brilliantly matched, giving a largeness to the sense of a play with so few characters, yet maintaining a simplicity for effective staging Athaliah also shows a breadth of research into the culture of the ancient Jews and the conflicts between the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel and the pagan religion While the biblical texts hint at the natural depravity in Athaliah herself, the heir of her evil parents Ahab and Jezebel, here, Racine makes her the puppet of her priest Mattan, the Jew turned Priest of Baal Throughout his plays, he often refers to the sacred things, whether Greek or Jewish this is a brilliant sense I feel is lost somewhat in contemporary society The essence of the sacred amongst us and in us and that reverence we should show to those things whether we want to honor them or not.Though Phaedra is the named character of the third play, I didn t particularly connect with her character or her plight Supposedly cursed by goddess Aphrodite with being in love with her step son Hippolytus, a virtuous warlord and son of Theseus, the love hungry half god, Phaedra has locked herself up to avoid this hideous secret bursting from her chest When she discovers that Hippolytus loved the forbidden Aricia, she sets evil plans in motion to spite her lover and his mistress Through some dark happenings and twists, a blood bath ensues and all old ties are cut, burned, buried and destroyed I enjoyed this play the least, though I enjoyed the characters of Hippolytus and Aricia the most Racine s sense of justice and wrong seems to have gone overboard in this play, calling into question especially the wisdom of the gods Theseus is a playboy, Neptune used as his personal hitman, and Aphrodite seems a spiteful cursing wench, and even Phaedra, the granddaughter of Apollo, goes mad with lust and jealousy Iphigenia remains my favorite of these plays and have definitely given me a taste for of Racine s plays Tres bon This is quite the collection of Racine s strong women plays The protagonists may not all be likable, but they are women of strength, which is quite surprising when one considers they were written in 17th Century France. It s impossible to translate Racine well but Cairncross does a fine job, especially in comparison to other translators Phaedra is beautiful but the other two plays here fall a little flat for me Iphigenia combines two different versions of her story, creating a strange deus ex machina in the end Athaliah was written after his conversion to Christianity which comes through stronger than the actual story. I read the 1970 edition, published by Penguin Books, which includes an introduction to each play by the translator John Cairncross and Racine s preface to each play, all of which are informative and helpful Iphigenia and Phaedra are based on Euripides plays Iphigenia at Aulis and Hippolytus The third play, Athaliah, is based on the Old Testament story of Athaliah, queen of Judah and follower of the pagan god Baal, and Jehoiada, high priest of the temple of Jerusalem the high priest of Jehovah , who wants to restore the kingship of Judah to the House of David.In Racine s plays, passion, circumstance, and the gods combine to send the main protagonists to their downfall The one exception is the play Iphigenia, which is a tragicomedy because it has a happy ending.Five stars for quality of writing and powerful storylines.I admire these plays than I like them. My interest in Racine is presently confined in his Greek tragedies hence I bypassed the third play Athaliah Iphigenia has contributed significantly to the understanding of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, with the former in glorious maternal courage and fury, the latter rather low in both paternal and kingly behaviors Iphigenia is pictured here blandly stoic, paled by the complex emotions of the tragic Eriphile who serves the improbable resolution of the knot Phaedra is a melodramatic passion tragedy One of the best painted figure is the Oenone, the companionable nurse of the queen, who seems to be surprisingly pragmatic and realistic This translation by John Cairncross is simple and elegant His introduction to each play is also very thorough and helpful. For no reason given by the play, Venus tortures Phaedra, wife to Theseus King of Athens, with a passion for her stepson Hippolytus She struggles valiantly against the passion, and only confesses her love to him when she received news of Theseus death She is rebuffed by the prince, and then learns that the king is not dead but is returning home Wild with guilt and fear, she allows her nurse Oenone to lie to Theseus that Hippolytus hit on her, and inner torture becomes also external tragedy The construction of the play is brilliant, as the coils of the plot strangle any hope of escape A series of confessions in the first movement, the action reverses itself when characters try to take back what has been said Phaedra, a descendant of the sun god, has nowhere on earth to hide from the eyes of judgment Even in Hades, she will have to face her father, Minos, who judges the dead The poetry, as conveyed through John Cairncross translation, is dramatic and moving The figure of the monster, first seen as proof of Theseus heroism, recurs throughout the play wearing different faces, and speaking with intensifying alarm, until it appears finally as the devastating gift of Neptune The horses that ate out of Hippolytus hand kill him in the end The French hexameter is rendered in iambic pentameter, giving such beautiful lines to Phaedra Since Venus wills it, of this unblest lineI perish, I, the last and the wretchedest.and, after a long recitation of all the ways she tried to dismiss Hippolytus from her mind,Venus in all her might is on her prey.I have a fitting horror for my crime I hate this passion and I loathe my life.She has not done anything yet, but already feels criminal Love is turned into hate, and life into death. Originally published on my blog here in March and April 1999.IphigeniaOne of the best known stories in Greek mythology is that of Iphigenia She was the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra when he was leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War the fleet was stranded at Aulis by contrary winds, and an oracle told them that the wind would only change if Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter.The story of Iphigenia has a distinguished history in drama As well as inspiring Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis, her death forms the motivation for Clytemnestra s murder of Agamemnon on his return from Troy, which led in turn to her own murder at the hands of their son Orestes between them, the subjects of famous, surviving, plays by Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles.There are in fact several versions of the myth a common one has the goddess Artemis substituting a hind for Iphigenia at the last moment, snatching her away to become a priestess as in Euripides Iphigenia in Tauris Racine chooses a obscure version of the myth, in which Iphigenia is saved when the oracle is discovered to refer to another Iphigenia.His reason for doing this is to make the process of divine retribution clearer Iphigenia has done nothing to deserve death, so she should not die He rejected the story of the hind, probably because of his early background as a Jansenist The Jansenists were a strict group of Catholics among their beliefs was the idea that it should require the eye of faith to perceive a miracle to those lacking such an eye, it should appear to be a natural event The idea is that the purpose of a miracle is to bolster faith, so that to those with no faith they are meaningless This is the opposite of the modern charismatic Christian viewpoint, for example, that miracles are a sign intended to convince non believers He was, however, unable to remove or rationalise the miracle that the wind changed on the death of the girl, as the oracle had foretold.The blandness of Iphigenia as a character is the main weakness in the play She is really the tool of the others her parents, her fianc Achilles, the seer Calchas It is perhaps ironic that Racine s reason for choosing this particular version of the myth the inoffensiveness of Iphigenia should make it so hard to create in her a living character.PhaedraPhaedra was Racine s last play before his return to the Catholic church he wrote another pair of plays, on Biblical stories, much later in his life despite his involvement with the Jansenists, who strongly condemned the stage His story here is based on Greek myth, the source of several of his plays, and like Iphigenia covers the same ground as a play by Euripides, in this case Hippolytus Theseus, King of Athens, has been married twice, first to the Hippolyta, mother by him of a son Hippolytus, and then to Phaedra, daughter of Minos King of Crete and Pasipha Pasipha was a daughter of the sun god Helios and mother of the monstrous Minotaur through her unnatural passion for a bull.Phaedra believes she has a hereditary tendency toward unnatural love, through the hatred of the goddess Venus for her mother Racine uses Venus rather than the Greek Aphrodite This is confirmed in her mind when she begins to experience an incestuous and adulterous passion for her stepson When she approaches him and is rejected, her maid accuses him before his father of having a passion for her, and this brings about his death.The character of Phaedra is Racine s main interest in the story She feels unable to help herself, but is horrified by her desire for Hippolytus in fact, she is almost driven mad by the guilt she feels The speeches in which she expresses this are a major part of what made writers like Proust admire Racine there are several points in Remembrance of Things Past in which Proust s narrator goes to the theatre to see famous actresses perform these scenes out of context.While the psychological study of Phaedra is interesting and very poetically expressed, her character rather overbalances the play Hippolytus in particular suffers, being given few lines that are than conventional.Phaedra epitomises a Jansenist believe that grace, the forgiveness of sins, could not be earned or bought, but was apportioned by God to some and not to others as he saw fit this is a fairly severe form of predestination Phaedra is a study of the sinful soul denied grace by God Since the setting of the story forces God to be represented by the Greek pagan gods, rather than the God of the Roman Catholic Church, there is a slight problem in doing this The Greeks never assigned absolute moral purity to any of their gods, and this makes Phaedra s situation less tragic than that of a similarly placed Catholic would be.AthaliahRacine s last play is one of the two Biblical dramas he wrote after a long hiatus It is based on the story from Kings of Athaliah and her grandson Joash, rulers of the kingdom of Judah Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel of Israel who had married into the Davidic royal house of Judah When Ahab s family was destroyed when Jehu became King of Israel, her son, visiting Israel, was killed Athaliah took her revenge on the house of David, killing her grandchildren and taking the throne of Judah for herself.But one grandson, a baby, survived, and was brought up in secret in the Temple, the centre of Judaism Athaliah followed her parents worship of Baal, and imposed him on Judah Eventually Athaliah, tormented by dreams in which a young boy killed her, went to the temple where she saw the boy from her dreams assisting in the ritual The boy is of course her grandson, though he does not know his own origins.Athaliah s surprising and threatening appearance at the Temple leads the priesthood to set off a rebellion, with ends with the death of Athaliah and Joash becoming king The play ends there, and it is only through hints that Racine reminds us of the ironical conclusion to the whole affair As Joash got older, he followed his grandmother s example and abandoned the faith of Yahweh for that of Baal.With the particular plot of this play one beloved of fantasy authors, many of whom I suspect have never read the book of Kings it should, according to the conventions of the time, be entitled Joash However, it concentrates strongly on the psychology of Athaliah, and so Racine is justified in the title he chose.The obvious play with which to compare Athaliah is of course Phaedra, the last of Racine s plays to have a story from a non Biblical source The main focus of both plays is a tormented female character and her psychology as it develops through the play In Athaliah, there is written for the other characters, so Racine s analysis of her is briefer, and the language he uses not so poetic That of course may be partly the translation One interesting aspect of the play is the portrayal of the priests The priest of Baal is a cynical man who does not believe in the god he follows he is a priest for primarily political rather than religious reasons In fact, he has a strong belief in Yahweh, and is a renegade from the Jewish priesthood Almost all of the characters, including Athaliah herself, believe in the power of Yahweh, whatever their public stance The priests of Yahweh are zealots, bigots with an extreme and distasteful creed, using the opportunities provided by the comparative toleration of Athaliah s reign they allowed to continue to worship, for example to plot the destruction of Baal s worshippers Any means available to them that will accomplish this are seized upon, even if they involve morally dubious deceptions Since the characters of the specific priests involved are not made explicit in the Biblical account, the way that they are portrayed is largely Racine s own choice It is a fascinating one for him to have made, particularly given the extremism of his own brand of Catholicism.
Jean Baptiste Racine was a French dramatist, one of the big three of 17th century France along with Moli re and Corneille , and one of the most important literary figures in the Western tradition Racine s dramaturgy is marked by his psychological insight, the prevailing passion of his characters, and the nakedness of both plot and stage Although primarily a tragedian, Racine wrote one comedy.
- 320 pages
- Iphigenia; Phaedra; Athaliah (Penguin Classics)
- Jean Racine
- 14 May 2019 Jean Racine