Summary Discussion Thoughts On Racine S Phaedra Book Report

Length: 2 pages Subject: Plays Type: Book Report Paper: #99566944 Related Topics: Book Of Revelation, Plays, Play, Rape
Excerpt from Book Report :

¶ … Jean Racine's Phaedra is an example of French neoclassical tragedy, which means that it observes certain formal rules of construction. For a start, Racine uses a classical model: in this case, it is the Athenian tragedy Hippolytus, by Euripides, whose basic plot is adapted by Racine. But the larger compositional procedure in neoclassical tragedy involves what is termed "observing the unities." This is a rule from Aristotle's Poetics, the standard ancient critical work on tragedies, which declares that a tragic drama should exhibit a unity of time, a unity of place, and a unity of action. This means in practice that the tragic plot should take place in continuous time over the course of one day or night, in the same location, and be centered generally on the main dramatic conflict and action without subplots. Racine's Phaedra observes these rules punctiliously, as the entire play takes place in a continuous action of less than a day, with the single setting of the royal palace at Troezen. (By way of contrast, it may be worth noting that no tragedy by Shakespeare observes these neoclassical unities, although he observed them in two non-tragedies, the first and last plays he wrote.)

However it should be observed that Racine is by no means engaged in a slavish imitation of a Greek model: Racine abandons various formal elements of Greek tragedy (such as a large chorus that comments on the action) and freely revises the plot of his Euripidean model. In Euripides's tragedy, Phaedra dies halfway through the action,...


By contrast Racine structures the plot to work up to Phaedra's suicide in the play's final moments: Hippolytus has predeceased her, and it is Phaedra's maid Oenone, not Phaedra herself, who concocts the false rape charge against Hippolytus. Phaedra's suicide in Racine occurs only after she reveals the charge was false.

The mythic plot of Racine's Phaedra is fairly simple, given the neoclassical focus on the unity of action. Phaedra, who is descended from gods but also from women with depraved sexual desires (such as her mother, who copulated with a bull and gave birth to the Minotaur, Phaedra's half-brother), has developed an incestuous fixation on her step-son Hippolytus during the long absence of her husband Theseus. At the start of the play, the rumor returns that Theseus has in fact died: this unlocks Phaedra's amorous yearning and causes her to confess her passion to Hippolytus, who is horrified. Phaedra takes his sword, intending to commit suicide to preserve her honor -- and at this point it is revealed that the report of Theseus's death was incorrect, and he has…

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