polutrope: (sleep is for pussies)
Oh, look! It's my favorite things in one place: Phèdre and theory of translation!
so of course I did a long analysis of it. )
polutrope: (sleep is for pussies)
We're putting on Hippolytus in Greek, as I may have mentioned once, and I just bought a copy of Racine's Phèdre, because I love it to bits and realized that I don't own it. So of course I'm thinking about both of them a lot. It's really a shame that the Racine is based on Hippolytus; it would be much fairer to it if I could read it alone and not as an adaptation of the Euripides. It's not that I like it less, only that I keep comparing it, and weighing the interpretation of the characters.

And it's sort of on this basis that I've decided Phèdre's weaker. The addition of Aricie isn't just "lame" because she has no character at all (which she doesn't); it would weaken the play even if she were the most dynamic character imaginable. It changes a conflict of ideologies, of Hippolytus' inflexibility against Aphrodite's power, represented by Phaedra, to a choice between two women.

That is to say, there is no possibility that Hippolytus will agree to the nurse's request that he take Phaedra as a lover. He hates women and loves his chastity. By creating a Hippolyte who loves a woman, Racine makes the opposition not between two life-paths, but the more normal, and thus if not less interesting, less extreme, choice between one woman and another. There are, of course, moral differences between choosing Aricie and Phèdre - Phèdre is still Hippolyte's step-mother and the wife of his father - but it's not the choice between absolute purity and sexual activity that Hippolytus is forced to make.

Both plays, of course, are products of their time. Hippolytus, like much of Greek drama and epic, warns against the dangers of inflexibility and stubbornness. (Of course, because if Euripides wasn't an atheist, he certainly didn't like the gods, Hippolytus is also about the impossibility of pleasing a goddess who would destroy a man simply for not choosing to follow her path. Even then, Hippolytus' crime isn't only not engaging in sexual activity, it's really the long speech about the evils of women. Without that attitude, he would be acceptable; but in that speech he shows that he doesn't just choose to abstain from Aphrodite's realm, he scorns it and hates it, which is always a bad move.)

In any case, products of their time. Euripides treats subjects that Greeks were accustomed to see in the theater; Racine writes the story that a 17th century French audience wants to see - a love story, couched in the specific and formulaic language of the French Classical theater. Racine could not have written a play with no love story; it was, like someone saying "hélas" at least three times, a requirement of the form.

For me the conflict between who Hippolytus is - a man who chose chastity and Artemis - and who Aphrodite, goddess of all that he hates, wants him to be is much more interesting than a love triangle. But they're not really comparable and perhaps shouldn't be; and yet I can't help it.
polutrope: (Default)
I should really write that essay. It shouldn't be that hard - I know both Phèdre and Hippolytus inside out (although not actually having an English version of Hippolytus is unhelpful). I think it's perhaps my current state of deepest fatigue.

Main points
-Taking the gods out of it makes it slightly less cohesive and takes away a level of complexity.
-Euripides's characters are much more likeable (even Hippolytus when he's at his highest levels of incoherent misogyny) since it is much more obvious that the Nurse has Phaedra's best interests at heart, and Phaedra's committing suicide before she knows that the situation is completely lost shows more fortitude. (Or perhaps not. But I think that Phèdre's trying to get the best of both worlds.)
-Euripides doesn't have Aricie. (Not, of course, in so many words, but: Hippolytus's protestations of purity are actually justifiable, rather than Hippolyte saying that he was going to avoid women and then falling for Aricie as soon as he thought it would be all right.)
-Euripides presents Hippolytus's not telling Theseus about Phaedra as a struggle between an oath that H. swore and what he knows he should do.

Theseus comes out of both fairly well: He comes home, unaware of everything and finds that his wife is dead, with a plaque saying that his son raped her/ neither his son nor his wife will speak to him and his son says he's leaving. I think that of all the people you could blame for Hippolytus's death, Theseus is last: yes, he acted on very little evidence, but I like to think that he loved and trusted Phaedra. (Based on two lines of evidence - "never will I hear her sweet conversation more" or words to that effect.)


And now for something completely different:
There could be no grosser misconception of the realities than is entertained by those who vociferously demand legislation as they call it “against discrimination”, whether they be leader-writers of the same kidney and sometimes on the same newspapers which year after year in the 1930s tried to blind this country to the rising peril which confronted it... From Enoch Powell’s speech to the Annual General Meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre, Birmingham, England, April 20, 1968. See, Greek class? I'm right.

Racine

Jan. 24th, 2006 08:20 pm
polutrope: (the lady of shallot)
I just finished Phedre.
Of course, half of Phedre's lines from the beginning have gotten stuck in my head. Typical internal dialogue goes like this: "Que ces vains ornaments, que ces voiles me pesent!" "No, they don't. You'd have to be pretty ill for a light silver chain and stud earrings to weigh on you." "Je le vis, je rougis, je palis a sa vue." "Oh, just be quiet!" "Tout m'afflige, et me nuit, et conspire a me nuire!" "...actually, that's true."

But anyway. If I had time, I'd write an essay comparing it to Hippolytus. Racine's most obvious change is adding Aricie, who, while she is not as useless as I thought she was, is still annoying. She has an excuse for being passive at the beginning, but she overworks it. "Hippolyte demande a me voir en ce lieu?/ Hippolyte me cherche, et veut me dire adieu?" She strikes me as unintelligent, and I can't see why Hippolytus loves her (especially since, even though I spent most of last year hating his prudish attitude, I preferred him when he was sworn to Artemis).

Hippolytus is killed by some sea monster/dragon thing. I like it better when it's just a bull, partly because it's Posidon's symbol and makes more mythological sense, and partly because I dislike the flashy. There's more drama in the ordinary than in the outre. Dragons bore me. At least he didn't take two hundred or so lines to die in this one.

Theseus is obviously too quick to act: he is a hero and used to using force to resolve things. Also, going on "discours qui peut-etre a peu de fondement," I like to think that Theseus really loves Phedre and would therefore trust her word readily. It's easy to compare him to her: what he says after learning of Hippolytus's death is "What have I done?" while Phedre's reaction to the situation is "What have you done, Oenone?". She convinced you to lie, and it wasn't that hard! Phedre can't take responsibility for her actions.

Overall, I liked it better when everthing was Aphrodite's fault (or Hippolytus'). But Racine get some points for the alexandrines, and not having choral odes.

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