§--'s Reviews > Phèdre: A Play

Phèdre by Jean Racine
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's review
Mar 19, 12

bookshelves: plays
Read from February 22 to March 19, 2012, read count: 1

So short, so simple, yet so controlled. While I'm told that Racine is untranslateable, and that the great joy in reading him is the music of the poetry, I still found great beauty scattered throughout Boswell's translation (not that Boswell), and great psychological insight into human motivation, as well as the absurdity of fortune. Racine presents love in all his characters as something fated, something completely irrational--that is, something that no one chooses to do. Hippolyte falls for the forbidden Aricia; Phaedra falls for the forbidden Hyppolyte.

Incidentally, Racine was a Jansenist, and believed in predestination. The affinity with the Greeks makes sense.

There are backstories, but no subplots at all. Even the language is completely bare. But along with everything else, the reading experience is also concentrated.

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