Plays by Jean Racine


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jean Racine's Phedra (originally Phèdre et Hippolyte) is a five-act tragedy written in alexandrine verse, first performed on 1 January 1677 at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, home of the royal troupe of actors in Paris.

This translation by Julie Rose was published in 2001 by Nick Hern Books in its Drama Classics series.

Racine derived the subject of his play – the story of Phedra's illicit love for her stepson Hippolytus, the son of Theseus – from Greek mythology, principally from Euripides' tragedy Hippolytus and Seneca's Phaedra.

Consumed by an uncontrollable passion for her young stepson and believing Theseus, her absent husband, to be dead, Phedra confesses her darkest desires and enters the world of nightmare. When Theseus returns, alive and well, Phedra, fearing exposure, accuses her stepson of rape. Heartbroken and overcome, Theseus banishes Hippolytus and asks the god Neptune to avenge him by his son's death. When Hippolytus is reported dead, Phedra poisons herself; before dying, she confesses the truth to Theseus.

Jean Racine (December 22, 1639 to April 21, 1699) was a French dramatist, and one of the great playwrights of 17th-century France. A dramatic poet and historiographer, renowned for his mastery of French classical tragedy, his works include: La Thébaïde (1664); Alexandre le Grand (1665); Andromaque (1667); Les Plaideurs (1668); Britannicus (1669); Bérénice (1670); Bajazet (1672); Mithridate (1673); Iphigénie (1674); Phèdre (1677); Esther (1689) and Athalie (1691).