Main Body

Act Three

FIRST SCENE.

PHAEDRUS, OENONE.

 

PHAEDRA.
Ah! that one carries elsewhere the honors which one sends to me:
Importance, can you wish you could see me?
What are you flattering my sorry mind about?
Rather, hide me: I have spoken too much.
My fury outside dared to spread:
I said what you should never hear.
Heaven! how he listened to me! By how many detours
The insensitive has long evaded my speeches!
How he breathed only a quick retreat!
And how much her blush has redoubled my shame!
Why did you hijack my fatal design?
Alas! when his sword went to seek my breast,
Has he paled for me? did he tear it from me?
My hand just has to touch it once,
I made her horrible in her inhuman eyes;
And that unfortunate iron would desecrate his hands.
ŒNONE.
So, in your misfortunes, thinking only of complaining,
You are feeding a fire that you should put out.
Wouldn’t it be better, worthy blood of Minos,
In nobler cares, seek your rest;
Against an ungrateful who pleases to resort to flight,
Rule, and the state embrace leadership?
PHAEDRA.
I reign! Me, put a state under my law
When my weak reason no longer reigns over me!
When I have abandoned the empire with my senses!
When under a shameful yoke I hardly breathe!
When I die!
ŒNONE.
Run away.
PHAEDRA.
I cannot leave him.
ŒNONE.
You dared to banish it, you dare not avoid it?
PHAEDRA.
The time is past: he knows my insane ardor.
From austere modesty the limits have passed:
I declared my shame in the eyes of my victor,
And despite myself hope slipped into my heart.
Yourself, recalling my failing strength,
And my soul already on my wandering lips,
By your flattering advice you were able to revive me:
You gave me a glimpse that I could love her.
ŒNONE.
Alas! of your innocent or guilty misfortunes,
What was I not capable of to save you?
But if the offense ever irritates your spirits,
Can you wonderfully forget the contempt?
With what cruel eyes his stubborn rigor
Left you at his feet little by little prostrate!
How odious his fierce pride made him!
That Phèdre had my eyes at this moment!
PHAEDRA.
Oenone, he can leave this pride that hurts you;
Fed in the forests, it is rough.
Hippolyte, hardened by savage laws,
Hear about love for the first time:
Perhaps his surprise caused his silence;
And our complaints perhaps have too much violence.
ŒNONE.
Consider that a barbarian in its midst formed it.
PHAEDRA.
Although Scythian and barbarian, she nevertheless loved.
ŒNONE.
He has a fatal hatred for all sex.
PHAEDRA.
I will not see myself preferring a rival.
Finally all your advice is no longer in season:
Serve my fury, Oenone, and not my reason.
He opposes an inaccessible heart to love;
Let us seek to attack it some more sensitive place:
The charms of an empire seemed to touch him:
Athens attracted him, he could not hide from it;
Already of his vessels the point was turned,
And the sail floated in the winds abandoned.
Go find this ambitious young man from me,
Oenone; make the crown shine in his eyes:
Let him put the sacred diadem on his forehead;
I only want the honor of attaching it myself.
Let us give him this power which I cannot keep.
He will instruct my son in the art of commanding;
Perhaps he will want to take the place of his father;
I put under his power both the son and the mother.
To finally flex it, try all means:
Your speeches will find more access than mine;
Press, cry, moan; paint her dying Phaedra;
Do not blush to take a pleading voice:
I will confess everything to you; I only hope in you.
Go: I’m waiting for your return to dispose of me.

SCENE II.

PHAEDRUS.

O you who see the shame in which I am descended,
Implacable Venus, am I confused enough!
You could not push your cruelty further.
Your triumph is perfect; all your features have worn.
Cruel, if you want new glory,
Attack an enemy who is more rebellious to you.
Hippolyte runs away from you; and braving your wrath,
Never at your altars did your knees bend;
Your name seems to offend her beautiful ears:
Goddess, avenge yourself; our causes are the same.
That he loves … But you are already retracing your steps,
Œnone! They hate me; we don’t listen to you!

SCENE III.

PHAEDRUS, OENONE.

 

ŒNONE.
Thought must be stifled with vain love,
Mrs ; recall your past virtue:
The king, who was believed dead, will appear before your eyes;
Theseus has arrived, Theseus is in these places.
The people, to see him, run and rush.
I went out by your order, and looked for Hippolyte,
When to the sky a thousand slender cries …
PHAEDRA.
My husband is alive, Oenone; that’s enough.
I have made the unworthy confession of a love which outrages her;
He lives: I don’t want to know more.
ŒNONE.
What?
PHAEDRA.
I predicted it to you; but you didn’t want:
Your tears have prevailed over my just remorse.
I was dying this morning worthy of being mourned;
I followed your advice, I die dishonored.
ŒNONE.
You die ?
PHAEDRA.
Good heaven ! what did I do today!
My husband will appear, and his son with him!
I will see the witness of my adulterous flame
Observe with what front I dare to approach his father,
His heart heavy with sighs that he did not listen to,
The eye wet with tears by the ungrateful repulsed!
Do you think that, sensitive to the honor of Theseus,
Does he hide from him the ardor with which I am ablaze?
Will he let his father and his king betray?
Will he be able to contain the horror he has for me?
He would be silent in vain: I know my treachery,
Oenone, and am not one of those bold women
Who, tasting a quiet peace in crime,
Have known how to make a forehead that never blushes.
I know my anger, I recall them all:
It already seems to me that these walls, that these vaults
Will speak, and ready to accuse me,
Wait for my husband to disillusion him.
Let us die: from so many horrors that death delivers me.
Is it such a great misfortune to cease to live?
Death to the unfortunate does not cause fear:
I only fear the name I leave after me.
For my sad children what a dreadful heritage!
The blood of Jupiter must swell their courage;
But some just pride inspired by such beautiful blood,
A mother’s crime is a heavy burden.
I tremble that a speech, alas! too real,
One day does not blame them for a guilty mother.
I tremble that oppressed by this odious weight
Neither of them dare look up.
ŒNONE.
There is no doubt about it, I pity them both;
Never was fear more just than yours.
But to such insults why expose them?
Why are you going to file against yourself?
It is over: we will say that Phèdre, too guilty,
From her betrayed husband flees the dreadful aspect.
Hippolyte is happy that at the expense of your days
You yourself, breathing out, supporting his speeches.
What can I say to your accuser?
I will be too easy to confuse in front of him:
I will see him enjoy his frightful triumph,
And tell your shame to whoever wants to hear it.
Ah! that rather from the sky the flame devours me!
But, do not deceive me, is he still dear to you?
How do you see this daring prince?
PHAEDRA.
I see him as a frightful monster in my eyes.
ŒNONE.
Why then give it an entire victory?
You fear him: dare to accuse him first
Of the crime he can charge you with today.
Who will deny you? Everything speaks against him:
His sword in your hands happily left,
Your present trouble, your past pain,
His father had long been warned by your cries,
And already his exile by yourself obtained.
PHAEDRA.
I, how I dare to oppress and blacken innocence!
ŒNONE.
My zeal needs only your silence.
Trembling like you, I feel some remorse.
You would see me more quickly face a thousand dead.
But since I am losing you without this sad remedy,
Your life is for me a price to which everything yields:
I will speak. Theseus, embittered by my advice,
Will limit his revenge to the exile of his son:
A father, when punishing, madame, is always a father;
A light torture is enough for his anger.
But, should innocent blood be shed,
What does not your threatened honor ask for?
It is too expensive a treasure to dare to commit it.
Whatever law it dictates to you, you must submit to it,
Mrs ; and to save your fought honor,
Everything must be sacrificed, and even virtue.
We come ; I see Theseus.
PHAEDRA.
Ah! I see Hippolyte;
In his insolent eyes I see my written loss.
Do what you want, I surrender to you.
In the trouble I am in, I can do nothing for myself.

SCENE IV.

THESEUS, PHAEDRUS, HIPPOLYTE, THERAMENES, OENONE.

 

THESEUS.
Fortune to my wishes ceases to be opposed,
Madam, and in your arms put …
PHAEDRA.
 Stop, Theseus,
And do not desecrate such charming transports:
I no longer deserve this sweet eagerness;
You are offended. Jealous fortune
Did not spare your wife in your absence.
Unworthy to please you and to approach you,
I must now think only of hiding.

SCENE V.

THESEUS, HIPPOLYTE, THERAMENE.

 

THESEUS.
What is the strange welcome we give to your father,
My son ?
HIPPOLYTE.
Phèdre alone can explain this mystery.
But if my ardent wishes can move you,
Allow me, lord, not to see her again;
Suffer that the trembling Hippolyte forever
Disappear from the places where your wife lives.
THESEUS.
Will you, my son, leave me?
HIPPOLYTE.
I wasn’t looking for her;
It is you who lead his steps on these shores.
You deigned, lord, on the banks of Trézène
When leaving Aricie and the queen:
I was even charged with the care of keeping them.
But what care can now delay me?
Enough in the forests my idle youth
On vile enemies showed his address:
May I not, fleeing an unworthy rest,
With more glorious blood to dye my javelins?
You had not yet reached the age I touch,
Already more of a tyrant, more of a fierce monster
Had your arm felt the gravity;
Already insolence, happy persecutor,
You had secured the shores of the two seas;
The free traveler no longer feared outrages;
Hercules, breathing on the sound of your blows,
Already of his work rested on you.
And I, unknown son of such a glorious father,
I am even still far from my mother’s footsteps!
Let my courage finally dare to take care of:
Suffer, if some monster could escape you,
May I bring her honorable remains to your feet;
Or that a lasting memory of a beautiful death,
Eternating days so nobly ended,
Prove to the whole universe that I was your son.
THESEUS.
What do I see ? What a horror in these places spread
Make my distraught family flee before my eyes?
If I come back so feared and so unwanted,
O heaven, from my prison why did you shoot me?
I only had one friend: his reckless flame
The tyrant of Epirus was going to delight the woman;
I reluctantly served his amorous designs;
But the irritated fate blinded us both.
The tyrant surprised me helpless and unarmed.
I saw Pirithoüs, sad object of my tears,
Delivered by this barbarian to cruel monsters
That he nourished the blood of unfortunate mortals.
Himself he locked me in dark caves,
Deep and neighboring places of the shadow empire.
The gods, after six months, finally looked at me [3]  :
I knew how to deceive the eyes by which I was guarded.
Of a perfidious enemy I have purged nature;
For his monsters himself served as food.
And when with transport I think to approach
Of all that the gods have left me dearest;
What did I say ? when my soul, restored to itself,
Comes to be satisfied with such a dear sight,
I have nothing for any reception but tremors;
Everything flees, everything refuses my embraces.
And myself feeling the terror that I inspire,
I would like to be still in the prisons of Epirus.
Speak. Phèdre complains that I am outraged:
Who betrayed me? why am I not avenged?
Greece, to whom my arm was so often useful,
Has she granted the criminal some asylum?
You do not answer! my son, my own son,
Is he understanding with my enemies?
Let us enter: it is too much to keep a doubt that overwhelms me.
Let us know both the crime and the culprit;
May Phèdre finally explain the turmoil in which I see her.

SCENE VI.

HIPPOLYTE, THERAMENES.

 

HIPPOLYTE.
Where was this speech that froze me with fear?
Phèdre, still in the grip of his extreme fury,
Does she want to blame and lose herself?
Gods ! what will the king say? What a disastrous poison
Love has spread all over her house!
Myself, full of a fire that his hatred condemns,
What he saw me once, and what he finds me!
Black forebodings come to frighten me.
But finally innocence has nothing to fear:
Let’s go: let’s look elsewhere by what happy address
I will be able to touch my father’s tenderness,
And tell him a love he may want to disturb,
But that all his power cannot shake.

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Phaedra: A Tragedy by "Phèdre (Racine), Didot, 1854." Wikisource. 14 Oct 2017, 22:30 UTC. Oct. 14, 2017. The English version was transferred to Pressbooks by Ryerson Library. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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