Main Body

Act Two




Hippolyte asks to see me in this place?
Hippolyte is looking for me, and wants to say goodbye?
Ismene, are you telling the truth? Are you not deceived?
This is the first effect of the death of Theseus.
Prepare yourself, lady, to see all around
Fly to you hearts by Theseus spread apart.
Aricie, in the end, of her fate is mistress,
And soon at his feet will see all of Greece.
Is it not then, Ismene, an ill-established noise?
I stop being a slave and have no more enemies?
No, madame, the gods are no longer against you;
And Theseus joined the spirits of your brothers.
Do we say which adventure ended its days?
Incredible speeches are sown about his death.
They say that, kidnapper of a new lover,
The waves have swallowed up this unfaithful husband.
It is even said, and this noise is widespread everywhere,
That with Pirithoüs in hell descended,
He saw the Cocytus and the dark shores,
And showed himself alive to the infernal shadows;
But that he could not get out of this sad stay,
And iron the edges that we pass without returning.
Will I believe that a mortal, before his last hour,
Can the dead penetrate the deep abode?
What charm drew him to these dreaded shores?
Theseus is dead, madame, and you alone doubt it:
Athens moans; Trézène is informed of it,
And already for its king recognizes Hippolyte;
Phèdre, in this palace, trembling for her son,
From his troubled friends asks for advice.
And you think that for me more human than his father,
Hippolyte will make my chain lighter;
That he will pity my misfortunes?
 Madam, I believe him.
Is the insensitive Hippolyte known to you?
On what frivolous hope do you think he pities me,
And respect in me only a sex he disdains?
You see how long he has avoided our steps,
And look for all the places where we are not.
I know of its coldness everything that is recited;
But I saw this superb Hippolyte near you;
And even, seeing him, the sound of his pride
Redoubled my curiosity for him.
His presence at this noise did not seem to answer:
From your first glances I saw it merge;
His eyes, which in vain wanted to avoid you,
Already full of languor, could not leave you.
The name of lover perhaps offends his courage;
But he has the eyes, if he does not have the language.
May my heart, dear Ismene, listen eagerly
A speech which perhaps has little basis!
O you who know me, did it seem believable to you
That the sad toy of a pitiless fate,
A heart always nourished with bitterness and tears,
Must have known love and its crazy pains?
Remains of the blood of a noble king son of the Earth,
I am the only one escaped from the fury of war:
I lost, in the flower of their young season,
Six brothers … What hope for an illustrious house!
Iron reaped everything; and the damp earth
Reluctantly drank the blood of the nephews of Erechteus.
You know, since their death, what a severe law
Forbid all Greeks to sigh for me:
It is feared that the reckless flames of the sister
One day do not revive the ashes of his brothers.
But you also know well with what disdainful eye
I watched this care of a suspicious victor:
You know that at all times with love opposed
I often gave thanks to the unjust Theseus,
Whose happy rigor seconded my contempt.
My eyes then, my eyes had not seen her son.
Not that by the eyes alone cowardly enchanted,
I love his beauty in him, his much vaunted grace;
Presents whose nature wanted to honor him,
That he himself despises, and that he seems to ignore:
I love, I take in him nobler riches,
The virtues of his father, and not his weaknesses;
I love, I will admit , this generous pride
Who has never bowed under the yoke of love.
Phèdre was honored in vain by the sighs of Theseus:
For me, I’m more proud, and run away from easy fame
To snatch a tribute from a thousand others offered,
And to enter a heart open on all sides.
But to bend an inflexible courage,
To carry pain in an unfeeling soul,
To chain a captive in his chains astonished,
Against a yoke which pleases him vainly mutinous;
This is what I want, this is what irritates me.
Hercules to disarm cost less than Hippolytus;
And overcome more often, and sooner overcome,
Less prepared glory for the eyes that tamed him.
But, dear Ismene, alas! what is my imprudence!
There will be too much resistance to me:
You may hear me, humble in my boredom,
To moan with the same pride that I admire today.
Hippolyte would like! By what extreme happiness
Could I have flexed …
 You will hear him himself:
It comes to you.




Madam, before leaving,
I believed your fate should warn you.
My father no longer lives. My just distrust
Foretold the reasons for his too long absence:
Death alone, limiting its brilliant labors,
Could the universe hide it for so long.
The gods finally deliver to the Homicidal Parque
The friend, the companion, the successor of Alcide.
I believe that your hatred, sparing its virtues,
Listen without regret to these names which are due to him.
Hope softens my mortal sadness:
I can free you from austere tutelage.
I revoke laws of which I have complained the rigor:
You can dispose of yourself, your heart;
And in this Trézène, today my share,
From my ancestor Pittheus, once inherited,
Who, without hesitation, recognized me for his king,
I leave you as free, and more free than me.
Moderate kindnesses whose excess embarrasses me.
With such generous care to honor my disgrace,
Lord, it’s tidy me up, more than you think,
Under these austere laws from which you exempt me.
Of the choice of a successor Athens uncertain
Talk about you, name me, and the queen’s son.
From me, Lord?
I know, without wanting to flatter myself,
That a superb law seems to reject me:
Greece blames me for a foreign mother.
But if for a competitor I had only my brother,
Madam, I have real rights over him
That I could save from the whim of the laws.
A more legitimate brake stops my daring:
I yield to you, or rather I give you a place,
A scepter that your ancestors once received
Of that famous mortal that the earth conceived.
The adoption put him in the hands of Aegean.
Athens, by my father increased and protected,
Recognized with joy such a generous king,
And left your unhappy brothers in oblivion.
Athens within its walls now reminds you:
Enough she moaned from a long quarrel;
Enough in its furrows your engulfed blood
Made the field from which he had come to smoke.
Trézène obeys me. The campaigns of Crete
Offer the son of Phèdre a rich retirement.
Attica is your property. I go, and go, for you,
Gather all the wishes shared between us.
From all I hear, astonished and confused,
I am almost afraid, I am afraid that a dream will deceive me.
Am I awake? Can I believe such a design?
What god, lord, what god has put it in your bosom?
May your glory be sown everywhere!
And may the truth pass fame!
You yourself want to betray yourself in my favor!
Wasn’t it enough not to hate me,
And to have been able to defend your soul for so long
From this enmity …
 I hate you, madame!
With a few colors that my pride has been painted,
Do you think that a monster carried me in its flanks?
What savage manners, what hardened hatred
Could, seeing you, not be softened?
Was I able to resist the disappointing charm …
What! Lord…
I got involved too much before.
I see that reason gives way to violence:
Since I started to break the silence,
Madam, we must continue; you must inform you
Of a secret that my heart can no longer contain.
You see before you a deplorable prince,
Of a reckless pride, a memorable example.
I who, against proudly revolted love,
To the irons of his captives I have long insulted;
Who, weak mortals lamenting shipwrecks,
I always thought from the edge to contemplate the storms;
Enslaved now under common law,
By what turmoil do I see myself carried away from me!
A moment overcame my reckless audacity:
This beautiful soul is finally dependent.
For nearly six months, ashamed, desperate,
Carrying everywhere the line I am torn apart,
Against you, against me, in vain I experience myself:
Present, I run away from you; absent, I find you;
In the depths of the forests your image follows me;
The light of day, the shadows of night,
Everything traces to my eyes the charms that I avoid;
Everything gives you up to the rebel Hippolyte.
Myself, for any fruit of my superfluous care,
Now I am looking for myself, and can no longer find myself:
My bow, my javelins, my chariot, everything annoys me;
I no longer remember the lessons of Neptune;
My only moans ring out the woods,
And my idle couriers have forgotten my voice.
Maybe the story of a love so wild
Listening to me, makes you blush at your work?
From a heart that offers itself to you what fierce conversation!
What a strange captive for such a beautiful bond!
But the offering in your eyes must be more expensive:
Consider that I am speaking a foreign language to you;
And do not reject ill-expressed wishes,
That Hippolytus would never have trained without you.




Lord, the queen is coming, and I went before her:
She’s looking for you.
Me ?
I ignore his thought;
But you have come to ask from him:
Phèdre wants to talk to you before you leave.
Phaedra! What will I tell him? And what can she expect …
Lord, you cannot refuse to hear it:
Although too convinced of his enmity,
You owe his tears a shadow of pity.
However you go out. And I leave: and I ignore
If I do not offend the charms that I adore!
I do not know if this heart that I leave in your hands …
Go, prince, and follow your generous designs:
Make Athens tributary of my power.
I accept any donation you want me to make.
But this empire finally so great, so glorious,
Is not your dearest gift in my eyes.




Friend, is everything ready? But the queen comes forward.
Go, that for the departure everything is armed in diligence.
Give the signal, run, order; and come back
To deliver me soon from an unfortunate interview.




PHAEDRUS (to Oenone, at the back of the theater).
Here it is: towards my heart all my blood is withdrawing.
I forget, when I see him, what I have come to say to him.
Remember a son who hopes only in you.
They say that a speedy departure takes you away from us,
Lord. To your pain I come to add my tears;
I come to you for a son to explain my alarms.
My son no longer has a father; and the day is not far away
Who of my death still must witness it.
Already a thousand enemies are attacking his childhood:
Only you can embrace his defense against them.
But a secret remorse stirs my spirits:
I fear I closed your ear to his cries;
I tremble that on him your just anger
Do not soon pursue a hateful mother.
Madame, I do not have such low feelings.
When you hate me, I won’t complain,
Lord: you have seen me attached to harming you;
In the bottom of my heart you couldn’t read.
To your enmity I took care to offer myself:
On the banks where I lived I could not endure you;
In public, in secret, against you declared,
I wanted by seas to be separated from it;
I even defended, by an express law,
Let people dare to pronounce your name in front of me.
If, however, we measure the penalty for the offense,
If hatred alone can attract your hatred,
Never was a woman more worthy of pity,
And less worthy, lord, of your enmity.
The rights of her children a jealous mother
Rarely forgives the son of another wife;
Madam, I know it: unwelcome suspicion
The most common fruits of a second hymen.
Anyone else would have taken the same shade for me,
And I might have suffered more outrage.
Ah, lord! May heaven, I dare to attest here
From this common law wanted to exclude me!
May a very different care disturb and devour me!
Madam, it is not time to trouble yourself again:
Perhaps your husband is still born;
Heaven can grant our tears its return.
Neptune protects him; and this tutelary god
Will not be implored by my father in vain.
You do not see the shore of the dead twice,
Lord: since Theseus saw the dark edges,
In vain do you hope that a god sends him back to you;
And the miser Acheron does not let go of his prey.
What did I say ? He is not dead, since he breathes in you.
Still in front of my eyes I think I see my husband:
I see him, I speak to him; and my heart … I digress,
Lord; my mad ardor in spite of myself is declared.
I see the prodigious effect of your love:
Dead as he is, Theseus is present to you;
Always with his love your soul is ablaze.
Yes, prince, I am languishing, I am burning for Theseus:
I love her, not as hell saw it,
Volage worshiper of a thousand different objects,
Who goes from the god of the dead to dishonor the bed;
But faithful, but proud, and even a little fierce,
Charming, young, dragging all hearts after oneself,
As we depict our gods, or as I see you.
He had your bearing, your eyes, your language;
This noble modesty colored her face,
When from our Crete he crossed the waves,
Worthy subject of the wishes of the daughters of Minos.
What were you doing then? why, without Hippolyte,
Did the heroes of Greece assemble the elite?
Why, too young still, can’t you then
Enter the vessel that put him on our edges?
By you would have perished the monster of Crete,
Despite all the detours of his vast retirement:
To develop the uncertain embarrassment,
My sister with the fatal thread would have armed your hand.
But no: in this design I would have anticipated it;
Love would at first have inspired my thoughts.
It’s me, prince, it’s me, whose useful help
You would have taught the detours of the labyrinth.
How much care this charming head would have cost me!
One thread would not have reassured your lover enough:
Companion of the peril that you had to seek,
I myself would have liked to walk in front of you;
And Phaedra to the labyrinth with you descended
Would be with you found or lost.
Gods ! what do I hear? Madam, do you forget
That Theseus is my father, and that he is your husband?
And what do you think I am losing my memory about,
Prince? Have I lost all care for my glory?
Madam, forgive: I confess, blushing,
That I was wrongly accusing innocent speech.
My shame can no longer support your sight;
And I will…
 Ah, cruel! you heard me too much!
I’ve told you enough to get you out of there.
Well ! therefore know Phèdre and all his fury:
I love ! Don’t think that when I love you
Innocent in my eyes, I approve of myself;
Nor that mad love that troubles my reason
My cowardly complacency fed the poison;
Unfortunate object of heavenly vengeance,
I hate myself more than you hate me.
The gods are my witnesses, these gods who in my side
Have lit the fire fatal to all my blood;
These gods who made themselves a cruel glory
To seduce the heart of a weak mortal.
Yourself in your mind recalls the past:
It is little to have fled from you, cruel, I chased you away;
I wanted to appear to you odious, inhuman;
To better resist you, I sought your hatred.
What have I benefited from my unnecessary care?
You hated me more, I loved you no less;
Your misfortunes still lent you new charms.
I languished, I dried in the fires, in tears:
Your eyes are enough to convince you,
If your eyes could look at me for a moment …
What did I say ? this confession that I have just made to you,
This confession so shameful, do you believe it to be voluntary?
Trembling for a son I dared not betray,
I came to ask you not to hate him:
Weak projects of a heart too full of what he loves!
Alas! I could only talk to you about yourself!
Avenge yourself, punish me with an odious love:
Worthy son of the hero who gave birth to you,
Free the universe from a monster that irritates you.
The widow of Theseus dares to love Hippolyte!
Believe me, this dreadful monster must not escape you;
This is my heart: this is where your hand should strike.
Already impatient to atone for his offense,
In front of your arm I feel it coming forward.
Strike: or if you think him unworthy of your blows,
If your hatred envies me such a sweet torment,
Or if your hand is soaked with too vile blood,
In the absence of your arm, lend me your sword;
What are you doing, madam! Righteous gods!
But we come: avoid odious witnesses!
Come, come home; flee from certain shame.




Is it Phaedrus fleeing, or rather being dragged away?
Why, Lord, why these marks of pain?
I see you without a sword, forbidden, without color.
Theramenes, let’s run away. My surprise is extreme.
I cannot look at myself without horror.
Phèdre… But no, great gods! that in a deep oblivion
This horrible secret remains buried!
If you want to go, the sail is prepared.
But Athens, lord, has already declared itself;
Its chiefs have taken the voices of all its tribes:
Your brother wins, and Phèdre has the upper hand.
A herald in charge of the wills of Athens
From the State in its hands comes to hand over the reins.
His son is king, lord.
Gods, who know her,
So is it his virtue that you reward?
However, a dull noise wants the king to breathe:
It is claimed that Theseus appeared in Epirus.
But I, who looked for it there, Lord, I know too well …

Anything ; let us listen to everything, and let us not neglect anything.
Let’s examine this noise, let’s go back to its source:
If he doesn’t deserve to interrupt my race,
Let’s go; and whatever price it may cost,
Let us put the scepter in hands worthy of carrying it.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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.

Share This Book