Main Body

Act One


THESEUS, son of Aegeus, king of Athens.
PHAEDRUS, wife of Theseus, daughter of Minos and Pasiphae.
HIPPOLYTE, son of Theseus, and Antiope, queen of the Amazons.
ARICIA, princess of the royal blood of Athens.
THERAMENE, governor of Hippolyte.
ŒNONE, nurse and confidante of Phèdre.
ISMENE, confidante of Aricie.
PANOPE, wife of the suite of Phèdre.
Guards .

The scene is in Trézène, a town in the Peloponnese.





The plan is taken: I am leaving, dear Theramene,
And leave the stay of the amiable Trézène.
In the mortal doubt by which I am agitated,
I begin to blush at my idleness.
For more than six months away from my father,
I do not know the fate of such a dear head;
I don’t know until the places that can hide it.
And in what places, lord, are you going to look for it?
Already to satisfy your just fear,
I have sailed the two seas that separate Corinth;
I asked Theseus to the peoples of these shores
Where we see Acheron getting lost among the dead;
I visited Elis, and leaving Tenara,
Passed to the sea which saw Icarus fall:
On what new hope, in what happy climates
Do you think you are discovering his footsteps?
Who even knows, who knows if the king your father
Want that of his absence we know the mystery?
And if, when with you we tremble for his days,
Quiet, and hiding from us new loves,
This hero does not wait for an abused lover …
Dear Théramène, stop and respect Theseus.
From his young mistakes now back,
By an unworthy obstacle he is not held back;
And fixing his vows on the fatal inconstancy,
Phèdre no longer fears a rival for a long time.
Finally, looking for him, I will follow my duty,
And I will flee these places, which I no longer dare to see.
Hey! since when, lord, do you fear the presence
From those peaceful places so dear to your childhood,
And whose stay I saw you prefer
To the pompous tumult of Athens and the court?
What danger, or rather what grief chases you?
This happy time is over. Everything has changed face,
Since on these shores the gods sent
The daughter of Minos and Pasiphaé.
I hear: the cause of your pain is known to me.
Phaedrus here grieves you, and hurts your sight.
Dangerous stepmother, she barely saw you,
That your exile first signaled its credit.
But his hatred, on you once attached,
Either passed out, or relaxed.
And besides, what dangers can you run?
A dying woman, and who seeks to die?
Phèdre, afflicted with an illness that she persists in keeping silent,
Finally tired of herself and of the day that illuminates her,
Can she form some designs against you?
His vain enmity is not what I fear.
Hippolyte, on leaving, flees another enemy;
I flee, I will admit, this young Aricie,
Remains of a fatal blood conjured against us.
What! yourself, lord, are you persecuting her?
Never the loving sister of the cruel Pallantides
Did she dabble in the plots of her treacherous brothers?
And must you hate his innocent charms?
If I hated her, I wouldn’t run away from her.
Lord, am I allowed to explain your flight?
Could you no longer be this superb Hippolyte
Implacable enemy of loving laws,
And of a yoke that Theseus suffered so many times?
Venus, by your pride so long despised,
Would she want to justify Theseus in the end?
And putting you in the ranks of the rest of the mortals,
Did she force you to incense her altars?
Would you like, lord?
Friend, what dare you say?
You who know my heart since I breathe,
Feelings of a heart so proud, so disdainful,
Can you ask me for the shameful disavowal?
It is little that with her milk an Amazon mother
Made me suck again this pride which astonishes you;
In a more mature age I myself have come,
I applauded myself when I got to know myself.
Tied to me by sincere zeal,
You told me then the story of my father.
You know how much my soul, attentive to your voice,
Warmed up to tales of his noble exploits,
When you portrayed me this fearless hero
Comforting mortals for the absence of Alcide,
Monsters suffocated, and brigands punished,
Procruste, Cercyon, and Sciron, and Sinis,
And the scattered bones of the giant of Epidaurus,
And Crete smoking the blood of the Minotaur.
But when you recited less glorious facts,
His faith offered everywhere, and received in a hundred places;
Hélène to her parents in Stolen Sparta;
Salamis, witness to Peribea’s tears;
So many others, whose names even escaped him,
Too credulous minds that his flame has deceived!
Ariadne aux Rochers recounting her injustices;
Phaedrus finally removed under better auspices;
You know how, reluctantly listening to this speech,
I often urged you to shorten the course.
Happy if I could have stolen from memory
This unworthy half of such a beautiful story!
And I, in turn, would see myself bound!
And the gods until then would have humiliated me!
In my cowardly sighs all the more contemptible,
That a long mass of honors makes Theseus excusable,
That no monsters tamed by me until today,
Have not won me the right to fail like him!
Even though my pride might have softened,
Should I have chosen Aricie as the winner?
Would he no longer remember my lost senses
Of the eternal obstacle that has separated us?
My father disapproves of her, and by severe laws,
He forbids giving nephews to his brothers:
With a guilty stalk he fears a shoot;
He wants to bury their name with the sister;
And that, up to the tomb under his tutelage,
The hymen fires never light up for her.
Should I marry his rights against an angry father?
Shall I set an example for recklessness?
And in mad love my youth embarked …
Ah, lord! if your time is once marked,
The sky of our reasons does not know how to inform itself.
Theseus opens your eyes by wanting to close them;
And his hatred irritating a rebellious flame,
Lend his enemy new grace.
Finally with a chaste love why frighten you?
If it has any sweetness, don’t you dare to try it?
Will you still believe a fierce scruple?
Are we afraid of getting lost in the footsteps of Hercules?
What courage has Venus not mastered?
Yourself, where would you be, you who fight her,
If always Antiope to his laws opposite
Would it not have burned with modest ardor for Theseus?
But what is the use of affecting a superb speech?
Admit it, everything is changing; and in recent days,
We see you less often, proud and wild,
Sometimes fly a tank on the shore,
Sometimes, learned in art by invented Neptune,
To make an untamed steed docile to the brake;
The forests of our cries resound less often;
Charged with a secret fire, your eyes grow heavy;
There is no doubt about it, you love, you burn;
You perish from an evil that you conceal:
Did you like the charming Aricie?
Theramenes, I’m leaving, and I’m going to find my father.
Will you not see Phèdre before you go?
This is my plan: you can tell him.
Let us see it, since thus my duty orders it to me.
But what new misfortune troubles her dear Oenone?




Alas! Lord, what trouble can mine be equal?
The queen is almost at her fatal end.
In vain to observe it day and night I attach myself;
She dies in my arms from an illness that she hides from me.
Eternal disorder reigns in his mind;
His worried grief tears him from his bed:
She wants to see the light of day: and her deep pain
However, orders me to remove everyone …
She comes.
It is enough: I leave it in these places,
And do not show him an odious face.




Let’s not go any further, let’s stay, dear Oenone.
I no longer support myself; my strength abandons me:
My eyes are dazzled by the day that I see again,
And my trembling knees buckle under me.
(She sits down.)
Almighty gods, may our tears appease you!
How heavy these vain ornaments, how heavy these veils!
What a troublesome hand, forming all these knots,
Took care on my forehead to put my hair together?
Everything grieves me, harms me, and conspires to harm me.
How we see all his wishes destroying each other!
Yourself, condemning your unjust designs,
Sometimes to adorn you you excited our hands;
Yourself, recalling your original strength,
You wanted to show yourself and see the light again.
You see her, madame; and, ready to hide,
You hate the day you came for!
Noble and brilliant author of a sad family,
You that my mother dared to boast of being a girl,
Who perhaps blushes at the confusion in which you see me,
Sun, I am coming to see you for the last time!
What! you will not lose this cruel desire?
Will I still see you, giving up on life,
Make your death the disastrous preparations?
Gods ! why am I not sitting in the shade of the forests!
When can I, through a noble dust,
Watching a fleeing tank in the quarry?
What, ma’am?
Insane! where am I ? and what did I say?
Where do I let my vows and my mind stray?
I lost it: the gods have robbed me of its use.
Oenone, the redness covers my face:
I let you see too much my shameful pains;
And my eyes in spite of myself fill with tears.
Ah! if you have to blush, blush with silence
Who of your evils still embittered violence.
Rebel to all our care, deaf to all our speeches,
Do you want to let your days end without mercy?
What fury limits them in the middle of their race?
What charm or what poison has dried up its source?
Shadows three times have darkened the skies
Since sleep entered your eyes;
And the day has thrice chased the dark night
Since your body languishes without food.
What dreadful design do you indulge in?
What right do you dare to attack yourself?
You offend the gods who are the authors of your life;
You betray the husband to whom faith binds you;
You finally betray your unhappy children,
That you throw under a severe yoke.
Consider that the same day their mother will delight them
And will restore hope to the stranger’s son,
To this proud enemy of you, of your blood,
This son that an Amazon carried in her side,
This Hippolyte …
 Ah! gods !
Does this reproach affect you?
Unhappy! what a name came out of your mouth!
Well ! your anger bursts with reason:
I love to see you shudder at this fatal name.
Live then: may love and duty excite you.
Live; do not suffer that the son of a Scythian
Overwhelming your children with a hateful empire,
Order from the most beautiful blood of Greece and the gods.
But do not differ; every moment kills you:
Quickly repair your broken strength,
While your days ready to be consumed
The torch still lasts and can be rekindled.
I have prolonged its culpable duration too much.
What! are you torn from some remorse?
What crime could have produced such pressing trouble?
Your hands haven’t soaked in innocent blood?
Thanks be to heaven, my hands are not criminal.
Would to the gods that my heart were innocent like them!
And what awful project have you given birth to
Whose heart still must be terrified?
I’ve told you enough: spare me the rest.
I am dying, so as not to make such a fatal confession.
Die therefore, and keep an inhuman silence;
But to close your eyes seek another hand.
Although you have barely a dim light left,
My soul among the dead will descend first;
A thousand open paths always lead there,
And my just pain will choose the shorter ones.
Cruel! when did my faith disappoint you?
Do you think that when I was born my arms received you?
My country, my children, I left everything for you.
Did you reserve this price for my loyalty?
What fruit do you hope for from so much violence?
You will shudder with horror if I break the silence.
And what will you say to me that does not yield, great gods!
To the horror of seeing you expire in my eyes?
When you know my crime and the fate that overwhelms me,
I will die none the less: I will die more guilty.
Madam, in the name of the tears I shed for you,
By your weak knees that I hold embraced,
Free my mind from this fatal doubt.
You want it ? get up.
Speak: I am listening to you.
Heaven! what am I going to tell him? and where to start?
By vain fears stop offending me.
O hatred of Venus! O fatal anger!
Into what madness love threw my mother!
Let’s forget them, madam; and that in the future
Eternal silence hides this memory.
Ariane, my sister! what love hurt
You died at the edges where you were left!
What are you doing, lady? and what a deadly boredom
Against all your blood drives you today?
Since Venus wants it, with this deplorable blood
I am the last and the most miserable.
Do you like to ?
I have all the fury of love.
For who ?
You will hear the height of horrors …
I love… At this fatal name, I tremble, I shiver.
I love…
You know this son of the Amazon,
This prince so long oppressed by myself …
Hippolyte? Great gods!
You named him!
Good heaven ! all my blood in my veins is freezing!
O despair! O crime! O deplorable race!
Unfortunate trip! Unhappy shore,
Should we approach your dangerous shores!
My pain comes from further away. Barely to the son of Aegean
Under the laws of the hymen I was committed,
My rest, my happiness seemed to be strengthened;
Athens showed me my superb enemy:
I saw him, I blushed, I turned pale at the sight of him;
A disturbance arose in my distraught soul;
My eyes could no longer see, I could not speak;
I felt my whole body and sweating and burning:
I recognized Venus and its formidable fires,
With blood she pursues inevitable torments!
By assiduous wishes I thought I was diverting them:
I built a temple for it, and took care to adorn it;
Of victims myself surrounded at all times,
I searched their flanks for my lost reason:
From an incurable love of powerless remedies!
In vain on the altars my hand burned incense!
When my mouth cried out for the name of the goddess,
I adored Hippolyte; and seeing him constantly,
Even at the foot of the altars that I used to smoke,
I offered everything to this god whom I dared not name.
I avoided it everywhere. O height of misery!
My eyes found him in his father’s features.
Against myself finally I dared to rebel:
I excited my courage to persecute him.
To banish the enemy of whom I was idolatrous,
I affected the sorrows of an unjust stepmother;
I hastened his exile; and my eternal cries
Tore him from his father’s breast and arms.
I was breathing, Oenone; and, since his absence,
My less restless days flowed in innocence:
Submitted to my husband, and hiding my troubles,
I cultivated the fruits of his fatal marriage.
Vain precautions! Cruel destiny!
By my husband himself brought to Trézène ,
I saw the enemy I had driven away:
My too sharp wound immediately bled.
It is no longer an ardor in my veins hidden:
It is all Venus to its attached prey.
I have conceived just terror for my crime;
I hated life, and my flame in horror;
I wanted to take care of my glory while dying,
And steal from the light of such a black flame:
I could not support your tears, your struggles;
I confessed everything to you; I don’t regret it.
Provided that, of my death respecting the approaches,
You no longer afflict me with unjust reproaches,
And that your vain help ceases to remind
A remnant of heat ready to be exhaled.




I would like to hide sad news from you,
Madame: but I must reveal it to you.
Death has robbed you of your invincible husband;
And this misfortune is no longer ignored by you.
Panope, what are you saying?
That the queen abused
In vain ask Heaven for the return of Theseus;
And that, by vessels arriving in the port,
Hippolyte his son has just learned of his death.
For the choice of a master Athens is shared:
To the prince your son one gives his suffrage,
Mrs ; and the state, the other forgetting the laws
To the stranger’s son dares to give his voice.
It is even said that at the throne an insolent ploy
Wants to place Aricia and the blood of Pallante.
I thought I should warn you of this peril.
Even Hippolyte is already quite ready to go;
And we fear, if he appears in this new storm,
Let him not drag a whole fickle people after him.
Panope, that’s enough: the queen who hears you
Will not neglect this important advice.




Madame, I ceased to urge you to live;
Already even at the tomb I thought of following you;
To turn you away, I no longer had a voice:
But this new misfortune prescribes other laws for you.
Your fortune changes and takes another face:
The king is no more, madame; you have to take her place.
His death leaves you with a son to whom you owe yourselves;
Slave if he loses you, and king if you live.
On whom, in his misfortune, do you want him to lean?
Her tears will no longer have a hand that wipes them away;
And her innocent cries, carried to the gods,
Will go against his mother to irritate his ancestors.
Live; you no longer have to blame yourself:
Your flame becomes an ordinary flame;
Theseus breathing out has just broken the knots
Who made all the crime and horror of your fires.
Hippolyte for you becomes less formidable;
And you can see it without being guilty.
Perhaps, convinced of your aversion,
He will give a leader to the sedition:
Reconsider his mistake, flex his courage.
King of these happy shores, Trézène is his share;
But he knows the laws give your son
The superb ramparts that Minerve built.
You both have a true enemy:
Both unite to fight Aricie.
Well ! to your advice I let myself be carried away.
Let’s live, if we can bring me back to life,
And if the love of a son, at this fatal moment,
Of my weak spirits can revive the rest.


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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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