PHAEDRA

A monologue from the play by Jean Racine


  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramatic Works of Jean Racine. Trans. Robert Bruce Boswell. London: George Bell and Sons, 1911.
  • PHAEDRA: My wound is not so recent. Scarcely had I
    Been bound to Theseus by the marriage yoke,
    And happiness and peace seem'd well secured,
    When Athens show'd me my proud enemy.
    I look'd, alternately turn'd pale and blush'd
    To see him, and my soul grew all distraught;
    A mist obscured my vision, and my voice
    Falter'd, my blood ran cold, then burn'd like fire;
    Venus I felt in all my fever'd frame,
    Whose fury had so many of my race
    Pursued. With fervent vows I sought to shun
    Her torments, built and deck'd for her a shrine,
    And there, 'mid countless victims did I seek
    The reason I had lost; but all for naught,
    No remedy could cure the wounds of love!
    In vain I offer'd incense on her altars;
    When I invoked her name my heart adored
    Hippolytus, before me constantly;
    And when I made her altars smoke with victims,
    'Twas for a god whose name I dared not utter.
    I fled his presence everywhere, but found him--
    O crowning horror!--in his father's features.
    Against myself, at last, I raised revolt,
    And stirr'd my courage up to persecute
    The enemy I loved. To banish him
    I wore a step-dame's harsh and jealous carriage,
    With ceaseless cries I clamour'd for his exile,
    Till I had torn him from his father's arms.
    I breathed once more, Ĺ’none; in his absence
    My days flow'd on less troubled than before,
    And innocent. Submissive to my husband,
    I hid my grief, and of our fatal marriage
    Cherish'd the fruits. Vain caution! Cruel Fate!
    Brought hither by my spouse himself, I saw
    Again the enemy whom I had banish'd,
    And the old wound too quickly bled afresh.
    No longer is it love hid in my heart,
    But Venus in her might seizing her prey.
    I have conceived just terror for my crime;
    I hate my life, and hold my love in horror.
    Dying I wish'd to keep my fame unsullied,
    And bury in the grave a guilty passion;
    But I have been unable to withstand
    Tears and entreaties, I have told you all;
    Content, if only, as my end draws near,
    You do not vex me with unjust reproaches,
    Nor with vain efforts seek to snatch from death
    The last faint lingering sparks of vital breath.

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