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Andromaque

Andromaque

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Andromaque is a tragedy in five acts by the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

 Jean Racine
Jean Racine
Jean Racine , baptismal name Jean-Baptiste Racine , was a French dramatist, one of the "Big Three" of 17th-century France , and one of the most important literary figures in the Western tradition...

 written in alexandrine verse. It was first performed on 17 November 1667 before the court of Louis XIV in the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

 in the private chambers of the Queen, Marie Thérèse
Marie Thérèse
Marie Thérèse or Marie-Thérèse may refer to:* Marie-Thérèse Assiga Ahanda, Cameroonian novelist and chemist* Marie-Thérèse Colimon-Hall , Haitian writer* Marie-Thérèse de Subligny , French ballerina...

, by the royal company of actors, called "les Grands Comédiens", with Thérèse Du Parc in the title role. The company gave the first public performance two days later in the Hôtel de Bourgogne
Hôtel de Bourgogne
Until the 16th century, the Hôtel de Bourgogne was the name of the Paris residence of the Dukes of Burgundy. Today, the last vestige is the Tour Jean sans Peur, 20 rue Étienne Marcel, in the 2nd arrondissement.-Theatre:...

 in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. Andromaque, the third of Racine's plays, written at the age of 27, established its author's reputation as one of the great playwrights in France.

Origins of the play


Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

' play Andromache
Andromache (play)
Andromache is an Athenian tragedy by Euripides. It dramatises Andromache's life as a slave, years after the events of the Trojan War, and her conflict with her master's new wife, Hermione. The date of its first performance is unknown, although scholars place it sometime between 428 and 425 BC...

 and the third book of Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

's Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

  were the points of departure for Racine's play. The play takes place in the aftermath of the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

, during which Andromache
Andromache
In Greek mythology, Andromache was the wife of Hector and daughter of Eetion, and sister to Podes. She was born and raised in the city of Cilician Thebe, over which her father ruled...

's husband Hector
Hector
In Greek mythology, Hectōr , or Hektōr, is a Trojan prince and the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War. As the first-born son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, a descendant of Dardanus, who lived under Mount Ida, and of Tros, the founder of Troy, he was a prince of the royal house and the...

, son of Priam
Priam
Priam was the king of Troy during the Trojan War and youngest son of Laomedon. Modern scholars derive his name from the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means "exceptionally courageous".- Marriage and issue :...

, has been slain by Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

 and their young son Astyanax
Astyanax
In Greek mythology, Astyanax was the son of Hector, Crown Prince of Troy and Princess Andromache of Cilician Thebe. His birth name was Scamandrius , but the people of Troy nicknamed him Astyanax In Greek mythology, Astyanax was the son of Hector, Crown Prince of Troy and Princess Andromache of...

 has narrowly escaped a similar fate at the hands of Ulysses
Odysseus
Odysseus or Ulysses was a legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem the Odyssey. Odysseus also plays a key role in Homer's Iliad and other works in the Epic Cycle....

, who has unknowingly been tricked into killing another child in his place. Andromache has been taken prisoner in Epirus
Epirus
The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

 by Pyrrhus
Neoptolemus
Neoptolemus was the son of the warrior Achilles and the princess Deidamia in Greek mythology. Achilles' mother foretold many years before Achilles' birth that there would be a great war. She saw that her only son was to die if he fought in the war...

, son of Achilles, who is due to be married to Hermione
Hermione
Hermione may refer to:* Hermione , a female given name* Hermione Granger, a main character in the Harry Potter novels and films, seven ships of the Royal Navy...

, the only daughter of the Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

n king Menelaus
Menelaus
Menelaus may refer to;*Menelaus, one of the two most known Atrides, a king of Sparta and son of Atreus and Aerope*Menelaus on the Moon, named after Menelaus of Alexandria.*Menelaus , brother of Ptolemy I Soter...

 and Helen of Troy. Orestes
Orestes
Orestes was the son of Agamemnon in Greek mythology; Orestes may also refer to:Drama*Orestes , by Euripides*Orestes, the character in Sophocles' tragedy Electra*Orestes, the character in Aeschylus' trilogy of tragedies, Oresteia...

, son of Agamemnon
Agamemnon
In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

 and Clytemnestra
Clytemnestra
Clytemnestra or Clytaemnestra , in ancient Greek legend, was the wife of Agamemnon, king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Mycenae or Argos. In the Oresteia by Aeschylus, she was a femme fatale who murdered her husband, Agamemnon – said by Euripides to be her second husband – and the Trojan princess...

, brother to Electra
Electra
In Greek mythology, Electra was an Argive princess and daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra. She and her brother Orestes plotted revenge against their mother Clytemnestra and stepfather Aegisthus for the murder of their father Agamemnon...

 and Iphigenia, and by now absolved of the crime of matricide
Matricide
Matricide is the act of killing one's mother. As for any type of killing, motives can vary significantly.- Known or suspected matricides :* Amastris, queen of Heraclea, was drowned by her two sons in 284 BC....

 prophesied by the Delphic oracle
Delphi
Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis.In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god...

, has come to
the court of Pyrrhus to plead on behalf of the Greeks for the return of Astyanax.

Racine's play is a story of human passion, with the structure of an unrequited love chain: Oreste is in love with Hermione, who only wishes to please Pyrrhus, who is in love with Andromaque, who is determined to honour the memory of her murdered husband Hector and to protect the future of their son Astyanax. Orestes' presence at the court of Pyrrhus unleashes a violent undoing of the chain. At the climax, provoked by Hermione's desperation, Pyrrhus is murdered by Orestes's men in a mad rage; this only serves to deepen Hermione's despair. She takes her own life by the side of Pyrrhus and Oreste goes mad.

The importance of the theme of gallantry is a common feature with Racine's previous work, Alexandre le Grand
Alexandre le Grand
Alexandre le Grand is a tragedy in 5 acts and verse by Jean Racine. It was first produced on December 4, 1665 at the Palais Royal Theater in Paris. The subject of the play is the love of Alexander and the Indian princess Cleofile complicated by intrigues between her brother Taxilus and his ally...

. His subsequent plays gradually purified the tragic element until it reached its zenith with Phèdre
Phèdre
Phèdre is a dramatic tragedy in five acts written in alexandrine verse by Jean Racine, first performed in 1677.-Composition and premiere:...

.

Characters


Names of characters in French, with their equivalents in English:
  • Andromaque, or Andromache
    Andromache
    In Greek mythology, Andromache was the wife of Hector and daughter of Eetion, and sister to Podes. She was born and raised in the city of Cilician Thebe, over which her father ruled...

    , widow of Hector
    Hector
    In Greek mythology, Hectōr , or Hektōr, is a Trojan prince and the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War. As the first-born son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, a descendant of Dardanus, who lived under Mount Ida, and of Tros, the founder of Troy, he was a prince of the royal house and the...

    , held captive by Pyrrhus.
  • Pyrrhus
    Pyrrhus
    Pyrrhus or Pyrrhos or Pyrros may refer to the following figures from Greek history and mythology:* Pyrrhus or Neoptolemus, son of Achilles* Pyrrhus of Epirus , famous king, to whom the term Pyrrhic victory alludes...

    , son of Achilles
    Achilles
    In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

    , king of Epirus
    Epirus
    The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

    .
  • Oreste, or Orestes
    Orestes (mythology)
    In Greek mythology, Orestes was the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. He is the subject of several Ancient Greek plays and of various myths connected with his madness and purification, which retain obscure threads of much older ones....

    , son of Agamemnon
    Agamemnon
    In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

    .
  • Hermione
    Hermione (mythology)
    In Greek mythology, Hermione was the only daughter of Menelaus and Helen; however, some sources state that her mother also had a daughter, Iphigenia, by Theseus, as well as three younger sons, one by Menelaus, the others by Paris, prince of Troy.Hermione was nine when her mother left with Paris...

    , daughter of Menelaus
    Menelaus
    Menelaus may refer to;*Menelaus, one of the two most known Atrides, a king of Sparta and son of Atreus and Aerope*Menelaus on the Moon, named after Menelaus of Alexandria.*Menelaus , brother of Ptolemy I Soter...

     and Helen, betrothed to Pyrrhus.
  • Pylade, or Pylades
    Pylades
    In Greek mythology, Pylades is the son of King Strophius of Phocis and of Anaxibia, daughter of Atreus and sister of Agamemnon and Menelaus. He is mostly known for his strong friendship with his cousin Orestes, son of Agamemnon.-Orestes and Pylades:...

    , a friend of Oreste.
  • Cléone, or Cleone, confidante of Hermione.
  • Céphise, Cephisa, confidante of Andromaque.
  • Phoenix, mentor to Achilles, and then to Pyrrhus.

Plot summary



Act 1: Oreste, Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 ambassador, arrives at the court of Pyrrhus, supposedly to convince him on behalf of the Greeks to put Astyanax, the son of Andromaque and Hector, to death, for fear that he may one day avenge Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

. Actually Oreste hopes Pyrrhus will refuse, so Hermione will return to Greece with him. Pyrrhus refuses at first, then, upon being rejected by Andromaque, he threatens to turn Astyanax over to the Greeks.

Act 2: Oreste speaks to Hermione, who agrees to leave with him if Pyrrhus allows it. However, Pyrrhus, heretofore uninterested in Hermione, announces to Oreste that he has decided to marry her, and that he will give him Astyanax.

Act 3: Oreste is furious over having lost Hermione for good. Andromaque begs Hermione to influence Pyrrhus to spare her son, but Hermione, insanely proud, refuses her. Pyrrhus agrees to reverse his decision if Andromaque will marry him. She hesitates, unsure of what to do.

Act 4: Andromaque resolves to marry Pyrrhus in order to save her son, but intends suicide as soon as the ceremony is over, so that she remains faithful to her late husband Hector. Hermione asks Oreste to avenge her scorn from Pyrrhus by killing him.

Act 5: Hermione regrets asking for Pyrrhus' death. Before she can cancel her request, Oreste appears and announces that Pyrrhus is dead, though not at Oreste's hand - his Greeks became enraged when Pyrrhus recognized Astyanax as king of Troy. She thanks him with wild insults and runs off to kill herself on Pyrrhus' body. Oreste becomes crazed and has a vision of the Furies
Erinyes
In Greek mythology the Erinyes from Greek ἐρίνειν " pursue, persecute"--sometimes referred to as "infernal goddesses" -- were female chthonic deities of vengeance. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as "those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath"...

.

Reception and adaptations


Unlike the majority of Racine's plays, Andromaque has never gone out of vogue, and the tragedy is among the most venerable works of the Comédie-Française
Comédie-Française
The Comédie-Française or Théâtre-Français is one of the few state theaters in France. It is the only state theater to have its own troupe of actors. It is located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris....

's repertoire. It is also the most often read and studied classicist
Classicism
Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for classical antiquity, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus Sir Kenneth Clark observed, "if we object to his restraint...

 play in French schools. Jacques Rivette
Jacques Rivette
Jacques Rivette is a French film director. His most well known films include Celine and Julie Go Boating, La Belle Noiseuse and the cult film Out 1....

's four-hour film L'Amour fou
L'Amour fou
L'amour fou is a 1969 movie directed by Jacques Rivette.L'amour fou follows the dissolution of the marriage between Claire, an actress , and Sebastien, her director . It is black and white with two different film gauges employed at different times throughout the film...

centers around rehearsals of a production of Andromaque.

The composer André Grétry wrote a three-act opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

, Andromaque
Andromaque (opera)
Andromaque is an opera in three acts by the composer André Ernest Modeste Grétry. The French libretto is an adaptation of Jean Racine's play Andromaque by Louis-Guillaume Pitra . It was first performed at the Académie Royale de Musique, Paris on 6 June 1780...

,
with a libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 based on the Racine play, which premiered in 1780. In addition, Rossini's two-act 1819 opera, Ermione
Ermione
Ermione is a tragic opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to an Italian libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola, based on the play Andromaque by Jean Racine.- Performance history :...

,
is based on Racine's play.

External links