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In: Racine’s Roman Tragedies
Essays on Britannicus and Bérénice
Volume Editors: and
In two of his most famous plays, Britannicus and Bérénice, Racine depicts the tragedies of characters trapped by the ideals, desires, and cruelties of ancient Rome. This international collection of essays deploys cutting-edge research to illuminate the plays and their contexts.
For Racine, Rome is more than a location, it is a set of values and traditions, a space of opportunity and oppression. The contributors to this volume examine Racine’s stagecraft, his exploration of time and space, sound and silence, and the ways in which he develops his own distinctive understanding of tragedy. The reception of his plays by contemporaries and subsequent generations also features. In Racine’s hands, Rome becomes a state of mind, haunted by both past and future.

This book's dedicatee, Richard Parish, passed away on January 1st 2022, just before publication. We would like to dedicate this collection of essays to his memory.

Abstract

This chapter approaches Racine’s Britannicus from a primarily auditory angle. Making use of recent theoretical writing on sound in the theatre, and of a 1670 account of the first performance of the play at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, I move from discussion of the notion of ‘constrained sound’ within the theatre to an examination of the sound world of Britannicus itself, considering both the control of sound (where even Néron’s silences are depicted as having been dictated to him by others) and noises that cannot be inhibited, such as those noises that intrude upon the opening scene of the play. Particular attention is paid to Acts IV and V, especially IV. 2, where several offstage voices and noises seem to haunt the speeches of Agrippine and Néron. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the idea of metatheatre, especially in Narcisse’s evocation of Néron’s love of the stage and the forced applause of his audience in IV. 4, culminating with a new interpretation of Néron’s final ‘silence farouche’ in Act V.

In: Racine’s Roman Tragedies

Abstract

Racine’s Andromaque is a play dominated by absence. Two absent figures, Hector and Astyanax, are often discussed, but in this chapter other historical figures who dominated the Trojan War, such as Pyrrhus’s father Achilles, and Hermione’s mother Helen of Troy, are shown to weigh just as heavily upon the actions of characters onstage. Theatrical absences (characters absent from the stage and excised scenes) are crucial also, crowned by the extraordinary absence from the stage (from the second edition of the play onwards) of the title character herself (unprecedented in all of Racine’s theatre) for the greater part of the final two acts.

In: Racine's Andromaque
In: Racine's Andromaque
Absences and Displacements
Volume Editors: and
Racine’s Andromaque: Absences and Displacements casts a new look at the dynamism, richness, and complexity of Racine’s first major tragedy (first performed in Paris in 1667), through a collection of articles specially commissioned by the editors Nicholas Hammond and Joseph Harris. Challenging received opinions about the fixity of French ‘classicism’, this volume demonstrates how Racine’s play is preoccupied with absences, displacements, instability, and uncertainty. The articles explore such issues as: movement and transactions, offstage characters and locations, hallucinations and fantasies, love and desire, and translations and adaptations of Racine’s play. This collection will be an invaluable resource for students and scholars of seventeenth-century French theatre.

Contributors: Nicholas Hammond, Joseph Harris, Michael Moriarty, Emilia Wilton-Godberfforde, Delphine Calle, Jennifer Tamas, Michael Hawcroft, Katherine Ibbett, Richard Parish.