Adelaide Ristori.

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dra listens to the insinuations and persuasions of her
nurse, swayed the while by a thousand varying emo-
tions ; and with a smile flickering upon her pallid
lips, she decides to save her life, surrendering herself
entirely into the hands of QEnone, and pretending
that it is only for the " love of her son," that she
renounces her firm intention to die.

Racine, by introducing this incident into his trag-

* " Vient de rompre les neux
Qui faisaient tout le crime et 1'horreur de nos feux." Racine.


edy, has proved himself to have fully comprehended
all the truth and beauty of the way in which Seneca,
in the third scene of the second Act, makes Phaedra
discover to Hippolytus the passion she cherishes for

He represents first her perplexity of mind as she
resolves to tell her secret, then the gradual steps by
which she is led to her sudden confession, and finally
the horror of Hippolytus as he listens to her, and his
scornful disdain. Racine differs from Seneca, how-
ever, by placing the carefully spun web of lies which
(Enone prepares to save her beloved and unfortunate
mistress in the third Act ; and he substitutes a noble
repulse of her attendants' evil proposal, for the
wicked and tacit consent which Seneca makes Phaedra
give to the culpable plan, against the carrying out of
which the older dramatist does not make the Queen
raise a single objection. At the same time it is true
that Phaedra, even in Racine, consents to (Enone's
proposal to accuse the innocent Hippolytus of attempt-
ing an outrage upon her, but this is justified by the
terrible position in which the author places her.

Theseus, though believed to be dead, returns, and
may discover at any moment her fault and her shame.
Certain as she is that the man she loves will not keep
silent about her guilty passion, Phaedra, although
very shortly before she had shown the greatest horror
at the idea of Hippolytus suffering for her fault,

" I ! dare I oppress and blacken innocence ! "

" Moi, que j'ose opprimer et noircir 1'innocence ! " Racine.

now, when she sees him approach with his father, is
overwhelmed with fear. Her senses almost desert


her, and hardly comprehending the words of CEnone,
she gives a hasty assent to them, as being the only
way in which she can save herself from the fury of
her consort, and avert her own dishonor.

PHAEDRA : " Ah ! I see Hippolytus, I see my fate written in
his insolent eyes ! Do what thou wilt, I abandon myself to
thee. In my perplexity I can do nothing for myself."*

Seneca, Euripides and Racine make Phaedra die
in three different ways, and for three different rea-
sons. According to the first, when she learns the
tragic end of Hippolytus, an end caused by the false
and wicked accusation she brought against him in
revenge for his refusal to listen to her and sees the
mangled remains of the miserable youth whom his
father has sacrificed for fter sake, she is seized with
sudden remorse, and bursts into a paroxysm of fury.
She throws herself in despair on to the body of Hip-
polytus, tearing her hair in her grief, acquaints
Theseus with all the enormity of her fault, and with
her perfidy ; and as, in her judgment, death alone is
a fit punishment for her misdeeds, she kills herself,
with her own hand, stabbing herself with the dagger
she holds, and presenting it to her consort.

Euripides in his Hippolytus makes Phaedra the
victim of celestial vengeance, and, as such, worthy,
in a sense, of pity. This is augmented when Phae-
dra, seeing the furious rage of Hippolytus, at the

* PHAEDRA: "Ah! je vois Hippolyte,-

Dans ses yeux insolents je vois ma perte ecrite.
Fais ce que tu voudras, je m'abandonne & toi ;
Dans le trouble ou je suis, je ne puis rien pour
moi. Racine.


indecent passion felt for him by his stepmother,* and
revealed to him by the slave CEnone, overwhelmed
by shame, enraged at the knowledge that Hippolytus
knew of her love for him, and desirous to save her-
self from ignominy, decides to die, and accomplishes
her fatal purpose by strangling herself with a rope.
This climax would diminish the enormity of her
guilt, and render Phaedra an object of compassion,
were it not for the words Euripides makes Diana use
to Theseus, after the terrible death of Hippolytus,
and from these it is evident > that Phaedra, before
taking her own life, had conceived the wicked design
of preparing a written document in which she ac-
cuses Hippolytus of having driven her to desperation,
and caused her to do this dreadful deed in order to
avoid being dishonored ,by him. This base and
ignoble calumny causes her to become at once an
object of scorn and loathing, and changes the pity
that would otherwise have been felt for her into dis-
gust and horror.

These are the lines which Euripides makes Diana
address to Theseus

. . . TI roAas rotcrSe crwyfairf
TratS ofy ocrtcDs crov aTro/cretVas,

a<f>av7J ; <f>avepa 8* eiAev cr* ara


* According to mythology, Hippolytus was a son of Theseus,
husband of Phaedra, by the Amazon Hippoly te. Translator.

t See the Hippolytus of Euripides, lines 1286-1289 and
1310-1312. An approximate English translation runs as fol-


cis \tyxv M 7re '7?

SoAotcn ow TratS', dAA* o/xa>s 7rer crc,

Racine depicts the end of this Queen in more
noble fashion. Oppressed by the shame of having
revealed her improper passion to Hippolytus, crushed
by his scorn, and the horror with which he received
her avowal, quailing beneath the scrutinizing glance
of Theseus, feeling herself guilty, and driven wild
with jealousy at discovering in Aricia her more fortu-
nate rival, dreading the wrath of her father Minos
when she should descend into Avernus, assailed by
remorse for having, when almost beside herself, con-
sented to the perfidious insinuation of CEnone by
accusing Hippolytus of her fault Phaedra swallows
one of the most potent poisons. And thus, already
bathed with the dews of death, she drags herself
before Theseus, summons all her little remaining
strength to her aid, and proclaims the innocence of
Hippolytus, her own fatal passion which she had im-
puted to him, and the perfidious consent she had
given to (Enone's proposal to accuse Hippolytus in
her stead. She asserts that she would have preferred
to end her life by the dagger, but that at any cost
she must first confess her crime, and her remorse,

] ows : " Because by an iniquitous death thou hast killed thy
son, O wretched man, art thou therefore pleased ? A false and
vaguely worded paper written by thy consort hath led thee to
consent to this evil deed . . . but thy wife, terrified she would
be convinced of his fault, wrote lying words, and by her trickery
persuaded thee, and led thy son to his death."


and therefore she has selected a slow poison. She
dies a lingering and agonizing death, unaware of the
miserable end of Hippolytus.

That Phaedra was unaware of it is proved by the
following lines ; Panope, in Scene v., Act 5, comes
breathless, to Theseus, saying

PANOPE : " I am ignorant what project the Queen meditates,

My lord, but I fear everything from the transport

which agitates her.

A mortal despair is paint on her countenance :
Her complexion has already the pallor of death.
Already driven with ignominy from her presence,
QEnone has cast herself into the deep sea
Men know not what has driven her to this desperate

And the waters, closing over her, have hidden her

for ever from our eyes."
THESEUS: "What do I hear?"
PANOPE : " Her death has not calmed the Queen ;

Trouble seems to be growing in her uncertain soul.

Sometimes, to flatter her secret sorrow,

She takes her children, and bathes them in her

tears ;

Then, suddenly, renouncing all maternal love,
Her hand, with horror, pushes them away from her.
With uncertain steps she drags herself irresolutely,

here and there.

Her wandering eyes recognize us no longer ;
Three times she has commenced to write, and

changed her mind.
Three times she has destroyed her hardly begun

Deign to see her, my Lord, deign to succor her."*

* PANOPE : " J'ignore le projet que la reine medite,

Seigneur; mais je crains tout du transport qui


At the close of this scene Theramenes presents her-
self, and narrates, amidst her tears, the tragic end of
Hippolytus, which happened near Mycenae, where
his lacerated body was left. Nothing was known of
this terrible accident in the royal palace, therefore it
is evident Phaedra did not kill herself in despair at
Hippolytus' death, but for the reason already stated.
Perhaps some people may consider as superfluous
this minute comparison of the tragedies of Seneca,
Euripides, and Racine, this analysis of the various
ways in which they severally treat the personality of
Phaedra this detailed narration of incidents in
Phaedra's life, as though its vicissitudes had been
hitherto unknown. But in the hope that my studies
may contain some interest for readers who have seen
me on the stage, as well as for those who have not

Un mortel desespoir sur son visage est peint ;

La paleur de la mort est deja sur son teint.

Deja de sa presence avec honte chassee

Dans la profonde mer CEnone s'est lancee

On ne sait point d'ou part ce dessein f urieux ;

Et les flots pour jamais 1'ont ravie a nos yeux."
THESEUS: * Qu'entends-je ? "
PANOPE : " Son trepas n'a point calme la reine ;

Le trouble semble croitre en son ame incertaine.

Quelque fois, pour flatter ses secretes douleurs,

Elle prend ses enfants et les baigne de pleures;

Et soudain, renon9ant a 1'amour maternelle,

Sa main avec horreur les repousse loin d'elle ;

Elle porte en hasard ses pas irre'solus ;

Son ceil tout egare ne nous reconnait plus.

Elle a trois fois ecrit, et, changeant de pensee,

Trois fois elle a rompu sa lettre commencee.

Daignez la voir, seigneur ; daignez la secourir."


had the opportunity, I have thought it might be use-
ful to give these important details, for the benefit of
those who might not entirely remember them, in
order that I might awaken within them a desire to
know how I had elaborated my interpretation of the
part a matter of which the reader who has the
patience to peruse the following pages, will be able
to judge.

After the account I have given of the immense
difficulty I encountered in my study of the person-
ality of Myrrha, by Vittoria Alfieri, it would be
natural to suppose that I should find that of Phaedra
all the easier. And this is partly true, because the
contrasts in the latter are less strange and difficult,
but, at the same time, it must not be forgotten that
the interpretations of these two characters have not
a great deal in common, although they were both
victims of the revenge of Venus.

It is to be noted, however, that Venus did not hate
Phaedra, but Hippolytus, and, in causing Phaedra
to conceive a powerful and incestuous passion, she
selected her as the only means that was available to
avenge herself on Hippolytus, because

"he had called her -the worst of the goddesses, because he
was backward to the laws of love, and because all his worship
was given to Diana, daughter of Jove, whom alone he adored,
proclaiming her ' the greatest of the gods.' "

These words Euripides puts into the mouth of Venus
in the first scene of his tragedy. Myrrha, likewise,
was the instrument of Venus' vengeance on her
mother, Cecris, who had imprudently

"ventured to boast that she had a daughter, whose extraor-


dinary beauty, grace, modesty, and wisdom attracted more
people in Greece and the East than had ever in former times
been drawn to the sacred worship of Venus."

The effect of such malediction launched against two
such different natures would of course be entirely
distinct. The one, a modest, chaste maiden, driven
by a strange, mysterious influence to conceive an ex-
ecrable passion, overwhelmed with horror at her own
guilt, sought death in order to save herself from dis-
honor. The other, perfectly aware of the lengths to
which her reprehensible feeling would carry her, gave
way to it without the slightest effort at self-control,
and put an end to her existence simply because she
dreaded the revelation of a love which was not re-

Myrrha died because her weak and youthful nature
did not possess strength enough to enable her to
dominate her ardent passion, of the discovery of
which by its object she lived in daily dread, and she
killed herself when, by an overpowering influence,
the confession of her secret was wrung from her lips.

But Phaedra, fascinated and bewitched by the
beauty of Hippolytus, recognized no obstacles to the
accomplishment of her desires ; with her own lips,
and by her own free will, in passionate accents, and
with burning looks, she revealed to the object of her
love the flame that consumed her ; and it was the
knowledge that another woman was preferred to her
that hastened her end, not any remorse for having
wrongfully accused Hippolytus of her 'fault, and for
leaving him to become the victim of his father's rage.

Having thus explained on what lines I conducted
my psychological study of these two distinct person-


alities, who were under the power of an equally abnor-
mal passion, and had therefore so many points in
common, I will now proceed to explain more espe-
cially how I interpreted, studied, and represented the
personality of Phaedra.

Racine precedes the entrance of Phaedra in the
first Act by some lines spoken by the nurse QEnone,
which picture the Queen in an almost dying state,
and only anxious once more to behold the light of
day. I think it necessary to quote them, in order
that the reader may form a better idea of how I
should be likely to appear on the stage.

(ENONE : " Alas ! my lord ! what trouble can be equal unto mine ?
The Queen doth fast approach her fatal end ;
'Tis vain that night or day I leave her not,
She dies in my arms of a malady she hides from me.
Some evil influence disturbs her mind ;
Her grief distracts and tears her in her bed.
She longs to see the day, and her profound sorrow
Orders me to keep every one away from her." *

And in fact Phaedra enters, pale and prostrate, hardly
able to stand, and supported by her maidens, while
she scarcely retains strength enough to articulate.
It was my careful study to find the exact tone of

*CENONE: "Helas! seigneur! quel trouble au mien peut etre

egal ?

La Reine touche presque a son terme fatal.
En vain a 1'observer jour et nuit je m'attache
Elle meurt dans mes bras d'un mal qu'elle me

cache ;

Un desordre eternel regne dans son esprit ;
Son chagrin inquiet 1'arrache de son lit ;
Elle veut voir le jour, et sa douleur profonde
M'ordonne toutefois d'ecarter tout le monde."


voice in which a person in Phaedra's condition would
be likely to speak, a tone which would convey that
her state of exhaustion was due to moral, not physi-
cal causes, and which could therefore be at once
changed to a more joyous key should any unexpected
or pleasant event occur.

Thus I repeated all passages expressive of weari-
ness and discomfort, in recitative fashion, using a
kind of doleful monotone. But when the strain of
profound melancholy was interrupted by any extrane-
ous suggestion that roused my feelings, my voice grew
stronger, and more impulsive, as it were in spite of
myself, for a moment, then sank suddenly down again
within my chest, for lack of bodily vigor to maintain
its pitch.

For example, CEnone reproaches Phaedra on ac-
count of her self-abandonment to a grief which is
destroying her, for concealing it from every one, and
such conduct, bringing misfortune upon her children,
constrained, as they will be, to submit to a foreign
yoke, that of the son of an Amazon, and she expresses
herself thus :

CENONE : " You offend the gods, the authors of your life ;

You betray the husband to whom you plighted your


And you betray, too, your miserable children,
Whom you precipitate into a miserable bondage.
Think that the same day that takes from them their


Will give hope to the son of the stranger,
To that fierce enemy of you and yours,
That child which an Amazon has carried in her

That Hippolyte.


: Oh, Heavens!
CENONE : This reproach touches you !

PH^DRA: Wretched woman! what name has escaped your
lips ! " *

This dialogue is an exact imitation of Euripides.
During the utterance of these lines I remained, at
first, as though I were insensible, and I paid little
heed to the reproaches of CEnone until she began to
speak of the children. But when she said to me :

" You will give hope to the son of the stranger,"
my body shuddered, and during the two succeeding

" To that fierce enemy of you and yours ; .
That child which an Amazon has carried in her bosom,*'

my prostration ceased, my brow darkened, my whole
person trembled, I gasped for breath. But when I
heard the words,

That Hippolyte ! "

the repetition of the fatal name drew a sudden cry of
pain from my agonized heart ;

" Miserable woman ! what name has escaped your lips ! "

* CENONE : " Vous offensez les dieux, auteurs de votre vie ;
Vous trahissez 1'epoux a qui la foi vous lie ;
Vous trahissez, enfin, vos enfants malheureux,
Que vous precipitez sous un joug rigoureux.
Songez qu'un meme jour leur ravira leur mere,
Et rendra esperance au fils de Petrangere,
A ce fier ennemi de vous, de votre sang,
Ce fils qu'une Amazone a porte dans son flanc,
Get Hippolyte.
PH^DRA : Ah Dieux !
CENONE : Ce reproache vous touche \
PHAEDRA : Malheureuse 1 quel nom est sorti de ta bouche ! "


I cried in my agony, and I fell back upon my chair.
At last, in answer to the renewed entreaties of
CEnone that I would reveal the cause of my anguish,
I resolved to speak, but my voice came with difficulty,
and it only gained strength again when I began to
deplore, in a plaintive tone, the fate of the mother
and sister who were also victims to the hatred of the
implacable goddess, and to the question asked in the
greatest anxiety by GEnone

Do you love?"*

I replied in a hopeless tone, like a wild beast who
has received its death-wound,

" I am suffering all the pangs of love ! " t

My impetuosity reached its culminating point when,
after CEnone had exclaimed,

" Hippolyte ! great Heaven ! " J
I answered with quick resentment

" It is you who have named him ! "

and, making a long pause, I remained standing in a
scornful attitude. - But when the paroxysm was over
my recovered energies once more abandoned me, and
I fell back again on my chair.

After a glance round to assure myself that no one
was listening, I began to narrate the origin of my
fatal love, and the pretexts that had been invented to

* " Aimez-vous ? "

t "De 1'amour j'ai toutes les fureurs."

\ " Hippolyte ! grand dieux ! "

"C'est toi qui 1'a nomme 1 "


separate Hippolytus from me, and I commenced
speaking in a faint, hoarse voice, in order to show
the state of prostration to which the preceding men-
tal struggle had reduced me. But as I continued my
narrative, by degrees I grew more animated, and when
I began to express the ineffable delight which the
remembrance of the dear countenance of Hippolytus
brought to my heart, my own face was irradiated.

" In vain upon the altars my hand burnt the incense ;
When my mouth uttered the name of the goddess,
I adored Hippolytus. I beheld him everywhere,
Even at the foot of the altar where I offered sacrifice,
I offered all to the divinity I dare not name." *

The appearance of my attendant, Panope, recalled
me to myself. I resumed my wonted dignity, gath-
ered together my wandering fancies, but at the an-
nouncement she made to me of the death of Theseus,
my whole appearance underwent a sudden change,
expressive of a mixture of amazement, surprise, and
ill-concealed joy at finding how unexpectedly the ob-
stacle which interposed to prevent the completion of
my desires, had been removed. I controlled myself
with an effort, hiding my thought even from the faith-
ful QEnone. Then, when Panope had gone away, I
listened to the flattering words of the nurse with the
complacency of one who staggers beneath the weight

* " En vain sur les autels ma main brulait Pincens;
Quand ma bouche implorait le nom de la deesse,
J'adorais Hippolyte, et la voyant sans cesse,
Meme au pied des autels que je faisais fumer,
J'offrais tout a ce dieu que je n'osais nommer."


of some unexpected happiness, which he dare not
allow himself to believe in, lest it should vanish like
a beautiful dream. While CEnone continued her dis-
course, endeavoring to persuade me that now I might
see Hippolytus without fear, and that my passion
had nothing singular about it since the obstacle had
been removed that made it culpable, I turned my
person in such a way that she could not perceive my
face, which I had prudence enough still further to
hide from view with the rich and ample veil that en-
veloped me from head to foot. Thus I was able, by
means of a by-play in accordance with the feelings
that agitated me, to express to the public how the
words of the faithful nurse acted like a healing balm
on my lacerated heart, and brought me back once
more to life and love. Then, dissimulating the real
reason of my change, I allowed it to be guessed that
consideration and affection for my son was the sole
motive that decided me to cling to life, and causing
CEnone to precede me, I leant my right hand on her
shoulder, and quitted the stage with slow steps, as
though my limbs had not yet re-acquired their pristine

The renowned La Harpe holds that Phaedra did
really determine to live for the sake of her son, but
such is not my opinion, and the words used by her
in her confession of her love for Hippolytus confirm
my idea, and I will further prove it by arguments
which must, it seems to me, be admitted just.

During the second Act, in the admirable scene* of

*This scene is a copy of that in the second Act of Seneca's
tragedy of Hippolytus, adapted by Racine with inimitable art,
and the greatest effect.


the interview between Phaedra and Hippolytus, I
make my appearance with uncertain steps, urged and
encouraged by the nurse, CEnone, to recommend
my child to his care, but I consider that this was
simply a pretext to discover the feelings of Hippoly-
tus. Had it been otherwise, Phaedra fearing, as she
feared, the irresistible ascendency the man she loved
possessed over her, and feeling the fascination he ex-
ercised upon her senses, would have avoided every
occasion of meeting, lest she should betray and lower
herself. I was so convinced of this, that at the be-
ginning of the scene my words came slowly and with
difficulty from my lips, as I said

" I come to unite my tears to your sorrow,
I come to you, as to a son, to explain my trouble."*

The Italian translator of Racine's play has rendered
these lines as follows :

" De' miei propri aff anni,
Vorrei parlarti . . e . . di mio figlio."

and the punctuation indicates, what the disjointed
character of the words proves, that Francesco dall'
Ongaro wasof my opinion ; and his conclusion is con-
firmed by the manner in which both the author and the
Italian translator return to the subject in the succeed-
ing passage, which in English runs thus :

" If you should hate me, I should not complain of it.
My lord ; you have seen me strive to hurt you ;
But you could not read to the bottom of my heart ;

*" A vos douleurs je viens joindre mes larmes;
Je vous viens pour un fils, expliquer mes larmes."


I have sought to offer myself to your enmity,

I would not suffer you to approach the shores which I inhabit ;

In public and in private I have declared against you,

And desired that seas should roll between us.

I have even decreed by an express law

That no one should dare to pronounce your name before me.

If, however, by the offence is measured the pain,

If hate alone can attract your hate,

Then, never was woman more worthy of pity,

And less worthy, my lord, of your enmity."

We give the Italian translation referred to above,
and the French original, in a note.*

* PlLEDRA : " Ne che tu m' odii gia t' accusa ! A vversa
Sempre a te mi vedesti, e in cor, signore,
Leggermi in cor tu non potevi. lo stessa
Esca all* odio porgea, che non soffersi

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