Alexandre Cabanel Phèdre 1880
After the death of Antiope, Theseus married Phaedra, daughter of Minos, king of Crete. Phaedra saw in Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, a youth endowed with all the graces and virtues of his father, and of an age corresponding to her own. She loved him, but he repulsed her advances, and her love was changed to hate. She used her influence over her infatuated husband to cause him to be jealous of his son, and he imprecated the vengeance of Neptune upon him. As Hippolytus was one day driving his chariot along the shore, a sea–monster raised himself above the waters, and frightened the horses so that they ran away and dashed the chariot to pieces. Hippolytus was killed, but by Diana’s assistance Æsculapius restored him to life. Diana removed Hippolytus from the power of his deluded father and false stepmother, and placed him in Italy under the protection of the nymph Egeria.
Theseus at length lost the favour of his people, and retired to the court of Lycomedes, king of Scyros, who at first received him kindly, but afterwards treacherously slew him. In a later age the Athenian general Cimon discovered the place where his remains were laid, and caused them to be removed to Athens, where they were deposited in a temple called the Theseum, erected in honour of the hero.
The queen of the Amazons whom Theseus espoused is by some called Hippolyta. That is the name she bears in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,”– the subject of which is the festivities attending the nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta.
Age of Fable Chapter 20 by Thomas Bulfinch
One of the nice things about studying Shakespeare with AO is learning to also understand and enjoy the language of his playwright contemporaries. Last year we were privileged to be introduced to Molière; this weekend it is Racine.
Racine's Phèdre fits perfectly into our Ancient Greece historical period for this term of AO6, and it will be a real treat to see this rarely performed French Classic.
We've been preparing by rereading the section from Bulfinch, and also reading the synopsis of the play, which Bell Shakespeare kindly provides free as part of their Online Learning Pack.
Saturday's production is Bell Shakespeare performing a translation by the English Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, of Racine's adaptation of a play by Euripides. Shakespeare-Hughes-Racine-Euripides. Got that? Australians acting in English from French from Greek. Why is it, I wonder, that we call this Racine's Phèdre, not Hughes', or indeed Euripides'. It is a bit of a mystery to me, this translation of poetry.
This video of a British production of the same Hughes/Racine/Euripides play had an interesting look at Theseus's background.
We also had a bit of a look at Plutarch's comments on Theseus, only it seems that he was a bit of a womaniser, so Jemimah and I didn't spend too long on that account. Blush.
Seeing the arts performed is one of our family pleasures. We adore the ballet, Shakespeare, the opera. We do the planning and preparation before we go, so that we know what's going on, and then we make a special occasion of it. I can't wait for tomorrow.
Have you seen Racine performed? What about Shakespeare? Are you neoclassical theatre lovers too? Talk to me!