Fiction > Harvard Classics > Jean Racine > Phædra
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Jean Racine (1639–1699).  Phædra.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act III
 
Scene III
 
 
PHÆDRA, ŒNONE

Œnone

        Madam, you must stifle
A fruitless love. Recall your former virtue:
The king who was thought dead will soon appear
Before your eyes, Theseus has just arrived,
Theseus is here. The people flock to see him        5
With eager haste. I went by your command
To find the prince, when with a thousand shouts
The air was rent—
 
Phædra

        My husband is alive,
That is enough, Œnone. I have own’d        10
A passion that dishonours him. He lives:
I ask to know no more.
 
Œnone

        What?
 
Phædra

        I foretold it,
But you refused to hear. Your tears prevail’d        15
Over my just remorse. Dying this morn,
I had deserved compassion; your advice
I took, and die dishonour’d.
 
Œnone

        Die?
 
Phædra

        Just Heav’ns!
        20
What have I done to-day? My husband comes,
With him his son: and I shall see the witness
Of my adulterous flame watch with what face
I greet his father, while my heart is big
With sighs he scorn’d, and tears that could not move him        25
Moisten mine eyes. Think you that his respect
For Theseus will induce him to conceal
My madness, nor disgrace his sire and king?
Will he be able to keep back the horror
He has for me? His silence would be vain.        30
I know my treason, and I lack the boldness
Of those abandon’d women who can taste
Tranquillity in crime, and show a forehead
All unabash’d. I recognize my madness,
Recall it all. These vaulted roofs, methinks,        35
These walls can speak, and, ready to accuse me,
Wait but my husband’s presence to reveal
My perfidy. Death only can remove
This weight of horror. Is it such misfortune
To cease to live? Death causes no alarm        40
To misery. I only fear the name
That I shall leave behind me. For my sons
How sad a heritage! The blood of Jove
Might justly swell the pride that boasts descent
From Heav’n, but heavy weighs a mother’s guilt        45
Upon her offspring. Yes, I dread the scorn
That will be cast on them, with too much truth,
For my disgrace. I tremble when I think
That, crush’d beneath that curse, they’ll never dare
To raise their eyes.        50
 
Œnone

        Doubt not I pity both;
Never was fear more just than yours. Why, then,
Expose them to this ignominy? Why
Will you accuse yourself? You thus destroy
The only hope that’s left; it will be said        55
That Phædra, conscious of her perfidy,
Fled from her husband’s sight. Hippolytus
Will be rejoiced that, dying, you should lend
His charge support. What can I answer him?
He’ll find it easy to confute my tale,        60
And I shall hear him with an air of triumph
To every open ear repeat your shame.
Sooner than that may fire from heav’n consume me!
Deceive me not. Say, do you love him still?
How look you now on this contemptuous prince?        65
 
Phædra

As on a monster frightful to mine eyes.
 
Œnone

Why yield him, then, an easy victory?
You fear him? Venture to accuse him first,
As guilty of the charge which he may bring
This day against you. Who can say ’tis false?        70
All tells against him: in your hands his sword
Happily left behind, your present trouble,
Your past distress, your warnings to his father,
His exile which your earnest pray’rs obtain’d.
 
Phædra

What! Would you have me slander innocence?
        75
 
Œnone

My zeal has need of naught from you but silence.
Like you I tremble, and am loath to do it;
More willingly I’d face a thousand deaths,
But since without this bitter remedy
I lose you, and to me your life outweighs        80
All else, I’ll speak. Theseus, howe’er enraged
Will do no worse than banish him again.
A father, when he punishes, remains
A father, and his ire is satisfied
With a light sentence. But if guiltless blood        85
Should flow, is not your honour of more moment?
A treasure far too precious to be risk’d?
You must submit, whatever it dictates;
For, when our reputation is at stake,
All must be sacrificed, conscience itself.        90
But someone comes. ’Tis Theseus.
 
Phædra

        And I see
Hippolytus, my ruin plainly written
In his stern eyes. Do what you will; I trust
My fate to you. I cannot help myself.        95
 

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