Fiction > Harvard Classics > Jean Racine > Phædra
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Jean Racine (1639–1699).  Phædra.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act III
 
Scene V
 
 
THESEUS, HIPPOLYTUS, THERAMENES

Theseus

        Strange welcome for your father, this!
What does it mean, my son?
 
Hippolytus

        Phædra alone
Can solve this mystery. But if my wish
Can move you, let me never see her more;        5
Suffer Hippolytus to disappear
For ever from the home that holds you wife.
 
Theseus

You, my son! Leave me?
 
Hippolytus

        ’Twas not I who sought her:
’Twas you who led her footsteps to these shores.        10
At your departure you thought meet, my lord,
To trust Aricia and the Queen to this
Trœzenian land, and I myself was charged
With their protection. But what cares henceforth
Need keep me here? My youth of idleness        15
Has shown its skill enough o’er paltry foes
That range the woods. May I not quit a life
Of such inglorious ease, and dip my spear
In nobler blood? Ere you had reach’d my age
More than one tyrant, monster more than one        20
Had felt the weight of your stout arm. Already,
Successful in attacking insolence,
You had removed all dangers that infested
Our coasts to east and west. The traveller fear’d
Outrage no longer. Hearing of your deeds,        25
Already Hercules relied on you,
And rested from his toils. While I, unknown
Son of so brave a sire, am far behind
Even my mother’s footsteps. Let my courage
Have scope to act, and if some monster yet        30
Has ’scaped you, let me lay the glorious spoils
Down at your feet; or let the memory
Of death faced nobly keep my name alive,
And prove to all the world I was your son.
 
Theseus

Why, what is this? What terror has possess’d
        35
My family to make them fly before me?
If I return to find myself so fear’d,
So little welcome, why did Heav’n release me
From prison? My sole friend, misled by passion,
Was bent on robbing of his wife the tyrant        40
Who ruled Epirus. With regret I lent
The lover aid, but Fate had made us blind,
Myself as well as him. The tyrant seized me
Defenceless and unarm’d. Pirithoüs
I saw with tears cast forth to be devour’d        45
By savage beasts that lapp’d the blood of men.
Myself in gloomy caverns he inclosed,
Deep in the bowels of the earth, and nigh
To Pluto’s realms. Six months I lay ere Heav’n
Had pity, and I ’scaped the watchful eyes        50
That guarded me. Then did I purge the world
Of a foul foe, and he himself has fed
His monsters. But when with expectant joy
To all that is most precious I draw near
Of what the gods have left me, when my soul        55
Looks for full satisfaction in a sight
So dear, my only welcome is a shudder,
Embrace rejected, and a hasty flight.
Inspiring, as I clearly do, such terror,
Would I were still a prisoner in Epirus!        60
Phædra complains that I have suffer’d outrage.
Who has betray’d me? Speak. Why was I not
Avenged? Has Greece, to whom mine arm so oft
Brought useful aid, shelter’d the criminal?
You make no answer. Is my son, mine own        65
Dear son, confederate with mine enemies?
I’ll enter. This suspense is overwhelming.
I’ll learn at once the culprit and the crime,
And Phædra must explain her troubled state.
 

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