Fiction > Harvard Classics > Jean Racine > Phædra
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD · CHARACTERS
Jean Racine (1639–1699).  Phædra.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Act IV
 
Scene II
 
 
THESEUS, HIPPOLYTUS

Theseus

Ah! There he is. Great gods! That noble mien
Might well deceive an eye less fond than mine!
Why should the sacred stamp of virtue gleam
Upon the forehead of an impious wretch?
Ought not the blackness of a traitor’s heart        5
To show itself by sure and certain signs?
 
Hippolytus

My father, may I ask what fatal cloud
Has troubled your majestic countenance?
Dare you not trust this secret to your son?
 
Theseus

Traitor, how dare you show yourself before me?
        10
Monster, whom Heaven’s bolts have spared too long!
Survivor of that robber crew whereof
I cleansed the earth. After your brutal lust
Scorn’d even to respect my marriage bed,
You venture—you, my hated foe—to come        15
Into my presence, here, where all is full
Of your foul infamy, instead of seeking
Some unknown land that never heard my name.
Fly, traitor, fly! Stay not to tempt the wrath
That I can scarce restrain, nor brave my hatred.        20
Disgrace enough have I incurr’d for ever
In being father of so vile a son,
Without your death staining indelibly
The glorious record of my noble deeds.
Fly, and unless you wish quick punishment        25
To add you to the criminals cut off
By me, take heed this sun that lights us now
Ne’er sees you more set foot upon this soil.
I tell you once again,—fly, haste, return not,
Rid all my realms of your atrocious presence.        30
  To thee, to thee, great Neptune, I appeal;
If erst I clear’d thy shores of foul assassins,
Recall thy promise to reward those efforts,
Crown’d with success, by granting my first pray’r.
Confined for long in close captivity,        35
I have not yet call’d on thy pow’rful aid,
Sparing to use the valued privilege
Till at mine utmost need. The time is come,
I ask thee now. Avenge a wretched father!
I leave this traitor to thy wrath; in blood        40
Quench his outrageous fires, and by thy fury
Theseus will estimate thy favour tow’rds him.
 
Hippolytus

Phædra accuses me of lawless passion!
This crowning horror all my soul confounds;
Such unexpected blows, falling at once,        45
O’erwhelm me, choke my utterance, strike me dumb.
 
Theseus

Traitor, you reckon’d that in timid silence
Phædra would bury your brutality.
You should not have abandon’d in your flight
The sword that in her hands helps to condemn you;        50
Or rather, to complete your perfidy,
You should have robb’d her both of speech and life.
 
Hippolytus

Justly indignant at a lie so black
I might be pardon’d if I told the truth;
But it concerns your honour to conceal it.        55
Approve the reverence that shuts my mouth;
And, without wishing to increase your woes,
Examine closely what my life has been.
Great crimes are never single, they are link’d
To former faults. He who has once transgress’d        60
May violate at last all that men hold
Most sacred; vice, like virtue, has degrees
Of progress; innocence was never seen
To sink at once into the lowest depths
Of guilt. No virtuous man can in a day        65
Turn traitor, murderer, an incestuous wretch.
The nursling of a chaste, heroic mother,
I have not proved unworthy of my birth.
Pittheus, whose wisdom is by all esteem’d,
Deign’d to instruct me when I left her hands.        70
It is no wish of mine to vaunt my merits,
But, if I may lay claim to any virtue,
I think beyond all else I have display’d
Abhorrence of those sins with which I’m charged.
For this Hippolytus is known in Greece,        75
So continent that he is deem’d austere.
All know my abstinence inflexible:
The daylight is not purer than my heart.
How, then, could I, burning with fire profane—
 
Theseus

Yes, dastard, ’tis that very pride condemns you.
        80
I see the odious reason of your coldness
Phædra alone bewitch’d your shameless eyes;
Your soul, to others’ charms indifferent,
Disdain’d the blameless fires of lawful love.
 
Hippolytus

No, father, I have hidden it too long,
        85
This heart has not disdain’d a sacred flame.
Here at your feet I own my real offence:
I love, and love in truth where you forbid me;
Bound to Aricia by my heart’s devotion,
The child of Pallas has subdued your son.        90
A rebel to your laws, her I adore,
And breathe forth ardent sighs for her alone.
 
Theseus

You love her? Heav’ns!
        But no, I see the trick.
You feign a crime to justify yourself.        95
 
Hippolytus

Sir, I have shunn’d her for six months, and still
Love her. To you yourself I came to tell it,
Trembling the while. Can nothing clear your mind
Of your mistake? What oath can reassure you?
By heav’n and earth and all the pow’rs of nature—        100
 
Theseus

The wicked never shrink from perjury.
Cease, cease, and spare me irksome protestations,
If your false virtue has no other aid.
 
Hippolytus

Tho’ it to you seem false and insincere,
Phædra has secret cause to know it true.        105
 
Theseus

Ah! how your shamelessness excites my wrath!
 
Hippolytus

What is my term and place of banishment?
 
Theseus

Were you beyond the Pillars of Alcides,
Your perjured presence were too near me yet.
 
Hippolytus

What friends will pity me, when you forsake
        110
And think me guilty of a crime so vile?
 
Theseus

Go, look you out for friends who hold in honour
Adultery and clap their hands at incest,
Low, lawless traitors, steep’d in infamy,
The fit protectors of a knave like you.        115
 
Hippolytus

Are incest and adultery the words
You cast at me? I hold my tongue. Yet think
What mother Phædra had; too well you know
Her blood, not mine, is tainted with those horrors.
 
Theseus

What! Does your rage before my eyes lose all
        120
Restraint? For the last time,—out of my sight!
Hence, traitor! Wait not till a father’s wrath
Force thee away ’mid general execration.
 

CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD · CHARACTERS
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors