The Complete Plays of Jean Racine

The Complete Plays of Jean Racine: Volume 3: Iphigenia

Translated into English rhymed couplets with critical notes and commentary by GEOFFREY ALAN ARGENT
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    The Complete Plays of Jean Racine
    Book Description:

    This is the third volume of a projected translation into English of all twelve of Jean Racine’s plays—only the third time such a project has been undertaken. For this new translation, Geoffrey Alan Argent has rendered these plays in the verse form that Racine might well have used had he been English: namely, the “heroic” couplet. Argent has exploited the couplet’s compressed power and flexibility to produce a work of English literature, a verse drama as gripping in English as Racine’s is in French. Complementing the translation are the illuminating Discussion, intended as much to provoke discussion as to provide it, and the extensive Notes and Commentary, which offer their own fresh and thought-provoking insights. In Iphigenia, his ninth play, Racine returns to Greek myth for the first time since Andromache. To Euripides’s version of the tale he adds a love interest between Iphigenia and Achilles. And dissatisfied with the earlier resolutions of the Iphigenia myth (her actual death or her eleventh-hour rescue by a dea ex machina), Racine creates a wholly original character, Eriphyle, who, in addition to providing an intriguing new denouement, serves the dual dramatic purpose of triangulating the love interest and galvanizing the wholesome “family values” of this play by a jolt of supercharged passion.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05912-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-46)

    While there might be some truth in the observation that in bothIphigeniaandBajazeta key element of the drama involves the stop-page of the wind, the fact that inIphigeniathe wind in question is in the sails, whereas inBajazetit is in the windpipe, is indicative of the marked contrast between the two plays. EncounteringIphigeniaafterBajazet, with its tenebrous, stifling, claustrophobic atmosphere (Akhmet’s plea to Roxane to “let the bright sun at last greet Bajazet” [BajazetI.ii.25] — and he might as well be speaking of the play as of its eponymous hero —...

    (pp. 47-56)

    There is nothing more celebrated among the poets than the sacrifice of Iphigenia; but they are not all in agreement about the most important particulars of this sacrifice. Some of them, like Aeschylus inAgamemnon, Sophocles inElectra, and after them, Lucretius, Horace,¹ and many others, would have it that the blood of Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, actually was shed, and that she died in Aulis. One need only read Lucretius, at the beginning of the first book:

    Aulide quo pacto Triviai virginis aram

    Iphianassai turparunt sanguine foede

    Ductores Danaum, etc.²

    And in Aeschylus, Clytemnestra says that Agamemnon, her husband,...

  6. Iphigenia 1674
    (pp. 57-130)




    CLYTEMNESTRA, wife of Agamemnon

    IPHIGENIA, daughter of Agamemnon

    ERIPHYLE, daughter of Helen and Theseus

    ARCAS, servant of Agamemnon

    EURYBATES, servant of Agamemnon

    AEGINA, attendant of Clytemnestra

    DORIS, confidante of Eriphyle

    Troop of Guards

    The scene is at Aulis, in Agamemnon’s tent.


    Yes, your king, Agamemnon, calls; arise!

    Come, is my voice so hard to recognize?¹


    It’s you! What urgent business are you on

    That makes you so anticipate the dawn?

    Its feeble rays could scarcely light your way.

    In Aulis, only we are astir today.

    Has any sound disturbed the slumbrous air?

    Perhaps this night...

    (pp. 131-152)

    1. This opening exchange immediately establishes an intimate tone between the paterfamilias and the family retainer, a tone consistent with what is, after all, the tale of a beleaguered family. Compare the similar opening ofThe Fratricides, where, however, it is the servant, Olympia, who awakens the mistress, Jocasta; in both cases, a careworn parent is anxious about the possible death of a child. And in the first scene ofAthaliah, which also opens at daybreak (“The temple dome glows white with dawn’s first flare” [AthaliahI.i.160]), Jehoiada, the high priest, is given cause for concern about the safety of his...

    (pp. 153-154)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 155-156)