Love Lies Bleeding: Racine's Ferocious Drama of the Human Heart in Extremis Is a Gruelling Spectacle

By Billen, Andrew | New Statesman (1996), June 29, 2009 | Go to article overview

Love Lies Bleeding: Racine's Ferocious Drama of the Human Heart in Extremis Is a Gruelling Spectacle


Billen, Andrew, New Statesman (1996)


Phedre

Lyttelton Theatre, Loudon SEi

The programme for this powerful, no-tricks, high-end production of Racine's version of Phedre includes Shakespeare's Sonnet 129, the one that begins: "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame/Is lust in action". I can see why it is there, as thwarted lust accounts for a large part of the evening that lies ahead, but it is also misleading. The Greek myth of Phaedra, who falls in love with her stepson with tragic consequences while her husband, Theseus, king of Athens, is away, has repeatedly intrigued dramatists from Euripides and Seneca onward. But in Racine's version, it is not just sexual love that propels the tragedy, but other varieties, too: paternal love (turned to hate), maternal love (described as a "contagion") and the devoted love of a servant for her mistress.

The poem I was reminded of was the one by Ted Hughes about how love flew into his life "like a hawk into a dovecote". Here, love is feral. Describing how she fell for young Hippolytus, Phedre, played by Helen Mirren, exploring every corner of human despair in a landmark performance, says her whole body was "scorched", her eyes went dark, and she could hardly stand. This is a woman bowled over by love, and not in a good way. "I knew then the goddess [Venus] had found me--The latest in the lineage that she loathes. 1 had fallen into her furnace."

Later, Hippolytus reports his hardly less problematic love for Aricia, sole survivor of his father's massacre of a family with a claim to the Athenian throne. A single wave has "swept me from myself". That Aricia is played by Ruth Negga, a slip of an actress, adds to the point: this he-man (played in a sawn-off Die Harc/T-shirt by Dominic Cooper, perhaps best known as the young male crumpet in Mamma Mia!) has been toppled by a force stronger than armies.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I think I would have had Hughes's paradoxical words in mind even if I did not know this version had been translated by the poet, who turns rhyming couplets into muscular blank verse. The play's similes are unmistakably, his: "Venus has fastened on me like a tiger"; "my own horse run wild"; Phedre's loyal Oenone "slithers" up to Theseus to lie for her. You certainly cannot escape Hughes when Stanley Townsend eventually appears as Theseus, unexpectedly returned from the dead. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Love Lies Bleeding: Racine's Ferocious Drama of the Human Heart in Extremis Is a Gruelling Spectacle
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.