Plutôt que «Britannicus», victime assez falote de Néron et d’Agrippine, Racine aurait dû donner à sa tragédie le nom de l’un ou l’autre des deux monstres qui s’affrontent à travers lui.
Leur «ambition», aujourd’hui nous l’appellerions plus volontiers «goût du pouvoir». Un goût de mort et de sang dont les Romains, hélas ! n’ont pas emporté le secret avec eux. Chacun, ici, reconnaîtra les siens...
The plays in this volume - Cinna, The Misanthrope, Andromache and Phaedra - span only thirty-seven years, but make up the defining period of French theatre. In Corneille's Cinna (1640), absolute power is explored in ancient Rome, while Molière's The Misanthrope (1666), the only comedy in this collection, sees its anti-hero outcast for his refusal to conform to social conventions. Here also are two key plays by Racine: Andromache (1667), recounting the tragedy of Hector's widow after the Trojan War, and Phaedre (1677), showing a mother crossing the bounds of love with her son.
This translation of Phaedra was originally broadcast on Radio Three with a cast including Prunella Scales and Timothy West, and was praised by playwright Harold Pinter. This is the first time it has been published. The edition also includes an introduction by Joseph Harris, genealogical tables, pronunciation guides, critiques and prefaces, as well as a chronology and suggested further reading.
After a varied career as an actor, teacher, and BBC TV national newsreader, John Edmunds became the founder-director of Aberystwyth University's department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies. Joseph Harris is Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London and author of Hidden Agendas: Cross-Dressing in Seventeenth-Century France (2005).