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Phedre: Dual Language Edition (Penguin Classics) (French) Paperback – Apr 1992


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140445919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445916
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.3 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 210,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

The myth of Phaedra is one of the most powerful and haunting in all of classical mythology. As dramatized by the French playwright Jean Racine (1639-1699), the dying queen's obsessive love for her stepson, Hippolytus, and the scrupulously upright Hip

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good translation which has the benefit of the French text on the Left page and the English on the Right. Either can be read while glancing to the other side for extra comprehension, if you want to read the French, or the flavour of the original, if you're reading in English. If you're fluent in 17th century French, you won't need this; but for the less skilled who want to "have a go" this is the next best thing.

Dual texts are comparatively rare but can be very rewarding.

Other translations? Unless you happen to be American ( in which case it will be in YOUR language ) Robert Lowell's version is best avoided, even though he is (reckoned to be a poet of some stature). Rhyming couplets are tricky to bring off -

"I hoped to find
Symbols and stays for my distracted mind
Searching the guts of sacrificial steers"

"Guts" is bad enough and then "steers" tips what is meant to be a desperate confession tips it into unsuitable mirth. I have actually experienced a stage performance of the Lowell. The tragedy queen was acting her head off while members of the cast offstage were in fits of laughter. deservedly so. American readers may find Lowell brilliant but I would argue to the bitter end that is is NOT Racine.

And as for "I will not flinch
I want your sword's spasmodic, final inch".

it's the best reason I know for NOT listening (unwarned) to Benjamin Britten's Phaedra Cantata which unluckily uses parts of the Lowell text. Racine is notoriously difficult to translate but this Penguin version has much to recommend it. Personally I find it preferable to the English-only Penguin.
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Jean Racine, along with Molière and Corneille are the three most famous "classical" French playwrights, all having lived in the 17th century. Phèdra is the first of Racine's works that I have read, and it is his most famous. The play is largely based on Euripide's Hippolyte. This particular Penguin classic edition has many virtues, and these include the translation and introduction by Margaret Rawlings, a British actress. In the introduction written in 1960, she explains that her version was developed particularly with the sounds of the English words in mind, as they would be pronounced on stage. Furthermore, to add even a further complexity she notes the differences in that proverbial common language depending on one's side of the ocean: "It is hard not to get a laugh on this, because of the American intonation present in it." So she dropped the ambiguity conveyed by the word "just." And Rawlings does seem to fine-tune her translation that precisely, a considerable achievement concerning a story which comes from the 5th century B.C. via the 17th century to the present, and from Greek to French and then to English... with the latter being the Queen's own.

And it is quite a story involving the eternal themes of power, love, lust, fidelity and the cruelty of fate mixed in with the reality-TV show theme of incest, and the complexities of serial families. As Rawlings points out, the dominant characters in most Shakespearean plays are male; Racine updates the Greeks, and put the emphasis on the female. Phèdra is the Queen, but second wife of Thessus, who is king of Athens and Trozene. Hippolytus is the son of Theseus, and therefore the stepson of Phèdra.
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Amazon.com: 8 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Bad Romance 25 April 2010
By Amaranth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Phedre" is a timeless classic. Based on Euripides' Hippolytus (Focus Classical Library),Phaedra falls into forbidden love with her stepson, Hippolytus. In the Greek original, Hippolytus is a repressed prude, punished by Aphrodite for his hubris. In Jean Racine's French neo-classical version, Phaedra is the center of the tragedy, pining for Hippolytus while he pines for Aricia. There is deus ex machina in the Greek original, but even in Racine's version, the characters live in a god-haunted world. Theseus calls on Neptune to destroy his son; Phaedra lives in fear and trembling before Venus.

Margaret Rawlings, herself an actress, undertook the task of translating Racine's alexandrines into contemporary verse. Sometimes it works, and other times her translation sounds grandiose with its "thee" and "thou." It's helpful that there's French on one side and English on the other. Rawlings comes up with the novel interpretation that Phaedra and Hippolytus should be close in age, with Theseus as the older man. In recent performances of "Phedre", however, the leading ladies are middle-aged (such as Dame Helen Mirren, Lady Diana Rigg) It's usually Phaedra as cougar, with Hippolytus as the younger man (he is a hunter).

"Phedre" is finally receiving the recognition it deserves with performances at the American Conservatory Theater and movie theater simulcasts from the National Theater in London. "Phedre" is a masterpiece of human passion.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Greek tragedy reverberating through a French prism... 18 Nov. 2013
By John P. Jones III - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jean Racine, along with Molière and Corneille are the three most famous "classical" French playwrights, all having lived in the 17th century. Phèdra is the first of Racine's works that I have read, and it is his most famous. The play is largely based on Euripide's Hippolyte (French Edition). This particular Penguin classic edition has many virtues, and these include the translation and introduction by Margaret Rawlings, a British actress. In the introduction written in 1960, she explains that her version was developed particularly with the sounds of the English words in mind, as they would be pronounced on stage. Furthermore, to add even a further complexity she notes the differences in that proverbial common language depending on one's side of the ocean: "It is hard not to get a laugh on this, because of the American intonation present in it." So she dropped the ambiguity conveyed by the word "just." And Rawlings does seem to fine-tune her translation that precisely, a considerable achievement concerning a story which comes from the 5th century B.C. via the 17th century to the present, and from Greek to French and then to English... with the latter being the Queen's own.

And it is quite a story involving the eternal themes of power, love, lust, fidelity and the cruelty of fate mixed in with the reality-TV show theme of incest, and the complexities of serial families. As Rawlings points out, the dominant characters in most Shakespearean plays are male; Racine updates the Greeks, and put the emphasis on the female. Phèdra is the Queen, but second wife of Thessus, who is king of Athens and Trozene. Hippolytus is the son of Theseus, and therefore the stepson of Phèdra. Their interactions are the central dynamic of the play, with the other characters serving as useful foils. Oh... I recently became aware of Balzac's Le Colonel Chabert - French - Français (Grands Classiques Français) (French Edition), concerning a Colonel in the Napoleonic armies who was presumed dead, but is not, and returns "home" 10 years later, to find that everyone else, including his wife, had "moved on" and his presence was not desired. That too is a central twist in Phèdra.

As Rawlings says: "When I was twenty I thought that love, in the amorous and jealousy-provoking sense, must certainly be all over by the time anyone was thirty. That an actress of fifty, sixty, or even seventy - however good an actress - should parade a guilty passion for her stepson..." And she does, she "brûle." Or in the American idiom: she's got it bad. Removing the incestuous nature of the relationship, and doing away with all those crazy machinations people seem compelled to take in pursuit of power, it need not be a cautionary tale if tranquility is a cherished state.

Being a bi-lingual version, of course, both languages are meant to be read, and I did, to great benefit. Now I know that "un bruit sourd" is a "rumor" and "doux empressements" is a "gentle greeting." But will they know that at a French cocktail party?

Lessons for male rulers? Thessus exhibits Oedipus-like blindness to his fate, and he was clearly listening to the wrong advisors, and not double-checking his facts. Hum. Imagine if Obama cancelled his morning's meetings with "advisors" and read this play instead. Well, we can fantasize. In the meantime, for Rawling's translation of an eternal play by Racine, 5-stars. If I read a couple more, perhaps I could be "brought out in public" in French literary society and not banished to ornamentally status.
16 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Racine's version of the myth of Phaedrus and Hippolytus 14 May 2002
By Lawrance Bernabo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This year I am using Jean Racine's "Phaedra" as the one non-classical text in my Classical Greek and Roman Mythology Class (yes, I know, "Classical" makes "Greek and Roman" redundant, but it was not my title). In Greek mythology, Phaedra was the half-sister of the Minotaur who was married to Theseus after the hero abandoned her sister Ariadne (albeit, according to some versions of what happened in Crete). Phaedra fell in love with her step-son Hippolytus, who refused her advances. Humiliated, she falsely accused him of having raped her.
My students read "Phaedra" after Euripides's "Hippolytus" as part of an analogy criticism assignment, in which they compare/contrast the two versions, which are decidedly different, to say the least. In the "original" Greek version Hippolytus is a follower of Artemis, and the jealous Aphrodite causes his stepmother to fall in love with him. Phaedra accuses Hippolytus of rape and then hangs herself; Theseus banished his son who is killed before Artemis arrives to tell the truth. In Racine's version Hippolytus is a famous hater of women who falls in love with Aricia, a princess of the blood line of Athens. When false word comes that Theseus is dead, Phaedra moves to put her own son on the throne. In the end the same characters end up dead, but the motivations and other key elements are different.
While I personally would not go so far as to try and argue how Racine's neo-classical version represents the France of 1677, I have found that comparing and contrasting the two versions compels students to think about the choices each dramatist has made. Both the similarities and the differences between "Hippolytus" and "Phaedra" are significant enough to facilitate this effort. Note: Other dramatic versions of this myth include Seneca's play "Phaedra," "Fedra" by Gabriele D'Annunzio, "Thesee" by Andrea Gide, and "The Cretan Woman" by Robinson Jeffers.
Very Useful and Enjoyable edition of Phedre 14 Mar. 2014
By Amrit - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Penguin here provides the reader with an useful original language text with a thoughtful and poetic English translation. Great for those somewhat comfortable with the French language or those who wish to embark headlong into a study of the language, since there are no footnotes or aids to translate the work. My copy came in splendid condition and despite my carrying it to around all the time over the course of the semester has held up durably. I recommend this to everyone who wants to read the play at all, both because the Rawlings translation is an excellent one and because the French is useful to look at for the curious or the academically interested.
Can't Beat Bilingual 13 Mar. 2013
By W. S. Uemura - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an interesting translation because it was done by an actor and so one her concerns was the actual speakability of the text. I think she is justified in worrying about whether one can actually say the lines in a way that makes sense aurally. The translation is therefore not overly literary. The play itself is quite rich and makes for a fruitful contrast with Euripides' "Hippolytus."
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