Andromaque  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Andromaque is a tragedy in five acts by the French playwright Jean Racine written in alexandrine verse. It was first performed on 17 November 1667 before the court of Louis XIV in the Louvre in the private chambers of the Queen, Marie Thérèse, by the royal company of actors, called "les Grands Comédiens", with Thérèse Du Parc in the title role. The company gave the first public performance two days later in the Hôtel de Bourgogne in Paris. Andromaque, the third of Racine's plays, written at the age of 27, established its author's reputation as one of the great playwrights in France.

Origins of the play

Euripides' play Andromache and the third book of Virgil's Aeneid were the points of departure for Racine's play. The play takes place in the aftermath of the Trojan War, during which Andromache's husband Hector, son of Priam, has been slain by Achilles and their young son Astyanax has narrowly escaped a similar fate at the hands of Ulysses, who has unknowingly been tricked into killing another child in his place. Andromache has been taken prisoner in Epirus by Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, who is due to be married to Hermione, the only daughter of the Spartan king Menelaus and Helen of Troy. Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, brother to Electra and Iphigenia, and by now absolved of the crime of matricide prophesied by the Delphic oracle, has come to the court of Pyrrhus to plead on behalf of the Greeks for the return of Astyanax.

Racine's play is a story of human passion, with the structure of an unrequited love chain: Orestes is in love with Hermione, who only wishes to please Pyrrhus, who is in love with Andromaque, who is determined to honour the memory of her murdered husband Hector and to protect the future of their son Astyanax. Orestes' presence at the court of Pyrrhus unleashes a violent undoing of the chain. At the climax, provoked by Hermione's desperation, Pyrrhus is murdered by Oreste's men in a mad rage; this only serves to deepen Hermione's despair. She takes her own life by the side of Pyrrhus and Oreste goes mad.

The importance of the theme of gallantry is a common feature with Racine's previous work, Alexandre le Grand. His subsequent plays gradually purified the tragic element until it reached its zenith with Phèdre.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Andromaque" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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