Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Alexander III in Racine's dramaturgy

Alexandre le Grand is a tragedy in 5 acts and verse by Jean Racine. It was first produced on December 4, 1665 at the Palais Royal Theater in Paris. The subject of the play is the love of Alexander and the Indian princess Cleofile complicated by intrigues between her brother Taxilus and his ally Porus. The play is largely based on a surviving work by the Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus. Shortly after the play’s opening at the Théâtre Palais Royal, Racine moved the play to a more prestigious company at the Hotel de Borgoyne creating a rift with Molière.

For the first time, Racines's Alexander the Great (the most famous play written about the Macedonian conqueror) will be presented on stage scripted in Greek. Since its premiere in Paris in 1665, this play, which established Racine as a prominent author and poet, has been performed in many countries. The play incorporates historical references as well as elements of poetic fantasy The work is considered to portray in exceptional psychological depth the struggle for dominance between virtue and passion. It will be performed at the Theatre Scarabeus rue Creuse 19, 1030 Bruxelles (Schaerbeek), on 25-27 March.

Some intresting questions about this literary work:

1. What says this literary work about fatherland of Alexander III of Macedon?
2. What says this literary work for Greeks?

To have a clearer picture about these questions, we must to emphasize the roles who roles involved in this drama:

Now, I will use some parts of Scene II. This scene is a dialogue between Alexander and Axiane. As we seen, Axiane is a Queen of another part of India. She tries to convince Alexander to not start a war with Porus, with this words:

["Alexandre le Grand" by Jean Racine, French (original) version from 1666, pg. 50]

In order to better translate this part, I'll use the English translation of the same literary work:

["Two tragedies: viz. Britannicus; and Alexander the Great" by Jean Racine, Translated in English by Mr. Ozell in London 1714, pg. 92]

In the older English, the "S" at beginnings of words looked similar to what you now see as a "f". Transcription of today English:

"To sink the only Man I could have loved?
Did he overrun the Frontiers of your Greece?
Did We stir up mankind against Your Glory?"

Also, I found a German translation of this part.

["Alexander der Große" by Jean Racine, German translation from 1825, pg. 56]

The translation of this part is slightly different, but same meaning:

"Hat jemals dieser Fürst dein Griechenland verheeret?"
"Has ever this Prince (Leader) destroyed your Greece?"
For the end with analysis for this literary work, I'll use another one part where Greeks are mentioned:

["Two tragedies: viz. Britannicus; and Alexander the Great" by Jean Racine, Translated in English by Mr. Ozell in London 1714, pg. 68]

Here's my paraphrase:
It is as though the other leaders had no (honorable) name, but just obeyed and followed him to battle as if they were his subjects. If that slavish sort of behavior pleases you, the Greeks and Persians can point out a master for you to follow; a hundred kings will be your companions as his slaves, and Porus will be among them to close their number. But Alexander intends to set you free.
Racine evidently conceived his next play, Alexandre, as his ticket to royal favour, since the audience was sure to see in the portrait of the Macedonian conqueror a reflection of the young King Louis XIV of France who, as the play suggests, could surpass Alexander by restraining his aggressive tendencies and becoming a morally superior hero who champions Roman Catholic virtues. Posterity has decreed the play a misguided attempt by Racine to pour his tragic vision into Corneille's heroic mold.

Conclusion (from the analysis):

According to Jean Racine, most famous French dramatist and historiographer in 17 century, Alexander's fatherland was Greece. For the first time this drama was presented on the stage scripted in Greek, not Slavic.

Author: Marsyas Periandrou (M.P.)

"Alexandre le Grand" - Jean Racine, 1666


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