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Jean Racine (1639–1699). Phædra.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Act V

Scene I



Can you keep silent in this mortal peril?

Your father loves you. Will you leave him thus

Deceived? If in your cruel heart you scorn

My tears, content to see me nevermore,

Go, part from poor Aricia; but at least,

Going, secure the safety of your life.

Defend your honour from a shameful stain,

And force your father to recall his pray’rs.

There yet is time. Why out of mere caprice

Leave the field free to Phædra’s calumnies?

Let Theseus know the truth.


Could I say more,

Without exposing him to dire disgrace?

How should I venture, by revealing all,

To make a father’s brow grow red with shame?

The odious mystery to you alone

Is known. My heart has been outpour’d to none

Save you and Heav’n. I could not hide from you

(Judge if I love you) all I fain would hide

E’en from myself. But think under what seal

I spoke. Forget my words, if that may be;

And never let so pure a mouth disclose

This dreadful secret. Let us trust to Heav’n

My vindication, for the gods are just;

For their own honour will they clear the guiltless;

Sooner or later punish’d for her crime,

Phædra will not escape the shame she merits.

I ask no other favour than your silence;

In all besides I give my wrath free scope.

Make your escape from this captivity,

Be bold to bear me company in flight;

Linger not here on this accursed soil,

Where virtue breathes a pestilential air.

To cover your departure take advantage

Of this confusion, caused by my disgrace.

The means of flight are ready, be assured;

You have as yet no other guards than mine.

Pow’rful defenders will maintain our quarrel;

Argos spreads open arms, and Sparta calls us.

Let us appeal for justice to our friends,

Nor suffer Phædra, in a common ruin

Joining us both, to hunt us from the throne,

And aggrandize her son by robbing us.

Embrace this happy opportunity:

What fear restrains? You seem to hesitate.

Your interest alone prompts me to urge

Boldness. When I am all on fire, how comes it

That you are ice? Fear you to follow then

A banish’d man?


Ah, dear to me would be

Such exile! With what joy, my fate to yours

United, could I live, by all the world

Forgotten! But not yet has that sweet tie

Bound us together. How then can I steal

Away with you? I know the strictest honour

Forbids me not out of your father’s hands

To free myself; this is no parent’s home,

And flight is lawful when one flies from tyrants.

But you, Sir, love me; and my virtue shrinks—


No, no, your reputation is to me

As dear as to yourself. A nobler purpose

Brings me to you. Fly from your foes, and follow

A husband. Heav’n, that sends us these misfortunes,

Sets free from human instruments the pledge

Between us. Torches do not always light

The face of Hymen.

At the gates of Trœzen,

’Mid ancient tombs where princes of my race

Lie buried, stands a temple ne’er approach’d

By perjurers, where mortals dare not make

False oaths, for instant punishment befalls

The guilty. Falsehood knows no stronger check

Than what is present there—the fear of death

That cannot be avoided. Thither then

We’ll go, if you consent, and swear to love

For ever, take the guardian god to witness

Our solemn vows, and his paternal care

Entreat. I will invoke the name of all

The holiest Pow’rs; chaste Dian, and the Queen

Of Heav’n, yea all the gods who know my heart

Will guarantee my sacred promises.


The King draws near. Depart,—make no delay.

To mask my flight, I linger yet one moment.

Go you; and leave with me some trusty guide,

To lead my timid footsteps to your side.