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The Strangeness of Tragedy$
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Paul Hammond

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572601.001.0001

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(p.181) 10 Racine
The Strangeness of Tragedy

Paul Hammond

Oxford University Press

In Phèdre, Jean Racine shows us a tragedy of double displacement. In prey to her passion for her stepson Hippolyte, Phèdre herself no longer inhabits space in the ways that other characters do; she moves in her own, strangely-contoured world, and her ventures into the spaces shared by others are catastrophic. This tragedy shows us something which ought to have remained hidden being brought to light, and this is much more than the revelation of a guilty passion. A lamination or intercalation of spaces is at work: a privately imagined space overlaying and qualifying her apprehension of that commonly perceptible space in which others move. And as with space, so too with time: the present is repeatedly disturbed by Phèdre's mind dwelling in alternative scenarios of the past, or parallel versions of the present. The decomposition of Phèdre's self-coherence is mapped as the boundaries keep shifting between the abstract and the physical, offering us multiple readings of this divided individual. In her final speech she speaks of having stained the daylight.

Keywords:   Phèdre, Jean Racine, tragedy, passion, time, space, self-coherence, daylight, decomposition, displacement

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