Racine

Andromache

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2007 All Rights Reserved

This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.


Contents


Act III Scene I (Orestes, Pylades)

Pylades My lord, you must control this fierce anger,

You’re actions seem like those of a stranger.

Let me...

Orestes No, your words are out of season,

Pylades, I’m wearied by dull reason.

My life is dragged out now in suffering.

I must depart with her, or end this thing.

My plans are made, I shall complete them.

Yes, I wish it.

Pylades Well, take her with you then;

I agree. But think how they’ll react.

What will men say, seeing how you act?

Dissimulate: they must not see you fret,

Let your eyes be guardians of your secret.

The guards, the court, the very air around you

Belong to Pyrrhus, and Hermione too.

Above all, hide your anger from her eyes.

You Gods! Why seek her out in this wise?

Orestes Who knows? Of myself, am I the master?

Fury transported me, and I came hither,

Perhaps to threaten her and her lover.

Pylades And the fruits of it, now you’ve recovered?

Orestes Tell me, what mind would not be overcome

By the blow that snatched away my reason?

He marries Hermione tomorrow;

I must give her to him, it’s an honour.

Oh! Rather this barbarian I’ll slay...

Pylades My lord, you accuse him though all is fate.

Yet, tormented by his inner fires,

I ought to pity his and your desires.

Orestes No, I see he enjoys my suffering,

Without my love for her, he’d scorn the thing;

Until he knew it, he despised her charms:

He takes her to take her from my arms.

Oh, you Gods! Hermione being won,

From his sight forever might be gone.

Confused between love and vexation,

Her heart but awaited his permission;

Her eyes were opened; she listened, yes;

Spoke; pitied. A word ensured the rest.

Pylades You believed her.

Orestes What! That burning anger

Against the ingrate...

Pylades He was never loved more.

With you and Pyrrhus in accord, I say

Some ready pretext would have caused delay.

Think you not so? Then, leave deception here,

Don’t take her with you, forever flee her.

What! Your love will batten on a fury

Who will detest you, and will weary

Your days, regretting this near marriage,

Who will...

Orestes That’s why with her I’d take passage.

All smile on her; and I for my part pay

By leaving, and losing, in useless rage?

Go far from her, and try to forget her?

No, in my suffering I’ll see her suffer.

No lonely weeping. Weary of her pity

I intend in turn she’ll learn to fear me,

And her cruel eyes, when tears have flowed,

Will yield the compliments I there bestowed.

Pylades So here’s the outcome of your embassy:

Orestes, the abductor!

Orestes Pylades,

If Greece, avenged, delights in my success,

Will she delight then in my sorrows less?

What reward then though Greece admires us,

If I become the jest of Epirus?

What do you wish? To conceal nothing,

My innocence now’s a burdensome thing.

What is this ever unjust contrivance

That’s blind to crime, but hunts down innocence?

Wherever I turn my eyes about me

I see ills to condemn the deities.

Let’s merit their anger then, deserve their hate,

And taste the fruits of crime despite our fate.

But you, in error, why do you ever seek

To turn a wrath towards you meant for me?

Long enough my friendship’s harmed you:

Avoid misfortune, flee the guilty too.

Dear Pylades, your sympathy’s in error;

Leave me to await the fruits of danger.

Take to the Greeks the child Pyrrhus has freed.

Go now.

Pylades No, go seize Hermione.

In danger, the greatest hearts win through,

Led by Love what shall not friendship do?

Go to your Greeks and arouse their zeal:

Our ships are ready, fair winds we feel,

I know this palace and its winding halls;

You know the sea beats against its walls;

This very night, with ease, a secret way,

Come lead your prize to the outer bay.

Orestes Dear friend, I abuse your friendship, truly.

Forgive these sorrows you alone pity;

Excuse this wretch that loses all he loves,

Whom the world hates; whom hatred moves.

If only I in turn in happier days...

Pylades Dissemble, my lord, that’s what I say.

Seek to conceal your plans behind a mask:

Forget Hermione’s ungrateful acts;

Forget your love; she’s here, show cunning, stealth.

Orestes Go. Answer for her, I’ll answer for myself.


Act III Scene II (Hermione, Orestes, Cleone)

Orestes So! My efforts have ensured your conquest.

I have seen Pyrrhus: marriage wins the rest.

Hermione They say so: and moreover they assure me

That you only seek me to prepare me.

Orestes Your soul will not rebel then at his vows?

Hermione Who’d have thought Pyrrhus would prove faithful now?

That love would make this late declaration?

That, as I leave, he’d declare his passion?

I thought like you he only feared the Greeks,

That he pursued his interests, not me,

That I held greater sway over your heart.

Orestes No, Madame; he loves you, I must not doubt.

Cannot your eyes do all they wish to do?

And doubtless he is not despised by you.

Hermione What can I do, my lord? A promise made,

Can I take from him what’s not mine to take?

Love does not rule the fate of a princess,

The glory of duty is all that we have left.

Yet I would leave, and you saw maybe

How far, for you, I strayed from my duty.

Orestes How clearly you see, cruel one...though you,

Like all, may give their heart to whom they choose.

Your heart’s your own. I hoped, and yet I see,

In giving it you steal it not from me.

I accuse you much less than I rail at fate.

Why tire you with importunate debate?

Such is your duty, I accept; and mine

To spare you sorrow’s speech at such a time.


Act III Scene III (Hermione, Cleone)

Hermione Did you expect so little show of anger?

Cleone A grief that’s silent often lies deeper.

I pity him: author of his own sorrow,

The blow that hurts him is his own, I know.

Think how long your wedding’s been delayed.

He but speaks, and Pyrrhus’ mind is swayed.

Hermione You think Pyrrhus fears? Whom should he fear?

Those who for ten long years fled Hector’s spear;

Who, a hundred times, missing Achilles,

In their burning ships sought sanctuary,

And who without the actions of his son

Would still be asking high Troy for Helen?

No, Cleone, he’s not his enemy:

He does what he wills; weds me, loves me.

Yet Orestes must impute his tears to me:

Is there naught to speak of but his misery?

Pyrrhus returns to me. Oh, dear Cleone,

Can you feel the joy that fills Hermione?

Do you know who he is? Have you heard tell

Of all his countless exploits...what befell?

Intrepid, winning victory everywhere,

Handsome, faithful too: no failings there.

Think...

Cleone Dissimulate. Your rival now, in tears,

Bringing her sorrows, doubtless, ventures here.

Hermione You Gods! Can I not smile in privacy?

We’ll go: why speak?


Act III Scene IV (Andromache, Hermione, Cleone, Cephisa)

Andromache Madame, why do you flee?

Is it not now a sweet sight to your eye

To witness Hector’s widow kneel and cry?

I do not come to you with jealous tears

To mourn a man who your arts reveres.

Alas, those cruel hands, I saw them pierce

The only one whose love I might rehearse.

My heart by Hector long ago was lit;

Now, with him, the grave has buried it.

Yet my son remains. One day you’ll know,

Madame, how for a son our tears must flow;

But you’ll not know, such is not my thought,

What mortal trouble destiny has brought,

When of all the good it might have left me,

The sole remaining one, it steals from me.

Alas, when, left for ten long years to suffer,

The angry Trojans threatened your mother,

I begged my Hector to show her mercy.

You could beg Pyrrhus likewise to help me.

Why fear the child because he is a Trojan?

Let me hide him on some desert island.

You are assured, with all his mother’s care,

My son will learn naught but weeping there.

Hermione I know your sorrows. But austere duty,

A father’s word, impose this silence on me.

It is he who has roused Pyrrhus’ anger.

To sway Pyrrhus who than you is better?

Your eyes have long reigned over his heart.

Change his mind: I’ll yield, for my part.


Act III Scene V (Andromache, Cephisa)

Andromache How scornfully the cruel girl denied us!

Cephisa I would heed her counsel, and see Pyrrhus.

One look might thwart Hermione and Greece...

Ah, he seeks you.


Act III Scene VI (Pyrrhus, Andromache, Phoneix, Cephisa)

Pyrrhus (To Phoenix)

No princess do I see.

You told me she was here, are these your lies?

Phoenix I thought so.

Andromache (To Cephisa)

See now the power of my eyes.

Pyrrhus What said she, Phoenix?

Andromache Alas! All forsake me.

Phoenix Sire, let us go follow Hermione.

Cephisa What are you waiting for? Break this silence.

Andromache He’s promised them my son.

Cephisa That’s mere intent.

Andromache No, no, I must weep, his death’s decided.

Pyrrhus Will she not see us, are we derided?

What pride!

Andromache And I’d only annoy him more.

Go.

Pyrrhus Let’s give the Greeks this son of Hector.

Andromache (Throwing herself at Pyrrhus’ feet)

Oh, wait Sire! What is this that you would do?

Surrender him? Then yield his mother too.

Your words to me spoke of justice, amity!

Gods! Can I not at least move your pity?

Am I condemned without hope of pardon?

Pyrrhus Phoenix will tell you, my word is given.

Andromache You’d who’d defy great dangers, all for me!

Pyrrhus I was blind then; now my eyes can see.

Favour might have followed your request;

But yet you never asked it of me yet.

The thing is done.

Andromache Oh, Sire, you know enough of those sighs

That fear to let themselves be realised.

Pardon, that to the light of fallen fortune

Remains a pride that feared to presume.

You know this too: Andromache could kneel

To no other king but you, her heart reveal.

Pyrrhus No, you detest me now; and your deep art

Fears to owe a thing to my fond heart.

That very son, the object of your care,

You’d love less for it, if I left him there.

Hatred and scorn, against me they gather;

You hate me more than all the Greeks together.

Enjoy your noble anger at leisure.

Come, Phoenix.

Andromache Come, rejoin my dead lover.

Cephisa Madame...

Andromache  (To Cephisa)

What would you have me say that I forgot?

Source of my ills, think you he knows it not?

(To Pyrrhus)

Sire, see the state you reduce me to.

I saw my father die, my city too,

Witnessed the death of my whole family,

My husband dragged through the dust, all bloody,

His son, remaining, destined for the knife.

But what can a son not do? I breathe, have life.

More: to it I was sometimes reconciled,

Since here, not elsewhere, I was exiled;

That this son of kings, happy in servitude,

Since he must serve, was subject now to you.

I thought his prison was our sanctuary.

Once Priam found mercy before Achilles:

I sought, from his son, magnanimity.

Pardon, dear Hector, for my credulity.

I did not suspect your enemy of crime;

Despite himself, I thought he would be kind.

Oh, if only he might leave us two

In the tomb my care once raised for you,

That, ending there all misery and hate,

Ashes so dear might never separate.

Pyrrhus Go, wait for me, Phoenix.


Act III Scene VII (Pyrrhus, Andromache, Cephisa)

Pyrrhus (Continuing)

Madame, wait.

Your son can be saved, however late.

Oh, I regret, in causing you to weep

I only gave you arms to oppose me.

I thought to meet you filled with hate.

At least now turn towards me your gaze,

See if these eyes judge with severity,

Whether they are those of an enemy.

Why force me to spurn you once again?

Let hatred cease, in your own son’s name.

It is I who seek to save him anew.

Must I, sighing, ask his life of you?

Must I kneel to you on his behalf?

For the last time, save him, save us both.

I know the vows, yes, the chains I break,

The hatred that will follow my ‘mistake’.

Dismiss Hermione, and on her brow

I’ll set lasting shame, and not a crown.

You shall I lead to her marriage-shrine,

And with her garlands your hair entwine.

This is no offer to despise, Madame:

You’ll reign, or you will die out of hand.

My heart, racked by a year’s ingratitude,

Won’t tolerate prolonged incertitude.

Too many days of fear, threats, and hate:

I’ll die if I lose you, die if I must wait:

Think then: I’ll return, to lead you swiftly

To the temple where your child awaits me;

There, angry, or submissive if you’re wise,

To crown you, or slay him before your eyes.


Act III Scene VIII (Andromache, Cephisa)

Cephisa I told you thus, and that in spite of Greece

You’d still be mistress of your destiny.

Andromache Alas, the results of speech in action!

Now I am left to slay my only son.

Cephisa To your dead husband you prove too loyal:

Excess of virtue may be culpable.

He too would have wished you to be kinder.

Andromache What! Give him Pyrrhus as his successor?

Cephisa So his son wishes, whom the Greeks now crave.

Do you think his shade blushes in the grave?

That he despises a victorious king

Who reinstates your ancestral ranking,

Who forcefully treads down the victors,

Who forgets Achilles was his father,

Who denies his exploits, all for you?

Andromache Must I forget, because he chooses to?

Forget my Hector who lacked burial,

Dragged dishonoured round the city wall?

Must I forget Priam, with his last breath,

Bloodying the altar he clutched in death?

Think, think, Cephisa, of that cruel night

That quenched a whole nation’s living light.

Imagine Pyrrhus, with glittering eyes,

Caught in the glow of that burning prize,

Carving his passage over my dead kin,

Heated by the blood he wallowed in.

Think of the victor’s cries, of the dying,

Burnt by the flames; slain to the sword’s sighing.

See Andromache distraught amongst the horror:

That’s how Pyrrhus looms in memory’s mirror;

Those are the exploits with which he’s crowned

This is the man to whom you’d have me bound.

No, I’ll not be accomplice to his crime;

Troy will yield him victims, one more time.

All of my hate would be enslaved by him.

Cephisa Well, then! Let’s go and see them kill your son:

They only wait for you...Madame, you tremble?

Andromache Oh! What memories now make me stumble!

What! Cephisa, shall I see him suffer

That child, my only joy, image of Hector?

That child he left me as the pledge he loved?

I recall how, that day when courage moved

Him to seek Achilles, or rather death,

He clasped his son to him, said with a breath,

‘Dear spouse,’ and wiped away my tears,

‘Who knows what destiny will grant me here;

I leave the child as pledge that I was true:

If I die, I say he’ll know me through you.

If my memory proves dear to his mother,

Show my son how you cherished his father.’

And shall I see them shed blood so precious?

Shall I watch him die like his ancestors?

Barbarous king, must my crime be his?

Though I hate you, is my son not guiltless?

Has he reproached you for your murders?

Has he mourned ills that he did not suffer?

And yet, my child, you die if I instead

Do not arrest the sword above your head.

I could restrain them, and yet I reject it?

No, you shall not die: I’ll not accept it.

Let us seek Pyrrhus. No, dear Cephisa,

Go seek him for me.

Cephisa What must I say?

Andromache Tell him my love for my son is great...

Do you think he’s sworn to his fate?

Could love commit such barbarity?

Cephisa Madame, he will soon return in fury.

Andromache Well! Go tell him...

Cephisa What? Of your affection?

Andromache Must I then pretend to that emotion?

O my husband’s ashes! Trojans! Father!

O son, what your life will cost your mother!

Come.

Cephisa Where Madame, what do you now intend?

Andromache At his tomb I’ll go consult my husband.

End of Act III