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 IV Scene I (Andromache, Cephisa)

Cephisa Oh, I doubt not it is your husband’s art,

Hector’s, this miraculous change of heart.

He hopes that Troy itself may yet renew

Restored by that happy child saved by you.

Pyrrhus has promised it. You have heard

Madame: he only now awaits your word.

Believe his vows: father, sceptre, allies,

He lays all at your feet, won by your eyes.

He makes you his queen, his sovereign mate.

Now, does this victor deserve your hate?

Against the Greeks, already filled with anger,

He seeks your son’s safety like a father:

He foresees their wrath, employs the Guard;

To keep him safe puts himself at hazard.

All’s ready at the temple, and you’re won.

Andromache Yes, I will go. But let us see my son.

Cephisa Madame, why hurry? It should suffice you

That he will no longer be denied you.

Your love can show itself unbounded,

And kisses no longer shall be counted.

What joy to teach a child, see him grow,

No longer as a slave raised from below,

But as a king renew a royal line!

Andromache Cephisa, let me yet see him this last time.

Cephisa What are you saying?

Andromache Oh, my Cephisa,

My heart cannot hide from you, my dear.

Your faultless loyalty, acting to the letter,

And yet I thought you might know me better.

What? Could you think Andromache, untrue,

Would betray him who thought to live anew

Through her; revive the sorrows of the dead

And with my peace betray the tears shed?  

Is that the loyalty to his dust projected?

Yet my son dies: he must be protected.

Pyrrhus by wedding me will act for him.

It is enough: I place my trust in him.

I know this Pyrrhus. Violent, but sincere,

Cephisa, he’ll do what he promised here.

I rely too on the Greeks’ unreasoning anger:

Their hate will grant Hector’s son a father.

I go then, since I must be sacrificed,

To give to Pyrrhus what is left of life;

I go to hear his vows at the altar,

And bind him to my son all the deeper,

But then my hand, fatal now to me,

Will put an end to my disloyalty,

And, to my honour, pay the debt I owe

To Pyrrhus, son, self, and husband so.

Here is my love’s guiltless stratagem;

Here’s what my husband commands me then.

I’ll join Hector, and my race likewise.

Cephisa, it’s for you to close my eyes.

Cephisa Oh, don’t think I’ll survive you though...

Andromache No, No, Cephisa, you must not follow.

To you I confide my dearest treasure:

If you’d live, live for this child of Hector.

Sole sanctuary of Trojan hopes now, think

How vital you’ll prove to that line of kings.

Watch Pyrrhus closely; see that he stays true:

You may speak of me still, if you must do.

Make him value this marriage; in a breath,

Remind him I was bound to him by death.

That his resentment must now flee him,

That, leaving him my son, I esteem him.

Let our son know of our heroic past;

As soon as you can, lead him on that path.

Tell him by what deeds they won fame there,

Of what they did, rather than whom they were;

Talk to him every day of his father,

And sometimes speak to him of his mother.

Let him not think of revenge some day:

We leave him to a master, he must obey.

Let him be tactful speaking of the past;

He is of Hector’s line, yet he’s the last;

And for this last I shall myself, today,

Sacrifice my blood, my love, my hate.

Cephisa Alas!

Andromache Follow me not, though your heart, past fear,

May fail to prove the mistress of your tears.

Dry your eyes, they come, remember dear

Andromache’s child’s entrusted to your care.

Here’s Hermione. Let’s flee her violence.


Act IV Scene II (Hermione, Cleone)

Cleone No I cannot over-praise your silence.

You are mute, Madame, and his malice

Troubles your thoughts not in the least.

Without a word you bear this new attack,

Who used to hate the name of Andromache!

You who despaired beyond all remonstrance,

When Pyrrhus honoured her with but a glance!

He weds her; gives her, with the diadem,

The very pledges you received from him,

And yet your lips are mute, in all this pain,

Not deigning to part even to complain!

Oh, I fear Madame, this fateful peace!

It would be better...

Hermione You’ve called Orestes?

Cleone He’s on his way, Madame, and you will see

How swiftly he will kneel at your feet.

Forever ready to serve yet win no prize,

And only too enslaved by your fair eyes.

He’s here...


Act IV Scene III (Orestes, Hermione, Cleone)

Orestes Oh, Madame, is it true for once

Orestes, seeing you, finds acceptance?

Am I deceived by all the evidence?

Have you indeed sighed for my presence?

May I believe your eyes, at last disarmed,

Would...

Hermione I must know if you still love my charms.

Orestes Do I love you? My speeches, perjuries,

My flights, returns, vows and injuries,

My despair, my eyes yet drowned in tears,

What truer witness to true love appears?

Hermione Avenge me, I’ll believe.

Orestes We’ll set aflame

All Greece, by brandishing my arms: your name.

Let us reclaim our rightful station,

You Helen’s place, I that of Agamemnon.

Replay the fall of Troy in Epirus,

So that our fathers’ fame embraces us.

On, I am ready.

Hermione No, my lord, but stay:

I will not carry these affronts away.

What! Crown my enemies’ bare insolence,

Go elsewhere, and await tardy vengeance,

Yield my destiny to chance encounters,

Which in the end may offer no redress?

Let Epirus weep at my going.

If you’d avenge me, then no delaying.

All your procrastination harms us.

Run to the temple. Sacrifice...

Orestes Who?

Hermione Pyrrhus.

Orestes Pyrrhus, Madame?

Hermione What? Your hate fails too?

Oh, run now, fearful lest I recall you.

Invoke not rights I’d send to oblivion,

It’s not for you to justify his actions.

Orestes I excuse him? You, Madame, for your part

Engraved his crimes too deeply on my heart!

We’ll avenge, yes, but seek other means.

We’ll be his enemies, not his assassins.

We’ll make of his ruin rightful conquest.

What, then! Shall I take the Greeks his head,

And shall I here represent a nation,

Only to serve it through assassination?

By all the gods, let’s have Greece justice,

And let him die charged by an angry public.

Remember that he reigns: a brow that’s crowned...

Hermione Is it not enough for you that I have found

Against him? That my offended honour

Demands a sacrifice, mine and no other;

That Hermione is a tyrant’s prize;

That I loathe him; loved him for his lies?

I hide nothing: he knew how to please me,

Inspired by love, or my father’s decree,

No matter; be beyond all their intent.

Despite my shameful disappointment,

Despite my just horror at his sin,

While he lives, fear lest I pardon him.

Until he’s dead be doubtful of my mood:

If he dies not today, him I might still love.

Orestes Then I must slay him, and prevent that grace;

I must...yet what is it I must embrace?

How should I serve your anger so swiftly?

Where are the means that will so allow me?

I am scarcely arrived in Epirus,

And you would have me overturn it thus;

You’d have a king die, that punishment

To fall this day, this hour, this very moment.

I must destroy him while his people gather!

Let me conduct my victim to the altar,

I’ll resist no longer; and go I will

To reconnoitre the place where I’ll kill.

Tonight I’ll serve you, tonight I’ll attack.

Hermione Yet it’s today that he weds Andromache.

His throne’s already placed in the temple;

My shame’s confirmed: his victory’s total.

Why do you wait? He offers up his life:

Defenceless, unguarded, he takes a wife;

He ranges men around dead Hector’s son;

Abandons himself to my foe, that Trojan.

Will you defend his life despite him then?

Arm your Greeks, and arm my loyal men;

Rouse your friends, all mine are at your call.

He betrays me, wrongs you; scorns us all.

What? Already they hate him as do I:

They’ll gladly see a Trojan’s husband die.

Tell them: my enemy cannot escape,

Or rather at their wish his wounds will gape.

Lead or follow their fury as you will;

Come, stained with the blood of that infidel;

Be certain, if you do, my heart is yours.

Orestes But think, Madame...

Hermione Oh, enough my lord!

These endless reasons mock my anger.

The means to please me is what I offer,

And content Orestes; though now I see

He’ll moan, yet not seek to be worthy.

Go: boast of your constancy elsewhere,

And leave the means of vengeance in my care.

By coward’s kindness, courage is confused,

Today I have too often been refused.

I go to the temple where my marriage waits,

Where you dare not go to meet the Fates.

There, I’ll know how to reach my enemy:

I’ll pierce the heart that will not love me;

And my blood-stained hands acting swiftly

Will soon, despite him, merge our destinies;

Ungrateful as he is the sweeter view

Is die with him, than live on with you.

Orestes No, I’ll rob you of that fateful pleasure,

Orestes hand alone shall end this matter.

Through me your enemies their lives will lose,

And you may acknowledge it as you choose.

Hermione Go then. Make me mistress of your fate,

Prepare for our flight, as events dictate.


Act IV Scene IV (Hermione, Cleone)

Cleone You’ll destroy yourself, you should consider...

Hermione May be so, but I’ll play the avenger.

Yet I know not, though Orestes offers,

Whether to rely, in this thing, on others.

Pyrrhus has less guilt for him than me,

While my blows would fall more certainly.

What joy to avenge my own injury,

To stain my hand with blood of perjury,

And to make his pain, my pleasure, greater,

Hold back my rival from his dying murmur!

Oh, that Orestes, punishing the crime,

Might proclaim the hands that kill are mine!

Go find him: let him teach that foul ingrate

He dies through hatred, mine, and not the State.

Run, Cleone. Vengeance fails me still,

If he dies not knowing it’s I who kill.

Cleone I’ll obey, Madame. Yet who is coming?

You Gods: who’d credit this? It is the King!

Hermione Oh, find Orestes; tell him, Cleone,

To act not till he sees Hermione.


Act IV Scene V (Pyrrhus, Hermione, Phoenix)

Pyrrhus You did not expect me, Madame, I see

My arrival has disturbed your reverie.

I do not come armed with base artifice

Equity’s veil concealing my injustice;

It’s enough my own heart condemns me;

And I ill sustain what I do not believe.

I wed a Trojan. Yes, and now aver

I promised you the loyalty I show her.

Others might say that in the Trojan field

Our fathers made the vows that I repealed,

And, without consulting son or daughter,

We were bound, loveless, to one another;

Yet I was pleased to do what I must do,

Emissaries promised my heart to you;

Far from denial, I wished it on us.

I saw you when you came to Epirus;

And though other eyes’ winning light

Had anticipated your eyes, so bright,

I did not hold to that first ecstasy:

On you I wished to fix my loyalty,

Welcomed you as queen; sought to prove

My vows would bind me as firm as love.

But love has won; and with a fateful blow

Andromache snatched from me a heart she loathes.

Both entangled, we rush to the altar,

And swear, despite ourselves, to love forever.

So Madame, condemn me for a traitor,

A sad one, yet that wishes for no other.

Far then from restraining your just anger,

It will give solace to us both hereafter.

Call me the names reserved for perjurers:

I fear your silence, not your sharp arrows,

And my heart, a thousand times the witness,

Would accuse me more if you said less.

Hermione My lord, in this speech free of artifice,

I’m pleased to find you do yourself justice,

So, wishing thus to break a solemn vow,

To crime you yield, play the criminal now.

Is it right conquerors should bow then,

To slavish laws, keeping promise given?

No, perfidy it is you must display,

And only seek me for your own self-praise.

What! When vows nor duty seem to speak,

Loving a Trojan, make love to a Greek?

Leave me; take me back; return once more

From Helen’s child to the wife of Hector?

Offer the slave, the princess, your crown;

Burn Troy for Greeks, Greece for Hector’s son?

All this displays your own self-mastery,

A hero who’s not enslaved by loyalty!

To please your wife, perhaps you’d better

Summon the names of traitor and perjurer!

You’ve come to view the pallor of my brow,

Then seek her arms, to mock my sadness now.

You’d see me weep behind her chariot;

But that would be too burdensome a lot;

Without borrowing titles from elsewhere

Can you not live with those you have here?

Hector’s old father falling, wretchedly,

At the feet of his dying family,

When your hostile sword pierced his breast

Seeking, in frozen age, a blood-stained rest;

Burning Troy plunged in rivers of blood;

You slaying Polyxena where she stood,

In front of all the Greeks, their indignation:

How refuse one dealing such compassion?

Pyrrhus Madame I know to what excess of rage

Greek revenge for Helen spurred my courage.

I could excuse myself for all that’s lost,

But I’m prepared to bury all the past.

I thank the Gods that your indifference

Shows me my joyous sighs’ innocence.

My heart, I find, all too fastidious,

Must learn to better know the two of us.

My remorse struck you as mortal injury;

One must know love to know disloyalty.

You did not mean to have me chained to you.

I fear to betray you, perhaps thus I serve you.

Our hearts are not dependent on each other;

I did my duty; you yielded to its brother.

Nothing obliged you to love me indeed.

Hermione I never loved you? What then was my deed?

I scorned for you the vows of other princes,

I found myself adrift here in these provinces;

Still here, despite your infidelity,

My Greeks are ashamed of my mercy.

I ordered them to hide my injury;

I waited for a liar, silently;

I thought, sooner or later, that your duty

Would return to me the heart you owe me.

I loved you faithless; what might faith have done?

At the moment your cruel speech was come

So carefully to announce love’s death,

I doubted if I did not love you yet.

But if it must be, if the Gods in anger

Grant to other eyes the sovereign power,

Marry the woman, yet though I consent,

Don’t force my eyes to witness the event.

I speak to you for the last time it may be;

Postpone it a day; tomorrow we will see.

You answer not? Traitor, now I see you,

Counting these minutes where I delay you!

Your heart, impatient to see her again,

Merely regrets another complication.

Your heart speaks to hers, your eyes must meet.

I no longer hold you, her you must greet:

Go swear the vows to her you swore to me,

Go profane the temple’s sanctity.

The Gods, the just Gods will not forget

That the same oaths were sworn me yet.

Take that heart that leaves me in despair.

Go, run. But fear to find Hermione there.


Act IV Scene VI (Pyrrhus, Phoenix)

Phoenix You heard, my Lord. Don’t underestimate

This lover seeking vengeance: she’s irate.

Yet she’s not where friends can support her:

Her quarrel and the Greeks’ twine together.

Orestes loves her still; perhaps that’s one....

End of Act IV