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Posted on March 11th, 2013, by

Racine’s greatest play Phaedra tells readers about forbidden love and passion, which lead to tragic consequences. The most interesting about this literature work is its sensitive part, interconnected to such feelings as passion, love, desperation and the fall of spirit. There is no doubt that the concept of play is relevant to be interpreted on the bases of Enlightenment era ideas.
At first, let’s get clear that play Phaedra hardly can be perceived as the example of Enlightenment values, proclaimed many years ago. There are two main supports for this statement. Let’s remind that Phaedra tells readers about ancient Greece time, which was featured by total belief in faith and predestination. At second, it have to be recognized that Baptiste Racine’s Jansenism affected the play significantly. Here is the quote:
It is the will of Venus, and I perish,
Last, most unhappy of a family
Where all were wretched (Racine).

The feel of predestination is very strong here and plenty of other examples from text are supportive to get the general mood. Such approach is unacceptable for Enlightenment belief in strength of reason, as the main tool for rationalism. According to general Enlightenment persuasion nobody accept people can affect events in their lives, as the power of God was influential only while perfect world creation.

The second item to talk about is devoted to passion and love, which are so harmful in Phaedra play. Seemingly, the strength of emotion is rather exaggerated in Baptiste Racine’s literature work. This idea is generated by fateful meaning of emotional experience of in love woman:

Venus I felt in all my fever’d frame,
Whose fury had so many of my race
Pursued. With fervent vows I sought to shun
Her torments, built and deck’d for her a shrine,
And there, mid countless victims did I seek
The reason I had lost; but all for naught,
No remedy could cure the wounds of love! (Racine)
This quote shows us Phaedra as woman fully assured in predefined nature of her forbidden love to her stepson. Remember, she did a lot to become free from strong feelings, but her actions exacerbate the situation only. In this aspect, the strength of passion and love take incredible power. However, this type of attitude strongly opposed to the reason of Enlightenment, which denies predefined contour.

Talking about emotions of main characters, they are mostly suitable to be explained as the absence of reason. Being not able to affect occurred to her events, Phaedra is persuaded that her situation is fatal and no one or nothing can change it for better. As the result, readers find human emotions as a sign of weakness, disease, lack of control and general desperation. There is no doubt that Phaedra exercises the free will, but her actions cannot change events and cure her soul pain. Her condition is the product of misfortune, and this make her frustrated the most.
Aiming to point out the main cause of tragedy, it should be recognized as unbalanced emotional state of main character, which was produced by strong belief in absence of reason. This approach causes human’s spirit frustration in understanding that events are out of personal control. It is not surprising that this condition pushed woman to lie and abhorrence, which became the main premises for tragic consequences. Be that as it may, the central idea of poem is gathered around fate and predestination, which are totally contradictory to rationalism and reason Enlightenment, as the main grounds for wisdom thinking and proper way of life.

Work cited
Racine, Baptista. Phaedra. Cummings study guides. 2008. Web 13 May 2011.

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