Andromache/Act II

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Act I Andromache
Act II
written by Jean Racine, translated by A. S. Kline
Act III


Act II Scene I (Hermione, Cleone)

Hermione
I’ll do as you wish. I consent to see him;
I’d still wish to grant that pleasure to him.
Pylades will soon conduct him here;
Yet, if I thought, I should take more care.
Cleone
Why should the sight of him bring you unrest,
Madame, is he not the same Orestes yet
For whose return you so often sighed,
For whose love and loyalty you cried?
Hermione
It is that love, paid with ingratitude,
That makes me on his presence brood,
What shame for me; what victory is this
To see my own misfortune echo his!
Is that, he’ll say, the proud Hermione?
She scorned me; another spurns her, see,
The ingrate, who set a price so on her heart,
Learns, in turn, to suffer and to part!
You Gods!
Cleone
Oh, still these fears, all unworthy:
He has felt your power far too deeply.
You think a lover dares to insult you?
He’ll reveal a heart that can’t forsake you.
But what word comes from your father, say?
Hermione
If Pyrrhus perseveres in this delay,
If he will not see the Trojan slain,
My father says I must return again.
Cleone
Well, Madame! Then listen to Orestes.
Pyrrhus began; you end it, at the least.
What he intends, you must anticipate.
Have you not said he fills your heart with hate?
Hermione
Hate him, Cleone! Honour asks it of me,
After such sweetness beyond memory.
He who held me so dear, to yet betray!
Oh! I have loved him too much not to hate.
Cleone
Flee then, Madame; and since you are adored…
Hermione
Oh! Leave my anger time to grow the more;
Let me secure myself against my foe;
Cleone, I’ll depart with venom so.
He’ll know me all too well, the infidel!
Cleone
What! You’ll wait for fresh injury still?
To love that captive, here, before your eyes,
Has that not made him odious with his lies?
After what he’s done, what’s more to do?
If he can, surely he must displease you.
Hermione
Why irritate my wounds, you cruel girl?
I fail to know myself in the state I feel.
Seek to believe naught of what you see;
Yet believe I love not, praise my victory;
Believe my heart hardened despite itself,
Alas! If I can let me think so myself.
You’d have me flee? Well! Nothing stops us:
Come. Let’s not envy his unworthy conquest;
Over him let his captive hold her sway.
We’ll go…But what if he re-finds the way!
If his heart’s loyalty seeks its true place!
If he sinks to his knees, begs for grace!
If Love, you should bend him to my law!
If he should…Yet he’d only harm me more.
Let’s stay then and trouble their little fate;
Take pleasure in seeing them importunate;
Or, forcing him to break his solemn ties,
Make him seem criminal to all Greek eyes.
On the child already I’ve drawn their anger;
I want their next request to be the mother.
Let her feel the torments that I suffer;
She’ll ruin him: let him be the death of her.
Cleone
You think that eyes forever filled with tears
Could be the source of all your anxious fears,
That a heart overwhelmed with horror,
Covets the sighs of her persecutor?
See, does her sadness take comfort there?
Why then this sorrow that her soul must bear?
Why such coldness to a love who pleases?
Hermione
To my distress, I listened to his speeches.
I never looked for secrecy in silence:
I thought no danger lay in openness,
And, without gazing harshly at him,
I revealed my heart in speaking to him.
Who would not, as I, declare allegiance
To Love, with so devout a countenance?
Did he view me with the gaze he shows today?
Remember too, how all things went his way.
My family avenged, Greece filled with joy,
Our vessels laden with the spoils of Troy,
His father’s exploits shadowed by his own,
His love that seemed more ardent in its tone
Than mine: blinded my Heart by fame that day,
Before he betrayed me, all you did betray.
Enough, Cleone, whatever Pyrrhus proves,
Hermione feels: Orestes has his virtues.
He loved at least, while I remained unmoved;
Perhaps he knows how to be beloved.
Well, let him see me.
Cleone
Madame, here he is.
Hermione
Ah! I’d not thought he was as near as this.

Act II Scene II (Hermione, Orestes, Cleone)

Hermione
Should I believe, my lord, that tenderness
Sends you here to seek a sad princess?
Must one not attribute to simple duty
This happy zeal that brings you to me?
Orestes
Such is my love’s fatal blindness, truly.
You know, Madame, Orestes’ destiny
Is forever to adore your loveliness,
Yet swear not to return, or be your guest.
I know your gaze once more will injure me,
My path toward you is so much perjury:
I know: I blush. Yet call on the Gods as well,
To witness the pain of that last farewell,
How I went everywhere where death does reign,
To annul my oaths, put an end to pain.
I sought my death among the fierce and cruel,
Who appease their Gods with mortal fuel:
They closed their temples to me; barbarous,
Of my free blood they seemed avaricious.
At last I come to you, and am reduced
To seeking, in your eyes, death that eludes.
Despair attends on their indifference:
They’ve only, to deny me hope at once,
To advance the final ending of my days,
To say again what they have said always.
You have been all that drove me, all the year.
It is for you to slay your victim here,
Whom they’d have slain, that Scythian crew,
If I’d found them to be as cruel as you.
Hermione
Cease, my lord, cease this morbid language.
With more pressing matters now engage.
Why talk of mine and Scythian cruelties?
Think of the many kings you must appease.
Must vengeance depend on your desires?
Is it Orestes’ blood that fuels their fires?
Discharge yourself of the trust you bear.
Orestes
Pyrrhus, by refusing, discharged it: there,
He dismisses me; some other nation
Obliges him to nurture Hector’s son.
Hermione
The traitor!
Orestes
So, all urging my departure,
I come to speak with you of my own future.
Though your reply is anticipated,
That which silently declares your hatred.
Hermione
Ah! Forever unjust in your sad speech,
Must you always assert my enmity?
Where’s the harshness that you thus proclaim?
I came to Epirus, pawn in a game
Played by my father. But who knows whether
I am not your sorrows’ secret sharer?
You think you alone knew hopes and fears?
That Epirus saw no traces of my tears?
Who says that I have not sighed to see
Your face, sometimes, in spite of duty?
Orestes
Sighed to see me! Ah, Divine Princess…
Yet, is it me whom your words address?
Open your eyes: Orestes is before you,
Orestes, still object of your hatred too.
Hermione
Yes, it is you, whose love, born from their light
First taught me of my eyes’ armed power outright;
You whose countless virtues claimed respect;
You whom I pitied, feeling love’s effect.
Orestes
I understand. Such is my wretched share,
Pyrrhus your heart, Orestes has your care.
Hermione
Ah! Do not yearn for Pyrrhus’ destiny;
Then you’d know hate.
Orestes
And yet, still, you’d love me.
Ah, you’d see me as an enemy sees!
You’d love me, even though I cannot please;
And love alone, then, making you obey,
You’d love me, though longing thus to hate:
You Gods! Such deep respect, a love so tender…
Reasons to love me, if you’d listen further!
You alone fight for Pyrrhus in this way.
Despite yourself: despite him too I say.
For he hates you now; his soul is smitten
No longer…
Hermione
Who says, my lord, that he scorns me?
Have you seen his look, or heard his speech?
Is scorn what men feel when gazing at me,
Do I light a flame that’s quenched so swiftly?
Perhaps fresh eyes view me more favourably?
Orestes
Go on: that’s fine, insult me thus, and more.
Cruel woman, is it I who show you scorn?
Have your eyes not proved my loyalty?
Am I not witness to their potency?
I scorn them? Oh, they’d far rather see
My rival scorning their power, like me!
Hermione
What matter his hatred or his tenderness?
Go, rouse Greece against rebelliousness:
Bring on the reward for such rebellion;
Let them make Epirus a second Ilium,
Go. Do you think that this is love itself?
Orestes
Madame, do more, return with me yourself.
Would you remain a hostage in these parts?
Come let your eyes speak to all men’s hearts.
Join with our hatred in combined attack.
Hermione
And yet, my lord, if he marries Andromache?
Orestes
Oh, Madame!
Hermione
Think of the shame, if that man
Were to wed himself to the Phrygian!
Orestes
And you, then, hate him? Madame, confess
Love’s not a flame close hidden in the breast:
Speech, silence, eye, each one is our betrayer,
Flames badly smothered only flare the higher.
Hermione
I see, my lord, your soul with prejudice
Poisons the words that tremble on my lips,
Seeks some fresh subtlety in what I say,
Thinking love lies there hidden by my hate.
I must be clear then, so you will take action.
You know duty brought me to this nation;
Duty holds me here: I cannot leave
Till Pyrrhus, or my father, so decree.
Let Pyrrhus know, no enemy of Greece
Can be my father’s son-in-law, at least:
The Trojan boy or I, make him choose
Whom he wants to keep, and whom to lose;
Let him spurn me, or hand the child to you.
If he consents, then I shall follow suit.

Act II Scene III (Orestes)

Orestes
Yes, you’ll follow me, no doubt of it:
I can hear him now consent to it.
There is no fear Pyrrhus wants this woman:
He only has eyes for his dear Trojan,
All others wound him now; and further
He only awaits a pretext to remove her.
We need but speak; it’s done. Those eyes!
To steal from Epirus so fine a prize!
Keep what remains of Hector and of Troy,
Protect the rest, the widow and the boy,
Epirus: it’s enough, Hermione,
Forget its coast and king, return with me.
Some happy fate led him to this shore.
We’ll speak. Now, Love, seal his eyes once more.

Act II Scene IV (Pyrrhus, Orestes, Phoenix)

Pyrrhus
I sought you, my lord. I was too violent
In countering your powerful argument,
I confess it so; since we discussed it,
I’ve felt its force and seen its justice.
I think, as you, I’d merely prove disloyal
To Greece, my father, all things royal,
In seeking to raise Troy, render undone
All that Achilles and myself had won.
I’ll no longer oppose a rightful anger,
The child must remain here no longer.
Orestes
My lord, this decision, strict and prudent,
Buys peace with the blood of a malcontent.
Pyrrhus
True, but I wish to make it more certain:
Hermione is the pledge of peace again.
I’ll wed her. And that spectacle, so sweet
Awaits but your witness to prove complete.
You represent all Greece and her father,
Since in you Menelaus finds his brother.
See her: tomorrow, let her understand,
I’ll accept peace, her heart from your hand.
Orestes
Oh, You Gods!

Act II Scene V (Pyrrhus, Phoenix)

Pyrrhus
Well, Phoenix, is Love still the master?
Do your eyes still doubt my very power?
Phoenix
Oh! I know you; and this righteous anger
Returns you to that Pyrrhus of before.
No more the flicker of a servile flame:
Pyrrhus, Achilles’ son and heir again,
Honour in the end shall see you climb
To triumph over Troy a second time.
Pyrrhus
Say rather, from today begins my glory.
Only this day do I taste victory;
And my heart, proud as once submissive,
Has slain, in Love, a thousand enemies.
Think, Phoenix, of the troubles I’ve escaped;
What crowd of ills follow in Love’s wake;
The friends, the duties I might sacrifice; then
The perils…One glance and all’s forgotten.
All the Greeks rising to fight one rebel,
I seeking, for her cause, to slay myself.
Phoenix
Yes, Sire, I bless the fine severity
That brings you…
Pyrrhus
You saw how she treated me.
I thought, knowing her anxious tenderness,
Her child would bring her to me nonetheless.
I saw the outcome though of their embraces:
I had her tears and her angry faces:
Grief soured her; and ever more discreet,
Hector’s name was all she would repeat.
In vain I offered to defend her son:
‘Hector is there,’ she cried embracing him;
‘There: his eyes; his mouth, his bravery;
It’s he; it’s you, dear husband that I see.’
What are her thoughts? That I’m so moved,
That I’ll protect her son to win her love?
Phoenix
Doubtless, ingratitude rewards you thus.
Forget her, Sire.
Pyrrhus
Oh, the pride she shows us,
Knowing her beauty; despite my anger,
And pride awaits me if I kneel before her.
With tranquil eye I’ll see her at my knees.
She’s Hector’s widow, I son of Achilles:
Great hatred splits Andromache from Pyrrhus.
Phoenix
Begin then Sire, by ceasing to talk thus.
Go to Hermione: content to please her,
At her feet relinquish all your anger.
Go and prepare her for her wedding.
Must it be left to a rival’s doing?
He loves her deeply.
Pyrrhus
Think you, if I wed,
Andromache will be jealous of her bed?
Phoenix
Andromache, forever in your mind!
What matter if it’s joy or pain she find?
What spell, despite yourself, is in play?
Pyrrhus
No, I’ve not said to her all I must say:
She’s only seen a fraction of my anger;
Not the extent of my wrath towards her.
Let us return. I’ll see my feelings sated,
And grant there a free rein to my hatred.
Come, Phoenix, her humiliation see.
Come.
Phoenix
Go, Sire, go, kneel there at her feet.
Go, and swear how your soul adores her,
Encourage her to bitter scorn once more.
Pyrrhus
I know you think that ready to forgive her
My heart seeks whatever peace she’ll offer.
Phoenix
You love: it is enough.
Pyrrhus
Love that ingrate?
When the more I love the more she’ll hate?
Her friends, her relatives, their only good,
I can destroy her son; perhaps I should.
A stranger…slave, in Epirus, she’s become,
One who has my heart, a throne, her son;
Yet in her traitorous heart I only win
The role of one she persecutes on whim.
No, I forswear her, vengeance shall be mine:
I’ll justify her hatred one last time.
I’ll yield Greece her son. What tears will flow!
What pleas she’ll make to me in her sorrow!
What drama we’ll prepare for her this day!
She’ll die of it, I’ll be the cause, I say.
I’ll be the dagger thrust into her breast.
Phoenix
Then why show your intent to all the rest?
Why must you still indulge your weakness?
Pyrrhus
I hear. Forgive me this last tenderness.
Do you fear my wrath will fail the fight?
A dying love but shows its last poor light.
Come, Phoenix, with your counsel I agree.
Shall I yield the boy, go see Hermione?
Phoenix
Yes, see her Sire, and with your vows submit,
Protest to her…
Pyrrhus
We’ll do what we have promised.