Andromache/Act III

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

Act III Scene I (Orestes, Pylades)

My lord, you must control this fierce anger,
You’re actions seem like those of a stranger.
Let me…
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.
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?
Who knows? Of myself, am I the master?
Fury transported me, and I came hither,
Perhaps to threaten her and her lover.
And the fruits of it, now you’ve recovered?
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…
My lord, you accuse him though all is fate.
Yet, tormented by his inner fires,
I ought to pity his and your desires.
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.
You believed her.
What! That burning anger
Against the ingrate…
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…
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.
So here’s the outcome of your embassy:
Orestes, the abductor!
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.
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.
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…
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.
Go. Answer for her, I’ll answer for myself.

Act III Scene II (Hermione, Orestes, Cleone)

So! My efforts have ensured your conquest.
I have seen Pyrrhus: marriage wins the rest.
They say so: and moreover they assure me
That you only seek me to prepare me.
Your soul will not rebel then at his vows?
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.
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.
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.
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)

Did you expect so little show of anger?
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.
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.
Dissimulate. Your rival now, in tears,
Bringing her sorrows, doubtless, ventures here.
You Gods! Can I not smile in privacy?
We’ll go: why speak?

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

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.
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)

How scornfully the cruel girl denied us!
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, Phoenix, Cephisa)

Pyrrhus (To Phoenix)
No princess do I see.
You told me she was here, are these your lies?
I thought so.
Andromache(To Cephisa)
See now the power of my eyes.
What said she, Phoenix?
Alas! All forsake me.
Sire, let us go follow Hermione.
What are you waiting for? Break this silence.
He’s promised them my son.
That’s mere intent.
No, no, I must weep, his death’s decided.
Will she not see us, are we derided?
What pride!
And I’d only annoy him more.
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?
Phoenix will tell you, my word is given.
You’d who’d defy great dangers, all for me!
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.
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.
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.
Come, rejoin my dead lover.
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.
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)

I told you thus, and that in spite of Greece
You’d still be mistress of your destiny.
Alas, the results of speech in action!
Now I am left to slay my only son.
To your dead husband you prove too loyal:
Excess of virtue may be culpable.
He too would have wished you to be kinder.
What! Give him Pyrrhus as his successor?
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?
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.
Well, then! Let’s go and see them kill your son:
They only wait for you…Madame, you tremble?
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.
What must I say?
Tell him my love for my son is great…
Do you think he’s sworn to his fate?
Could love commit such barbarity?
Madame, he will soon return in fury.
Well! Go tell him…
What? Of your affection?
Must I then pretend to that emotion?
O my husband’s ashes! Trojans! Father!
O son, what your life will cost your mother!
Where Madame, what do you now intend?
At his tomb I’ll go consult my husband.