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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Soupirs pour un ingrat : les notions de l’amour, du pouvoir et de la souveraineté dans Phèdre et Hippolyte et Bérénice Pouliot, Rebecca


The purpose of this study was to investigate the notions of love, power, and sovereignty in Jean Racine’s Phèdre et Hipolyte and Bérénice. I used Erich Auerbach’s theory on passion to examine the notion of passionate love in the Grand Siècle and Louis Marin’s theory on the representation of power during the reign of Louis XIV. These theories provided a historical context for Racine’s work as well as clarified the use of these notions in the texts. Finally, Roland Barthe’s theory on the relationship between love and power in Racinian tragedy was used to analyze the sovereigns’ dialogue. I based my research with the following questions: Why does it seem that love and sovereignty cannot co-exist? Are politics and love incompatible in Racinian tragedy? I explain why politics and love painfully coexist in these tragedies through the analysis of Phèdre’s three avowals of her forbidden love for Hippolyte and three of Bérénice’s declarations of love for Thésée. These analyses served as examples of the power and love relationships between the heroines and the men they love as well as the specific limitations sovereignty poses on love relationships. I discovered that passion is akin to suffering in Racinian tragedy and for this reason, a sovereign is emotionally and physically weaker when in love. Symptoms such as obsession, irrationality and madness jeopardize the sovereign’s ability to rule and force him or her to chose between either submitting themselves to the forbidden passion that is overcoming them or to remove themselves from temptation thereby favoring their duty to their nation over love. Racine’s feeble and suffering sovereigns in love differ greatly from the qualities of the classic tragic hero. He portrays sovereigns in a way that gives them a human rather than a godly quality as many of his contemporaries did.

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