Absence and Presence in Andromaque Britannicus, and Bérénice

  • Robert McBride


The character who gives the title to the play does not herself make her first appearance until Act 1, Sc. 4, and appears for the last time in Act IV, Sc. 1. (In 1668 and 1673 she re-appeared in Act V, Sc. 3, but this variant was later dropped.) Between her first and last appearances she only appears in five consecutive scenes in Act III, Sc. 4 with Hermione, briefly with Céphise in Scene 5, in Scenes 6 and 7 with Pyrrhus, and again in Scene 8 with Céphise. The somewhat episodic nature of the role has not escaped attention, and has raised serious doubts as to whether or not one can claim that she is the principal character of the tragedy. In his book The Art of Jean Racine, Bernard Weinberg for example points to the evident disproportion between the roles of Oreste, Pyrrhus, Hermione and that of Andromaque, and considers this as one of the play’s main dramatic weaknesses: ‘At both the beginning and the end, then, other persons hold our attention; Andromaque, much as we feel with her while she is present on the stage, is reduced almost to the role of a secondary personage.’1 Lucien Goldmann has gone even farther than this, stating that ‘tout en étant le seul être humain de la pièce, Andromaque n’en est pas le personnage principal. Elle se trouve à la périphérie.’2


Roman History Roman People Opening Scene Imperial History Imperial Family 
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  1. 1.
    B. Weinberg, The Art of Jean Racine (Chicago, 1963), p. 106.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    L. Goldmann, Le dieu caché. Etude sur la vision tragique dans les Pensées de Pascal et dans le théâtre de Racine (Paris, 1955 ), p. 355.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Robert McBride 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert McBride
    • 1
  1. 1.The Queen’s University of BelfastUK

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