By Jean Racine
The serious occasion in Berenice, the loss of life of Titus's father, the Emperor Vespasian, occurs every week sooner than the play opens. Thereafter Titus is aware that his separation from Berenice is inevitable.
Thereafter Titus is familiar with that his separation from Berenice is inevitable. The breaking off of an outstanding love affair includes too the hopes of Antiochus, himself lengthy in love with Berenice. The play pushes all 3 of its principals to the threshold, no longer of revenge yet of self-murder, earlier than in her chic final speech Berenice redeems and directs all of them in an act of collective abnegation.
Many tears are shed, yet now not a drop of blood. The impact is unconventional, and profound: the pained reputation of the irreconcilable in human affairs, and the hand over, by way of all the major characters, of the individual they so much love.
Bajazet is Racine's so much violent drama; it ends, like Phdre, with a feminine character's on-stage suicide, the following the end result of a vividly defined series of off-stage murders. The atmosphere, in a claustrophobic house in the harem at Constantinople, menaced from either with out and inside, turns out to license a violence of emotion in addition to of deed.
Violent too are the repeated reversals of fortune, and the terrifying acceleration of the play in the direction of its inexorable catastrophe.
Alan Hollinghurst's translation of Berenice premiered on the Donmar Warehouse, London, in October 2012 and Bajazet, on the Almeida Theatre, London, in November 1990.
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Additional resources for Berenice and Bajazet
Aristotle’s conception of hamartia is distinctly limited. It doesn’t begin to address the intensity and complexity of guilt, the punitive judgements we endure in ourselves and pass on others. We suffer these judgements for things we did unwittingly, for things we should have done but didn’t, for things that somebody else did – our parents, children, colleagues, fellows, anyone from whom we fail to 48 dissociate ourselves, whether in our own eyes or others’. Such guilt is far more indiscriminately contagious than the notion of hamartia allows.
Then there’s Medea and the Macbeths. Aristotle speciﬁcally deplores the case of the former, who knows what she is doing when she kills her children, as Heracles and Agave do not. What would he have made of Macbeth, who knows in advance he has no good reason to kill his kinsman, king, and guest? We may need to extend the idea of ‘ignorance’ to cover the great range of states in which terrible acts are committed. This would include the Macbeths’ ignorance – and King Lear’s – of the consequences of their acts.
Aristotle makes the further recommendation that the character should make his or her fatal mistake in a state of ignorance. If Oedipus knew what he was doing at the time, we would be horriﬁed. Sophocles’ Deianeira does not know what she’s doing (in Women of Trachis), nor do Euripides’ Heracles and Agave, who are temporarily possessed, driven out of their wits. But what of Orestes? He knows exactly what he is doing but he’s not always sure that he’s 47 Who’s to blame? If we allow some latitude to the concept of error, the idea of making a mistake that has fatal consequences could be applied to Romeo’s intervention between Mercutio and Tybalt, King Lear’s division of the kingdom, and Macbeth’s killing of Duncan.