Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Epirus (ih-PAR-rahs). Region along the northwestern Greece coast and what is now southern Albania. In ancient times Epirus was a Greek kingdom whose most famous ruler was Pyrrhus.

Pyrrhus’s palace

Pyrrhus’s palace. In the preface to Andromache, Racine quotes a passage from Vergil’s Aeneid that identifies the place, action, and major characters in his own tragedy. After the defeat of the Trojans, Hector’s widow Andromache becomes Pyrrhus’s prisoner, but other Greek leaders grow concerned by his behavior. His rejection of his fiancé, Hermione, and announced intention to wed Andromache convince them that he is unreliable. In Racine’s tragedy, Pyrrhus’s palace becomes the center of gross violations of basic human rights in which he tells Andromache that he will execute her son if she does not marry him. Pyrrhus’s palace also contains separate cells for Andromache and Astyanax and execution chambers. Pyrrhus seems to conform to no accepted codes of conduct, and this makes his palace an unreasonably dangerous place not only to his prisoners but also to his subjects and to other Greek city states as well. His irrational and violent behavior makes it clear to everyone but himself that he will be killed, either by his own subjects or by other Greek leaders, so that chaos can be ended and moral order restored to Epirus.

Andromache Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Cloonan, William J. Racine’s Theatre: The Politics of Love. University, Miss.: Romance Monographs, 1977. Examines the profound unhappiness of the four principal characters in Andromache. Explores the destructive nature of Pyrrhus’ egotistical desire to dominate Andromache and the violence and irrational behavior of Orestes and Hermione.

France, Peter. Racine’s Rhetoric. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1965. An insightful analysis which examines Racine’s skill in using classical rhetorical devices in order to create many effective psychological tragedies. Discusses the portrayal of passion and solitude in Andromache.

Lapp, John C. Aspects of Racinian Tragedy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1955. Explores Racine’s artistry in using the conventions of French classical theater in order to compose psychologically powerful and aesthetically pleasing tragedies. Examines the heavy weight of the past on Andromache, whose suffering continues long after the end of the Trojan War.

Mourgues, Odette de. Racine or the Triumph of Relevance. London: Cambridge University Press, 1967. Examines Racine’s creative imitation of classical writers and his tragic vision of the world. Applies Aristotle’s theory of catharsis or purgation to Racine’s tragedies.

Turnell, Martin. Jean Racine: Dramatist. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1972. Contains a very good introduction to Racine’s eleven tragedies and also includes a lengthy bibliography of major critical studies on Racine. The chapter on Andromache examines representations of love and violence and the psychological complexity of its four principal characters.