Horace house. Roman home of the play’s title character, Horace, and his father, Old Horace. Corneille’s tragedy nicely illustrates the disastrous effects of characters who strive to impose their will upon others. Both Horace and his father believe in male domination of women. Within their house, women’s opinions and feelings are ignored and they expect their wives, daughters, and daughters-in-law blindly to obey them. Their home has become an elegant prison in which the female inmates fear violent outbursts by domineering males. Domestic violence is a constant threat to them, especially during a crisis, such as the civil war in which this play is set.
As this tragedy begins, Sabine, who was born in Alba, expresses to her Roman friend Julie her displeasure that vain Roman and Alban leaders have undertaken an absurd war. Her sister-in-law Camille visits her and tells her of her desire to marry Curiace, who is Sabine’s brother. Far from being a pleasant discussion between two sisters-in-law, who care for each other, their conversation reveals their deep understanding of the fanaticism and violent tempers of the younger and older Horaces. The two women understand all too well that the two Horace men have created a tense atmosphere at home because they do not tolerate disagreements from the women in their families. The closed space in which these women live magnifies their justifiable fears. They know that the younger and older Horaces will treat them violently, but they do not know what will provoke these irrational men. The younger Horace kills his sister Camille because she dares to state the truth: that the war Rome has undertaken against a weaker ally is unjust. The murder takes place in his own home. This tragedy has a profound effect on theatergoers who come to recognize the disturbing links between the cruelty of civil war with the very real dangers of domestic violence and male efforts to dominate the women in their homes.