Using evidence from the play, discuss how Racine’s Phèdre reinforces the stereotype of womn as a destructive force in nature, known as a femme fatale.

Racine's Phèdre reinforces the stereotype of women as a destructive force in nature by depicting the protagonist as a violent, lustful, jealous woman who destroys the lives of both Oenone and Hippolytus. Since Oenone drowns and Hippolytus is killed by a sea monster, Phèdre is specifically identified with the destructive power of the sea.

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Jean Racine's Phèdre adapts a myth which provided a subject for Greek drama into a play which presents much the same view of women as his sources did. Greek tragedy identifies women with the irrational and the illicit, and none more so than Phaedra, with her bizarre lineage (she was the half-sister of the Minotaur) and her own forbidden passion for her stepson, Hippolytus. This view of women was equally applicable in France during the Enlightenment.

Racine's Phèdre is a woman constantly on the brink of madness, whose lust for Hippolytus seems to be equaled by a desire for death and destruction. Her self-destructiveness is particularly evident at the end of act II when, having revealed her passion to an aghast Hippolytus, she immediately demands his sword so that she can kill herself before hearing his response, which she knowns will be a horrified rejection.

As a true femme fatale, Phèdre destroys those around her along with herself. She is allied with the forces of nature in doing so, since it is the sea (or, in the case of Hippolytus, a creature rising from the sea) that does her killing for her. At the end of the play she becomes calm again, like the sea after a storm, having wrecked the lives of Hippolytus and Oenone with her lust and her jealousy.

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