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.