Bérénice Analysis
by Jean Racine

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Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Titus’s palace

Titus’s palace. Residence of Roman emperor Titus in Rome. Although such a place existed, the play’s action takes place entirely within a fictional chamber between the apartments of Titus and those of Bérénice, the queen of Palestine. The halls of the palace are described as furnished with splendor and so, therefore, is this chamber. It is stately and withdrawn from the rest of the palace so that Titus and Bérénice can meet privately. It has three doors, one to Titus’s apartments, another to Bérénice’s, and a third for the entrance and exit of other characters. There is at least one chair or couch here, and it is decorated with festoons in which the names of Titus and Bérénice are intertwined.


*Palestine. Eastern Mediterranean country, between Syria in the North and Arabia in the south—both of which Titus adds to Palestine’s territory as compensation for casting Bérénice aside. Palestine is subject to Roman rule. Bérénice is its queen and Agrippa, her brother, is king. Judea is the southern part of Palestine. Titus and Antiochus fought together to subdue a triple-walled city. This is probably Jerusalem.


*Commagene (kahm-ah-JEE-nee). Small province on the west bank of the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria that was annexed by Rome. It is bounded by Cilicia to the west, and this territory is given to Antiochus, king of Commagene, to add to his governance.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Abraham, Claude. Jean Racine. Boston: Twayne, 1977. An excellent general introduction to Racine’s plays as well as an annotated bibliography of important critical studies. Examines the psychological depth of Bérénice and develops the not totally convincing argument that Bérénice is a “self-centered” and “arrogant” character.

Barthes, Roland. On Racine . Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill & Wang, 1964. Examines the importance of love, violence, and heroism in Racine’s tragedies. Argues persuasively that...

(The entire section is 490 words.)