Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Rhadamistus (rah-dah-MIHS-tuhs), the king of Armenia, the son of Pharasmanes but reared by Mithridates as his own child. When Mithridates turns against him, Rhadamistus attacks his foster father’s kingdom, murders him, and, in a rage, throws his own bride Zenobia into a river, from which she is rescued without his knowledge. Later, as Roman envoy at the court of Pharasmanes, he learns that Zenobia is alive. He begs for and receives her forgiveness and is mortally wounded as he attempts to flee with her.


Zenobia (zee-NOH-bee-ah), also called Ismenia, Mithridates’ daughter and the wife of Rhadamistus. To protect her father from Rhadamistus, she marries him, only to be thrown by her husband into a river and left for dead. Rescued, she becomes a prisoner of Pharasmanes, who desires to marry her. She, in turn, is in love with Arsames, to whom Pharasmanes finally relinquishes her in his remorse over his killing of his son Rhadamistus.


Pharasmanes, Rhadamistus’ father. His jealousy and lust for power lead him into conflict with his son Rhadamistus, whom he kills. In remorse, he sacrifices his throne and the widowed Zenobia to Arsames.


Arsames, another of Pharasmanes’ sons, in love with Zenobia.


Mithridates (mihth-rih-DAY-tees), Zenobia’s father and Rhadamistus’ foster father.


Phenice, Zenobia’s confidante.


Hiero, Rhadamistus’ companion.


Hydaspes, Pharasmanes’ confidant.


Mithranes, the captain of Pharasmanes’ guard.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Badir, Magdy Gabriel, and David J. Langdon. Eighteenth-Century French Theatre: Aspects and Contexts. Calgary, Alberta: University of Alberta Press, 1986. Although this collection of essays does not deal directly with Rhadamisthus and Zenobia, the essays in this volume by Patrick Brady and David Trott describe the transformation of French tragedy after the death of Racine in 1699.

Jourdain, Eleanor F. Dramatic Theory and Practice in France: 1690-1808. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1968. Analyzes Crébillon’s use of sentimentality and violence to move his spectators. Includes an analysis of Crébillon career.

Lancaster, Henry C. Sunset: A History of Parisian Drama in the Last Years of Louis XIV: 1701-1715. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1945. Historical study of French theater during the last years of Louis XIV’s reign. Lancaster analyzes Crébillon’s skills as a tragic playwright in Rhadamistus and Zenobia and the psychological differences between the murderer Rhadamisthus and the dignified Zenobia.

Tilley, Arthur. The Decline of the Age of Louis XIV: 1687-1715. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1968. Describes the evolution of French theater during the last part of Louis XIV’s reign and explains clearly the historical importance of many neglected playwrights, including Crébillon.

Yarrow, P. J. The Seventeenth-Century: 1600-1715. In A Literary History of France. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1967. Contains a clear historical overview of neoclassical French theater and literature from 1600 to 1715.