Andromache By Jean Racine Summary and Analysis Act II: Scene 5

Summary

Phoenix is proud that Pyrrhus has put his duty before his love, but Pyrrhus' mind still runs on his last interview with Andromache, at which she could talk of nothing but her son and her dead Hector. No doubt she still thinks Pyrrhus will return to her, but he is marrying Hermione; then, perhaps, she will be jealous. But he has not yet told her half of what he has to say concerning his anger at her ingratitude. He offered her everything — her son, his heart, his throne — and still she says he persecutes her. Now she will know what real persecution is when he tells her he is surrendering her son. How she will weep! She will die of grief, and it will be his fault, as much as if he had personally stabbed her to the heart.

Phoenix accuses him of still loving her, but Pyrrhus declares it is only the last flicker of a dying passion. He will do as he has promised and go to offer his heart to Hermione.

Analysis

As he has done in Phaedra, here Racine tackles the difficult problem of presenting by dialogue alone the struggle between an insincere posture and the assertion of emotions buried in the subconscious. On the surface Pyrrhus has overcome his love for Andromache, and he celebrates it as an emancipation. But neither his self-congratulation nor his confidant's approval can prevent him from thinking about Andromache.

Whatever is said — his own meditations, Phoenix's comments — becomes a pretext to talk about Andromache, to wonder about her fidelity to her husband, to rail at her arrogance, and at last to recoil at the cruelty of his decision. In other words, Pyrrhus imperceptibly comes around full circle. Not sufficiently inconsistent to change his mind again, he then allows Phoenix to be the arbiter of his fate. His lukewarm agreement to marry Hermione warns us of his uncertainty.

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