A brief analysis of the play by Racine

This document was originally published in The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on Civilization, vol. 7. ed. Alfred Bates. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1906. pp. 234-236.

Racine's Mithridate, brought out at the Bourgogne, was an evident attempt to wrest dramatic supremacy from the venerable Corneille. Mithridate, with his strength of mind and unfaltering courage, his pride and resolution, his hatred and dissimulation, was one of the figures to which only the Corneille of thirty years before seemed capable of doing justice on the stage. But the comparison did not prove so direct as Racine originally intended. The tastes of the play-going public, to say nothing of creating for Champmêlé a character of tender and commanding interest, required him to throw an atmosphere of love and jealousy over the play. Accordingly, he represents Mithridate as consumed by a passion for Monime, the captive princess, and as having rivals in the persons of his sons Xipharès and Pharnace. Monime is an example of womanhood in its purest and most gracious aspect; and, if tradition may be trusted, nothing could have been more expressive and beautiful than Champmêlé's rendition of the part. The political interest of the tragedy was not very strong, but the scene where Mithridate enlarges upon his project of bringing Rome to his feet has a grandeur which Corneille only had surpassed, and which excused the partisans of the younger dramatist for believing that he had vanquished Corneille at his best.



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