Document Type


Publication Date



The action of Racine's Iphigénie is only a prelude, a pretext, to a much greater future event. The Trojan War looms large before the entire dramatic universe, drawing the characters inexorably forward. The force of the future in this play has long been evident: Georges Poulet discussed it in relation to the weight of the past in Andromaque: "[o]uvrant ou fermant un récit, le moment de l'action perd donc presque entièrement sa valeur propre, sa qualité de seul moment 'présent.' . . . Sa 'réalité' n'est pas assez riche en soi pour triompher d'un passé ou d'un futur. Le moment racinien se trouve ainsi devenir l'esclave d'une durée antérieure ou postérieure" (153-54). That the past may influence the present is an easily acceptable notion. That the future may have the same effect on the present, however, is considerably less obvious, and leads to questions of vraisemblance and the conditions of knowledge, eventually opening the door to the supernatural. Iphigénie (1674) and Andromaque (1667) may represent the beginning and end points of the same story, but the basic differences between the future and the past have ramifications that result in the creation of two fundamentally different dramatic worlds.


American Association of Teachers of French

Publication Information

French Review