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The denouement of Andromaque (V,v), as is the case in most tragedies, brings with it a return to order, but the impression of order lies off stage with Andromaque's ascension to the throne rather than on stage with Oreste and Pylade. On stage, disorder reigns, and this disorder is a result of several factors: the pressing necessity of a quick departure, Oreste's madness, and, significantly, the ironic instability of language in this scene. This instability takes the form of statements whose meaning later changes in the light of some subsequent action or information. Such shifts in meaning are not uncommon in Racine's theater; for example, in the first scene of the play, Oreste optimistically states: "Ma fortune va prendre une face nouvelle;" (1. 2). Later events indeed bear out a change in Oreste's fortune, but it is a considerably different change than Oreste had anticipated. In the last scene of a tragedy, however, meanings normally stabilize as part of the return to order, and consequently frequent shifts of this sort are unexpected and merit close examination.


Jean Macary


Biblio 17



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Actes de Fordham