The French Revolution turned society upside down and, as many times before, literature and theater reflected the new society and way of life that came after the fall of the Bastille. The nineteenth century Romantic Movement looked to find ways to release poetry as well as theater from the binding rules of the previous centuries and Victor Hugo was at the forefront of this movement. His tragedy, Hernani, is very different from Racine’s Andromache written in the seventeenth century when the absolute authority of the king and the focus on duty were the guiding forces not only in society but in literature and theater as well. Differences between these two plays can be noticed through several ...view middle of the document...
In addition to the differences in the subject matter and lessons of the two plays, there is also a difference in religion (2). In Andromache, which shows the ideals and traditions of the ancient societies, it is the fates and destiny that rule people’s lives and affect their morality.
ORESTES. Since stubborn, long resistance is in vain,
I follow blindly my impelling fate.
I love, and come to win Hermione, (97-99)
However, in Hernani, the Christian ideals replace the classical ones; it is no longer the fates or gods that determine one’s actions or destiny. According to Christian believes, people are able to change their lives and redeem themselves by doing good deeds, which is what the character of Don Carlos does; at the beginning of the play, he is frivolous and uncaring as he tries to seduce Doña Sol then abducts her, but he changes after he has been crowned the Holy Roman Emperor and releases Doña Sol, allowing her to marry Hernani.
Another difference can be found in the staging of the two plays (3). In Racine’s play, action cannot happen on stage, fighting or death can only happen off-stage. Characters come in and out and talk about what happened, but they are not allowed to play it out on stage, which is why the role of the confidants is so important. They allow the main characters to reveal their feelings, try to guide them towards duty as well as comment on what is taking place off-stage. Such relationship exists between Orestes and Pylades and their opening conversation serves to set up the scene, reveal Orestes’s feelings, while also warning Orestes that he should follow his duty instead of his heart. In contrast, Hernani has stage directions, descriptions of the settings, as well as the costumes, which did not exist in Andromache. For this reason, the role of the confidants is not as important as before. Action is at the forefront of the play and death, perhaps the most powerful action of all happens right in front of the audience as Hernani and Doña Sol drink the poison and...