Recently I read and posted on an excellant book Mousier Proust's Library by Anka Muhlstein. From her I learned of the great importance of the drama Phedre by Jean Racine to Proust. She points out the many rerferences and echoes of Phedre in In Search of Lost Time. Twenty pages of Guermantes Way is devoted to the narrator's thoughts on seeing it preformed. It informs, my post read research indicates, Proust's views on sexual jealousy, something very important in Proust. In order to begin to appreciate the extreme depth of Proust, I knew I needed to read Phedre.
Jean Racine (1639 to 1699) was one of three great 17th century French playwrights, along with Moliere and Corneille. Phedre is based on a story from Greek Mythology. Racine developed themes from previous plays by Euripides and Seneca. In the long ago I read the Euripides play. Phedre is "high art" in the categories of Susan Sontag. Phedre is married to Thesus, King of Athens. She is in love with her step-son Hippolyte who is in turn in love with Arica. Arica is a princess of the royal Athenian house that Thesus drove from the throne so such a romance could be seen as treason. The plot also includes two ladies in waiting to Phedre, the tutor of Hippolyte, and a confidant of Arica. The plot action begins when Hippolyte pretends to start a journey to find Thesus, who has been gone for six months but really is going to join Arica. The plot action becomes very intense. Napolean, per a new biography of him
Even one reading I felt the power of this work and can see it echoing in the many tangled relationships in Proust. I would like to see it preformed. Naplolean, as documented in a new biography by Andrew Roberts, loved Phedre.
Once I read the section of Guermantes Way that deals with the narrator's thoughts on seeing an operatic performance of it, I hope to reread it.
Culturally this is a work of great importance.