Short summary - Iphigénie - Jean Racine

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Iphigénie
Jean Racine

The action takes place in Aulis, in the camp of Agamemnon. The yearning king awakens the faithful servant of Arkas. He is extremely surprised by the dejected look of his master: the descendant of the gods Agamemnon is lucky in everything - it is not for nothing that the fearless warrior Achilles, the most important of the Greek heroes, wants to marry his daughter. Iphigenia will soon arrive with her mother in Aulis, where the marriage ceremony is to be performed. The king is crying, and Arkas fearfully asks if any misfortune has happened to his children or his wife. Agamemnon exclaims in response that he will not allow the death of his daughter. alas, he made a terrible mistake, but is determined to correct it. When an unprecedented calm seized the Greek ships in the harbor, the brothers of Atrida turned to the priest Calchas, and he proclaimed the will of the gods: the Greeks must sacrifice a young virgin, in whose veins the blood of Helen flows - the way to Troy will be closed until Iphigenia ascends the altar of Diana ... Shaken, Agamemnon was ready to fight an insidious fate and abandon the campaign, but the cunning ulysses managed to convince him. Pride and vanity overpowered parental pity: the king agreed to a terrible sacrifice and, in order to lure Iphigenia with Clytemnestra to Aulis, resorted to deception - he wrote a letter on behalf of Achilles, who at that time went on a campaign against the enemies of his father. The hero has already returned, but it is not his anger that scares the king, but the fact that Iphigenia, in happy ignorance, flies towards her love - to her death. Only a devoted Arkas can prevent trouble: you need to intercept the women on the way and tell them that Achilles wants to postpone the wedding and that Erifila is to blame for the captive taken from Lesbos. No one should find out the true background, otherwise the Achaeans will rebel against the faint-hearted king, and Clytemnestra will never forgive the idea of giving up her daughter to the slaughter.

Achilles and Ulysses appear in Agamemnon's tent. The young hero, unaware of the trick with the letter, longs to go down the aisle with his beloved - in addition, he is impatient to punish the haughty Ilion. Agamemnon reminds him of the inevitable death under the walls of Troy, but Achilles does not want to listen to anything: the parks announced to mother Thetis that her son would either have a long life in obscurity, or an early death and eternal glory - he chooses the second lot. Ulysses listens with satisfaction to these passionate speeches: Agamemnon was in vain to fear that Achilles would prevent the sacrifice, without which the long-awaited campaign would not take place. Guessing the king's confusion, Ulysses reproaches him for apostasy: at one time it was Agamemnon who made Elena's suitors swear that they would become her loyal defenders - the Achaeans left their beloved wives and children at home only for the sake of Menelaus's outraged honor. The king angrily replies that it is easy to talk about the greatness of the soul when someone else's blood is being poured - it is unlikely that Ulysses would have shown such steadfastness in relation to his own son Telemac. Nevertheless, my word will be kept if Iphigenia arrives in Aulis. Perhaps the gods do not want her death: she could have been delayed on the way, or her mother ordered her to stay in Argos. The king stops in mid-sentence, seeing his servant Eurybatus, Thoth reports that the queen has arrived, although the wedding train lost its way and wandered for a long time in the dark forest. With Clytemnestra and Iphigenia, the young captive Erifil is traveling, who wants to question the priest of Kalkhas about her fate. The Greek army rejoices, welcoming the family of the beloved king. Agamemnon is horrified - now the daughter is doomed. Ulysses, guessing about the trick of the king, tries to console him: this is the will of the gods, and mortals cannot grumble at them. But a brilliant victory awaits ahead: Elena will be returned to Menelaus, and Troy will be defeated in the dust - and all this thanks to the courage of Agamemnon!

Captive Erifil reveals her soul to her confidante Doreena. Fate haunts her from infancy: she does not know her parents, and it was predicted that the secret of birth would be revealed to her only at the hour of death. But the most difficult test awaits her ahead - this is the wedding of Iphigenia and Achilles. Erifila confesses to the amazed Doreen that she fell in love with a hero who took away her freedom and maiden honor - this bloody villain conquered her heart, and only for his sake she went to Aulis. Seeing Agamemnon with her daughter, Erifila steps aside. Iphigenia flies to her father, trying to understand the reason for his apparent embarrassment and coldness. The king is in a hurry to leave, and Iphigenia shares her worries with Erifila: the father is sad, and the groom does not appear in his eyes - perhaps he now only thinks about the war. Enraged Clytemnestra enters, letter in hand. Achilles' intentions have changed: he proposes to postpone the wedding - such behavior is unworthy of a hero. The royal daughter should not expect mercy from him, so both of them must immediately leave the camp. Erifila cannot hide her joy, and Iphigenia suddenly guesses why the captive was so eager for Aulis - the reason for this was not Calchas at all, but love for Achilles. Now everything became clear - both the dejected look of the father, and the absence of the groom. At this moment, Achilles himself appears, and Iphigenia proudly announces his immediate departure. The amazed Achilles turns to Erifil for clarification: he was in such a hurry to see the bride, although Agamemnon insisted that his daughter would not come - why does Iphigenia avoid him and what does Ulysses' vague speeches mean? If someone decided to play a trick on him, he will repay the offender in full. Erifila is struck in the very heart: Achilles loves Iphigenia! But all is not yet lost: the tsar is clearly afraid for his daughter, the princess is being deceived in something, they are hiding something from Achilles - it may still be possible to enjoy revenge.

Clytemnestra pours out her grievances to Agamemnon: she and her daughter were already ready to leave, but then the alarmed Achilles appeared and begged them to stay - he vowed to take revenge on the despicable slanderers who accused him of betraying Iphigenia. Agamemnon readily admits that in vain he trusted a false rumor. He will personally take his daughter to the altar, but the queen should not appear in the camp, where everything breathes with a foreboding of bloodshed. Clytemnestra is stunned - only a mother befits to hand her daughter into the hands of the groom. Agamemnon is unshakable: if the queen does not want to listen to the request, let him obey the order. As soon as the king leaves, happy Achilles and Iphigenia appear. The princess asks the groom to grant freedom to Erifila at this joyful hour for both of them, and Achilles readily promises.

The faithful Arkas is instructed to take Iphigenia to the altar. The servant gave a vow to be silent, but could not stand it and informs about what fate awaits the princess. Clytemnestra falls at the feet of Achilles, begging to save her daughter. The hero, shocked by the humiliation of the queen, vows to defeat anyone who dares to raise his hand against Iphigenia - the king will have to answer for his deception. Iphigenia begs the groom to humble her anger: she will never condemn her beloved father and submit to his will in everything - of course, he would have saved her if it were in his power. Achilles cannot hide the grievance: is it possible that the father, who condemns her to death, is dearer to her than the one who came to her defense? Iphigenia meekly objects that her beloved is dearer than life: she fearlessly met the news of imminent death, but almost fainted when she heard a false rumor about his betrayal. Probably, with her immeasurable love for him, she angered the heavens. Erifila, left alone with Dorina, seethes with rage. How fearful for Iphigenia was the fearless Achilles! She will never forgive her rival, and here all means are good: Agamemnon, apparently, has not lost hope of saving his daughter and wants to disobey the gods - the Greeks must be notified of this blasphemous plan. Thus, she will not only avenge her outraged love, but also save Troy - Achilles will never again stand under the banner of the king. Clytemnestra sarcastically greets her husband - now she knows what fate he has in store for her daughter. Agamemnon realizes that Arkas did not keep his word. Iphigenia tenderly consoles her father: she will not shame her kind and without fear will put her breast under the sacrificial blade - she is afraid only for her beloved, for her mother and for the groom, who do not want to put up with such a sacrifice. Clytemnestra announces that she will not give up her daughter and will fight for her, like a lioness for her child. If Menelaus wants to hug his unfaithful wife, let him pay with his own blood: he also has a daughter - Hermione. Mother takes Iphigenia away, and Achilles bursts into the royal tent. He demands an explanation: a strange, shameful rumor reached his ears - as if Agamemnon had decided to kill his own daughter. The king arrogantly replies that he does not owe Achilles a report and is free to dispose of the fate of his daughter. For this sacrifice, Achilles can blame himself - was not he most eager to reach the walls of Troy? The young hero in a rage exclaims that he does not want to hear about Troy, who did him no harm - he made a vow of loyalty to Iphigenia, and not at all to Menelaus! The irritated Agamemnon is already ready to condemn his daughter to the slaughter - otherwise people may think that he was afraid of Achilles. However, pity prevails over vanity: the king orders his wife and daughter to leave Aulis in the strictest confidence. Erifila hesitates for a moment, but jealousy turns out to be stronger, and the captive decides to tell Calchas everything.

Iphigenia is back in the Greek camp. All escape routes are closed. Her father forbade her even to think about her fiancé, but she dreams of seeing him for the last time. Achilles appears full of determination: he orders the bride to follow him - from now on she must obey her husband, not her father. Iphigenia refuses: death fears her less than dishonor. She vows to hit herself with her own hand - the royal daughter will not obediently wait for the blow. Maddened with grief, Clytemnestra curses Erifila who betrayed them - the night itself did not vomit a more terrible monster! Iphigenia is taken away, and soon Clytemnestra hears thunderclaps - it is Calchas shedding the blood of the gods on the altar! Arkas comes running with the news that Achilles broke through to the altar with his people and set up a guard around Iphigenia - now the priest cannot approach her. Agamemnon, unable to look at the death of his daughter, covered his face with a cloak. At any second, a fratricidal massacre could begin.

Uliss enters, and Clytemnestra screams in horror - Iphigenia is dead! Ulysses replies that blood was spilled on the altar, but her daughter is alive. When the entire Greek army was already ready to rush to Achilles, the priest Calchas suddenly proclaimed a new sign: this time the gods accurately indicated the sacrifice - that Iphigenia, who was born by Helena from Theseus. Persecuted by her terrible fate, the girl arrived in Aulis under a false name - as a slave and captive of Achilles. Then the soldiers lowered their swords: although many were sorry for Princess Erifil, everyone agreed with the verdict. But Calchas failed to hit Elena's daughter: throwing a contemptuous look at him, she herself pierced her chest with a sword. At the same moment, the immortal Diana appeared on the altar - a clear sign that the prayers of the Achaeans reached heaven. After hearing this story, Clytemnestra expresses her warm thanks to Achilles.