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Week 8 Activities

Corneille: Rodogune, suite

Read to the end of the play.

Think about the following questions:

  • ‘Cleopatra’s role […] is to demonstrate the dangers of power-hungry women and what can happen when “the mother” becomes the dominant organizing principle’ (TAIT). How far do you agree with this assessment of Cléopâtre’s function within Corneille’s Rodogune?
  • ‘Though absent, the character of Nicanor casts a long shadow over Corneille’s Rodogune, influencing the behaviour of all its central characters.’ Discuss this assertion in the light of your reading of the play.
  • To what extent is self-sacrifice shown to be essential to a healthy political and family life in Corneille’s Rodogune?

Racine: Athalie

Read up to act 3 of the play.

Listen to the lecture podcast and follow the powerpoint slides (click here to access these)

Read the extract by Jonathan Dewald (Aristocratic Experience and the Origins of Modern Culture (University of California Press, 1993)). Click to connect to the electronic version here. You should read pp. 69 - 79.

Close analysis of the play

Read carefully and comment upon the following passages (each group will focus on one passage in particular, but you should all read them through):

1. The destiny of Joas: Joad and Josabet in conflict? I, 2, lines 173 - 296.

2. Athalie's dream: II, 5, lines 464 - 555.

3. Athalie meets Joas: II, 7, lines 620 - 737.

As you read, think particularly about the following key themes:

  • Parenthood
  • Childhood
  • The importance of the figure of the mother
  • The locus of power in the play: who is in control?

For wider discussion

Think about the Dewald extract on aristocratic culture and its relevance for the study of this play. What does Dewald have to say about the significance of family and heredity in this period? The following prompts may help you to organise your thoughts:

  • Tension between self and family duty
  • Desire for resemblance / continuity between generations
  • Rank and competition within the family
  • The family and violence
  • The family and guilt

How significant, in your view, are Dewald's ideas about class to our study of the family, in this and the other texts we have covered so far?