Morality and heroism in Phedre and La Princesse de Cleves
Olesen, Isabelle I.
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Both Phèdre and La Princesse de Clèves deal with the theme of immoral passion. This study will consider passion as it is experienced by the heroines. It will also examine how the heroines express their passion and make it known to the outside worlds. Finally, it will try to define heroism by the standards of morality. Their passion being immoral, Phèdre and Mme de Clèves are not able to live it out in the real world. They will therefore create dreams in which reality is transformed according to their wishes. However the presence of their husbands does not allow for the illusion to continue and reality must return. At first, both heroines remain silent about their passion. When they start to put it into words, they discover that speech is dangerous because it can be manipulated and ambiguous. They will both return to silence at the end of their lives. Although Phèdre seems to be more immoral than Mme de Clèves, they both end their lives heroically as they refuse to give in to a destructive passion. Mme de Clèves especially shows that heroism means the knowledge and recognition of one’s individuality. She remains an "inimitable example."