French Tragedies Fall in Love

(I know I just embedded a YouTube video of something Persian. So what?)

You know you’ve always wondered why people were said to fall in love and not fall into love. Even if you haven’t – yes, that probably means everyone but me – think about that. Love is the medium in which you fall.

Apparently, we should blame French tragedian Jean Racine, in whose plays love is always the cause of a fall. Unlike Corneille’s tragic plots, Racine’s often have unrequited love chains where mutual love just doesn’t happen:

The storyline of Phèdre is a beautifully simple love chain: Theseus loves his wife Phedra, who loves his son Hippolytus, who loves his enemy Aricia, who loves Hippolytus back but can’t legitimately have him. No one is happy; no love has divine blessing; even love’s young dream is cursed (Phedra, [London: Nick Hern Books, 2005], xxi).

The suffrance of consuming love kills man in his wretched condition, for indeed love in these plays is a thing you suffer. In Racine’s writing, only tomber amoureux (‘to fall in love’), not monter amoureux (‘to ascend in love’), is possible.

Perhaps we should look to Dante for a more comic outcome of love. At least for the Chinese, the expression is 愛上.


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