Places: Bérénice

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1671

First produced: 1670

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Tragedy

Time of work: 79 c.e.

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedTitus’s palace

Titus’s Bérénicepalace. Residence of Roman emperor Titus in Rome. Although such a place existed, the play’s action takes place entirely within a fictional chamber between the apartments of Titus and those of Bérénice, the queen of Palestine. The halls of the palace are described as furnished with splendor and so, therefore, is this chamber. It is stately and withdrawn from the rest of the palace so that Titus and Bérénice can meet privately. It has three doors, one to Titus’s apartments, another to Bérénice’s, and a third for the entrance and exit of other characters. There is at least one chair or couch here, and it is decorated with festoons in which the names of Titus and Bérénice are intertwined.


*Palestine. Eastern Mediterranean country, between Syria in the North and Arabia in the south–both of which Titus adds to Palestine’s territory as compensation for casting Bérénice aside. Palestine is subject to Roman rule. Bérénice is its queen and Agrippa, her brother, is king. Judea is the southern part of Palestine. Titus and Antiochus fought together to subdue a triple-walled city. This is probably Jerusalem.


*Commagene (kahm-ah-JEE-nee). Small province on the west bank of the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria that was annexed by Rome. It is bounded by Cilicia to the west, and this territory is given to Antiochus, king of Commagene, to add to his governance.

BibliographyAbraham, Claude. Jean Racine. Boston: Twayne, 1977. An excellent general introduction to Racine’s plays as well as an annotated bibliography of important critical studies. Examines the psychological depth of Bérénice and develops the not totally convincing argument that Bérénice is a “self-centered” and “arrogant” character.Barthes, Roland. On Racine. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill & Wang, 1964. Examines the importance of love, violence, and heroism in Racine’s tragedies. Argues persuasively that Bérénice is consumed with her love for Titus, whereas the emperor is unwilling to accept the dominance of passion in his life.Cloonan, William J. Racine’s Theatre: The Politics of Love. University, Miss.: Romance Monographs, 1977. Examines the political motivation for Titus’ decision not to marry Bérénice and suggests that the emperor no longer loves Bérénice as passionately as he once did. Argues that Bérénice is a much more sympathetic character than Titus.Knapp, Bettina L. Jean Racine: Mythos and Renewal in Modern Theater. University: University of Alabama Press, 1971. Contains a fascinating Jungian interpretation of Racine’s tragedies. Describes and extraordinary psychological complexity of Titus and Bérénice.Weinber, Bernard. The Art of Jean Racine. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963. Analyzes the evolution of Racine’s skill as a tragic playwright. The chapter on Bérénice explores the evocative power of Racine’s refined verse and his artistry in using a simple plot.
Categories: Places