Character Comparison Essay: Princesse de Clèves and Phèdre.


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Character Comparison of Princesse de Clèves and Phèdre

Character Comparison Essay: Introduction

The original copy of La Princesse de Clèves was published in the 17th century anonymously. It is accepted to be a work Madame de La Fayette and the start of the modern psychological novel. She built the story in the 16th century, between October 1558 and November 1559, at the royal court of Henry II of France. The main character, Princess of Cleves, is a young lady who was raised in a strictly modest manner. Loyalty and respect are both the core values and the source of the problems she has to struggle with along the story. Phèdre is a work of French artist Jean Racine and is written in accordance with the French syllabic poetic meter, the French alexandrine. The tragedy has been performed since the 17th century in Paris. Phaedra, the wife of Theseus, is a woman who has strong feelings towards her stepson, Hippolytus. However, the only problem that Phaedra has to face is not the forbidden love that she tries to suppress. The ties of affection that she has for her stepson, son of Theseus, is also an ethical dilemma that she has to struggle with. In this paper, a specific critique of two characters from these art pieces will be made. The subject of the critique is the compare and contrast analysis of two characters, Princess de Cléves and Phaedra.

Character Analysis

Princess of Cleves, who is a young lady with legendary beauty, was raised in an overprotected environment conservatively. She was not even let into society until the age of sixteen. She, as a treasure, was brought to the court of the king by her mother with the hope of finding a husband from the bourgeois. Due to the unexpected actions behind their back, wealthy men from higher social class withdrew, and she was convinced by her mother to get married to the Prince of Cleves, a mid-class man with humble wealth. Prince of Cleves is truly in love with his wife. However, for the Princess, it is more of a mergence of logic and respect. Princess of Cleves, shortly after her wedding, fell in love with the prince of Nemours. Being taught the role of a woman in the 16th century, the modest yet passionate Princess had great respect for the prestige of her husband, the Prince of Cleves. Therefore, she keeps her feelings secret and confines her contact with the Prince of Nemours. Her husband passes away shortly after he found out that his wife was in love with another man, begging the Princess not to marry the Prince of Nemours. From this point on, the Princess remains faithful to her values and lets her loyalty to suppress her feelings. The Princess acted on her husband’s wish and entered a convent. In terms of emotions, she might not restrain herself, but she does so physically in line with what she had been told and the sense of the virtue of the era.

Phaedra, the wife of Theseus, is a woman who has feelings towards her stepson, son of Theseus. For the sake of ataraxia and respect for her husband, she keeps her feelings secret in an exact manner. However, after six months that her husband left Troezen, although the death of Theseus was not confirmed, Phaedra comes open to her stepson and reveals her feelings towards him. Intriguing Phaedra, later on, with the effect of her nurse, Oenone, frame up a lie. The truth comes to light at the end of the story. However, Phaedra cannot correct her mistakes and ends up dead drinking poison. Phaedra, a woman who writhes in forbidden love and suffered from the lies of her confidant, dies without being able to keep her dignity and betraying her husband. Phaedra did not possess a solid personality and strong loyalty. As a result, these caused the intriguing story to advance.

Character Comparison Essay: Conclusion

The personality of the Princess of Cleves, in comparison with the personality of Phaedra, is much more suppressed yet stronger. The Princess lived in an environment where social relations and rituals are the utmost importance (Moore,1983). In contrast, Phaedra lived in an era that personal relations were more in front, and the secrecy of individuals was at a higher level (Roisman, 1999). As a result of differences in personalities and the traditions of the societies they lived in, these two women ended up in different positions, although they experienced similar situations. In conclusion, the end of a love triangle is up to two motivations, the level of passion and the level of loyalty to the respected one.


Moore, A. (1983). Temporal Structure and Reader Response in La Princesse de Clèves. The French Review, 56(4), 563-571. Retrieved November 15, 2020, from

Roisman, H. (1999). The Veiled Hippolytus and Phaedra. Hermes, 127(4), 397-409. Retrieved November 15, 2020, from

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Zendaya Kane
Zendaya Kane
Content Lead at Tamara Research. Major in Advertising, loves working.

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