“Britanic” Racine in summary

The action takes place in Ancient Rome in the palace of Emperor Nero. He ascended to the throne illegally, thanks to his mother Agrippina. The emperor was to become Britannik, the son of Agrippina’s second husband Claudius, but she managed to bribe the army and the senate and elevated her son to the throne. Nero, contrary to the influence of his highly moral mentors, the warrior Burr and the playwright Seneca, who is sent into exile, is already beginning to show his vile character and shows disrespect to the mother, who owes everything. He does not hide his enmity towards Britannica, seeing in him an opponent.

Agrippina anticipates that Nero will be a cruel tyrant, that he is a liar and two-faced. He kidnaps beloved Britannica Junia, from the clan of the emperor Augustus, and keeps it in his palace. Nero shuns his mother and does not listen to her advice on how to manage Rome. She would like to return the time when the young Nero was not yet intoxicated with his power, did

not know how to please Rome and shifted to the shoulders of the mother all the burden of power. Then the “invisible” Agrippina, hidden behind the curtain, could hear everything that the senators told the Caesar, invited to the palace, and she knew how to run the state, and she told her son what to do. Now Agrippina accuses Burr of having erected barriers between her and the Caesar in order to rule with him. Burr objected to it: he brought up the emperor, and not the humble servant, who will obey the mother in everything.

Britannic tells Agrippina that Junia was forced into the palace by night. Agrippina is ready to help Britannica. He doubts her sincerity, but his mentor Narcissus assures him that Nero has offended his mother and she will act with Britannicus at the same time. The main thing, he advises, is to be firm and not complain about fate, for in the palace they are honored by force, and they are indifferent to the complaints. Britannic in response complains that his father’s friends turned away from him and Nero knows every step he takes.

In their chambers, Nero and Burr and Narcissus

discuss the behavior of Agrippina. The emperor forgives much of his mother, who sets up Britannica against him. Nero admits to Narcissus that he is in love with Junia, and he reports that Caesar has a happy rival – Britannic. Nero wants to divorce his wife Octavia under the pretext that she does not have an heir to the throne. But he is afraid of a mother who will make a noise if the son rises to the “holiness of Hymen” and wants to break the bonds blessed by her. Narcissus promises to give Caesar everything he learns from Britannic.

Nero is going to upset the marriage of Junia and Britannica. Having met Junia in the palace, he admires her beauty. Junia says that to combine her marriage with Britannic is the will of Father Britannicus, the late Emperor Claudius, and Agrippina. Nero objects to her that Agrippina’s desire means nothing. He himself will choose the husband of Junia. She reminds Caesar that she can not marry with an unequal blood, because she is from the imperial family. Nero tells her that he himself will be her husband, for in the whole empire only he is worthy of such a treasure. Heaven rejected his union with Octavia, and Junia will rightfully take her place. Junia is stricken. Nero demands that Unia show coldness to Britannica, otherwise it will be punished. Nero will watch their meeting.

At a meeting with the Britannic, Junia begs him to be careful, because the walls have ears. Britannic does not understand why she is so fearful, it seems to him that Junia forgot him and was fascinated by Nero.

Overhearing their conversation, Nero is convinced that Britannic and Junia love each other. He decides to torment his opponent and orders Narcissus to stir up doubts and jealousy in Britain. Narcissus is ready to do anything for the emperor.

Burr advises Nero not to quarrel with his mother, who has influence in Rome, and in order not to irritate Agrippina, he must stop meeting with Junia and leave thoughts of divorce from Octavia. Nero does not want to listen to his mentor and declares that it is not the warrior’s business to judge love – let Burr advise him how to act in battle. Left alone, Bourrh reflects on how naughty Nero is, does not listen to any advice, wants everything to be done according to his will. Is it dangerous. Burr decides to consult with Agrippina.

Agrippina accuses Burr that he could not keep the young emperor in check, who removed his mother from the throne, and now he also wants to divorce Octavia. Agrippina is plotting with the help of troops and the Britannicus to regain power. Burr does not advise her to do this, because no one will listen to Agrippina, and Nero will only become enraged. The emperor can be persuaded only “meekness of speeches.”

Britannic informs Agrippina that he has accomplices in the senate who are ready to oppose the emperor. But Agrippina does not want the help of the Senate and is going to threaten to force Nero to give up Junia, and if that does not help, then to notify Rome about Caesar’s plans.

Britannic accuses Junia of having forgotten him for Nero’s sake. Junia begs to believe her and wait for “better days,” she warns Britannic that he is in danger, for Nero overheard their conversation and demanded that Junia reject Britannica, threatening him with reprisal. Nero appears and demands that Britannic obey him. He responds with indignation that the Caesar has no right to mockery, violence and divorce from his wife, that the Roman people will not approve of the actions of the emperor. Nero thinks that the people are silent, and this is the main thing. Junia begs Nero to spare Britannica, because this is his brother, and for the sake of their reconciliation is ready to become a vestal. The Emperor is enraged and orders to take Britannica in custody. He blames Agrippina for everything and orders him to guard her.

Agrippina and Nero meet, and Agrippina utters her famous monologue about how many villainies she committed so that Nero could become emperor. She bribed the Senate, which allowed her marriage to her uncle, the Emperor Claudius. Then she begged Claudius to adopt Nero, then, according to her slander, Claudius distanced from himself all those who could help his son Britannicus inherit the throne. When Claudius died, she concealed it from Rome, and Bourr persuaded the troops to swear an oath to Nero, and not Britannica. Then the double message was immediately announced to the people: Claudius is dead, and Nero became Caesar. The son, instead of gratitude, distanced himself from his mother and surrounded himself with dissolute youths.

Nero in reply tells the mother that she led him to the throne probably not to manage him and the power. After all, Rome needs a ruler, not a lady, Nero accuses his mother of conspiring against him. Agrippina replies that he went mad, that she devoted only her life to her life. She is ready to die, but warns Caesar that the Roman people will not forgive Nero. Agrippina demands that Nero let go of Britannica and did not quarrel with him. He promises to fulfill everything in words.

When he meets Burre, Nero tells him that it’s time to end the Britannic, and then his mother will easily be able to tame too. Burr is terrified, and Nero says that he is not going to take into account the opinion of the people and blood is not to him. Burr encourages Caesar not to take the path of evil, for this is a bloody path – friends of Britannic will raise their heads and take revenge, a terrible hostility will erupt, and in every subject of Caesar the enemy will be seen. It is much more noble to do good. Burr on his knees begs Nero to make peace with the Britannic. He concedes. Narkiss comes to Narcissus and says that he took a quick-acting poison from the famous Locusta poisoner in Rome to poison Britannica. Nero hesitates, but Narcissus scares him by the fact that Britannic can learn about the poison and will begin to take revenge. Nero responds that he does not want to be known as a fratricide. Narcissus calls on Caesar to be above good and evil and not depend on anyone – do only what he thinks fit. Kindness only testifies to the weakness of the ruler, before evil everyone is inclined. If Nero poisoned his brother and divorced his wife, then no one in Rome will say a word to him. Nero should shut his mouths to his mentors Burr and Seneke and rule himself.

Meanwhile Britannic informs Junia that Nero has reconciled with him and convenes a feast in honor of this. Britannic is glad that now there are no obstacles between him and Junia. But Junia is alarmed, she has a presentiment of misfortune. Nero can not be trusted, he is a terrible hypocrite, like his entourage. She thinks that this feast is just a snare.

Appears Agrippina and says that Britannica is already waiting for everyone, and Caesar wants to raise the cup for their friendship. Agrippina assures Junia that she has obtained from Nero everything she wanted, that he no longer has from the mother of secrets and that he is not capable of an evil deed.

Burr comes in and informs that Britannic, at death, that Nero skillfully concealed his plan from all and at the feast gave the Briton a bowl of wine, to which Narcissus had put poison. Britannic drank a friendship with Nero and fell lifeless. Nero’s entourage looked calmly at the emperor, and his gaze did not darken. Narcissus could not hide his joy. Burr left the room.

Agrippina declares to Nero that he knows who has poisoned Britannica. The latter, with ostentatious surprise, asks who she is talking about. Agrippina responds – it was he, Nero, who committed the murder. Appeared Narcissus betrays Caesar and declares that there is no need to hide his affairs. Agrippina bitterly reproaches Nero for the fact that Caesar has chosen worthy collaborators and just as worthily began with the poisoning of his brother. Now it’s her turn, apparently. But the death of his mother will not work out for him – his conscience will not give rest, new murders will come and in the end Nero will fall a victim of his own wickedness.

Left alone, Agrippina and Burr say that death awaits them and they are ready for it – Caesar is capable of everything. A friend of Agrippina Albina appears and reports that Junia, upon learning of the death of Britannicus, rushed to the square to the statue of Augustus and at the people prayed for him to let her become a vestal and not be disgraced by Nero. The people took her to the temple. Nero did not dare to intervene, but the obsequious Narcissus tried to prevent Junia and was killed by the crowd. Seeing this, Nero returned to the palace in furious rage and wanders there. He’s up to something. Agrippina and Burr decide to appeal once more to the conscience and prudence of the emperor for the sake of preventing evil.

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“Britanic” Racine in summary