Agrippina has with ruthless scheming made her son Nero Emperor of Rome, meaning to rule through him. However she senses that he is slipping her grip and prepares for a show-down. He for his part is steeling himself to break from her domination and assert his own personality. The action develops into a deadly battle between possessive mother and resentful son. Triggering the conflict is Nero’s wish to divorce the wife his mother chose for him and marry Junia, a girl in love with Britannicus, his half-brother. A note about the characters ages and casting: Nero was historically 18 and Britannicus 16 at the time of these incidents and Junia corresponding.. Racine, for tragic propriety imagined them a few (but not many) years older. However this does not mean that they need to be played by actors of such tender years (compare Romeo, Juliet, Hamlet etc). These are great and demanding roles of great potential subtlety. As in the case of Shakespeare, whilst a production with really young players can add a valuable dimension, it is far from essential. The important thing is that youth, insecurity, hesitancy, gush and all those kinds of things are conveyed. There is similar leeway in the older characters.
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