Jean Racine

Easton Press Jean Racine books

Writings of Jean Racine - Harvard Classics - 1994

Franklin Library Jean Racine books

Six Tragedies by Jean Racine - 100 Greatest Books of All Time - 1982

Jean Racine biography

Jean Racine, one of the greatest tragedians in French literature, was born on December 22, 1639, in La Ferté-Milon, France. His early life was marked by tragedy and instability, as he lost both of his parents at a young age and was raised by his grandparents. Despite these hardships, Racine displayed exceptional talent and intelligence from an early age, earning scholarships to prestigious schools and demonstrating a gift for poetry and literature. Racine's literary career began when he entered the Collège de Beauvais in Paris, where he studied classical literature and philosophy. Inspired by the works of ancient Greek and Roman playwrights, Racine began writing his own tragedies, drawing upon classical themes and motifs while infusing them with a distinctive French sensibility.

Racine's first major success came with the production of his tragedy La Thébaïde in 1664, which was followed by Alexandre le Grand in 1665. However, it was his next play, Andromaque (1667), that established his reputation as a master tragedian. Andromaque was a critical and commercial success, praised for its poetic language, psychological depth, and emotional intensity. Over the next decade, Racine continued to produce a series of masterful tragedies, including Britannicus (1669), Bérénice (1670), and Phèdre (1677), which is often considered his masterpiece. Phèdre is a powerful exploration of forbidden love, jealousy, and fate, featuring some of Racine's most memorable characters and poetic passages. Racine's tragedies are characterized by their elegant verse, intricate plots, and psychological complexity. His works often revolve around themes of love, power, and the human condition, exploring the depths of human emotion and the consequences of moral and ethical dilemmas.

Despite his literary success, Racine's personal life was marked by turmoil and disappointment. He faced criticism and opposition from rival playwrights, as well as setbacks in his professional and romantic life. In 1677, Racine retired from the theater and dedicated himself to a career in public service, serving as a royal historiographer and later as a member of the Académie Française. Jean Racine died on April 21, 1699, leaving behind a legacy of enduring literary achievement. His tragedies continue to be performed and studied around the world, admired for their timeless themes, exquisite language, and profound insight into the human condition. As one of the greatest playwrights in French literature, Racine's influence on the development of theater and drama cannot be overstated.

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