Jean Racine

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16th century · 17th century
18th century · 19th century
20th century · Contemporary

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Jean Racine (French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ ʁaˈsin]), baptismal name Jean-Baptiste Racine (22 December 1639 – 21 April 1699), was a French dramatist, one of the "Big Three" of 17th century France (along with Molière and Corneille), and one of the most important literary figures in the Western tradition. Racine was primarily a tragedian, producing such 'examples of neoclassical perfection'[1] as Phèdre,[2] Andromaque, [3] and Athalie,[4] although he did write one comedy, Les Plaideurs,[5] and a muted tragedy,[6] Esther, for the young.

Racine's plays displayed his mastery of the dodecasyllabic alexandrine; his verse is renowned for elegance, purity, speed, and fury,[7][8] and for what Robert Lowell described as a 'diamond-edge',[9] and the 'glory of its hard, electric rage'.[10] Racine's works are widely considered to be untranslatable[11][12][13][14], although many eminent poets have attempted to do so,[15][16] including Lowell, Ted Hughes, and Derek Mahon into English, and Schiller into German. Racine's dramaturgy is marked by his psychological insight, the prevailing passion of his characters, and the nakedness of both the plot and stage.

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