Image of Jean Racine

Timeline

Lifetime: 1639 - 1699 Passed: ≈ 324 years ago

Title

Dramatist

Country/Nationality

United Kingdom
Wikipedia

Jean Racine

Jean Racine was a French dramatist, one of the three great playwrights of 17th-century France, along with Molière and Corneille, and an important literary figure in the Western tradition. Racine was primarily a tragedian, producing such "examples of neoclassical perfection" as Phèdre, Andromaque, and Athalie. He did write one comedy, Les Plaideurs, and a muted tragedy, Esther for the young.

Racine was born on 22 December 1639 in La Ferté-Milon (Aisne), in the province of Picardy in northern France. Orphaned by the age of four (his mother died in 1641 and his father in 1643), he came into the care of his grandparents. At the death of his grandfather in 1649, his grandmother, Marie des Moulins, went to live in the convent of Port-Royal and took her grandson with her. He received a classical education at the Petites écoles de Port-Royal, a religious institution which would greatly influence other contemporary figures including Blaise Pascal. Port-Royal was run by followers of Jansenism, a theology condemned as heretical by the French bishops and the Pope. Racine's interactions with the Jansenists in his years at this academy would have great influence over him for the rest of his life. At Port-Royal, he excelled in his studies of the Classics and the themes of Greek and Roman mythology would play large roles in his future works.

He was expecte to study law at the Collège d'Harcourt in Paris, but instead found himself drawn to a more artistic lifestyle. Experimenting with poetry drew high praise from France's greatest literary critic, Nicolas Boileau, with whom Racine would later become great friends; Boileau would often claim that he was behind the budding poet's work. Racine eventually took up residence in Paris where he became involved in theatrical circles.

Books by Jean Racine

Phaedra  Cover image

Phaedra

Tragedy
Play Sin Cheating Lying Infidelity Sexual Assault

In the court of Louis XIV, adaptations of Greek tragedies were very popular. This play, heavily influenced by Euripides' Hippolytus, deals with love that violates social taboos. Note: In Racine's work, a new "scene" begins whenever a character enters...

Berenice Cover image

Berenice

Tragedy
Marriage Play Love Rome Life

Titus, emperor of Rome, wants to marry Berenice, queen of Palestine, but decides that Rome will not be able to handle having him marry a foreign queen. Berenice refuses to stay in this case and leaves Rome. Unlike many of the other Racine plays, ther...

Bajazet Cover image

Bajazet

Tragedy
Play Drama Love Classics Historical

"The time to which this tragedy relates is much later than that of any other of Racine's historical plays. The capture of Babylon (or rather Bagdad) from the Persians by Sultan Amurath IV, on which the catastrophe of the plot depends, occurred only a...

Mithridates Cover image

Mithridates

Tragedy
Love Moral Dilemmas Happiness Betrayal Historical

Another tragedy by Racine, based on the historical character and career of Mithridates circa 63 BCE. Closing with sorrow and lamentation and promises of a "search for vengeance".

Iphigenia Cover image

Iphigenia

Tragedy
Romantic Play Love Act Immortality

Racine's version of the time-honored story of Iphigenia was acted for the first time in 1674. The model upon which it is shaped is the "Iphigenia in Aulis" of his favorite Euripides, but the French poet has heightened the romantic interest and compli...

Athaliah Cover image

Athaliah

Drama Tragedy
Play Court Historical Intriguing Classic Literature Biblical Studies Theatre French Literature

In the ancient kingdom of Judah, a relentless battle for power ensues, shrouded in a web of ambition, loyalty, and divine intervention. Jean Racine's "Athaliah" beckons readers into a realm where thrones are coveted, secrets are buried, and fate pivo...