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Jean Racine

Life and Legend

John Sayer

This first biography of Racine in over half a century for an English-language readership also traces the impact of Racine over three centuries in England as well as France. The plays and their reception are reviewed, using contextual approaches as part of each phase of Racine’s life-story, with excerpts and quotations translated. Racine’s upbringing and work as poet and historiographer are related to the France of Louis XIV, to audiences and to advancement for this ‘man from nowhere’, with parallels in Britain and elsewhere. Changing attitudes to Racine are traced across the centuries, across literary movements and on stage, including recent productions.
The book provides insights in the specialist field of Racine studies and seventeenth-century French literature and theatre, in comparative literary studies, particularly between France and Restoration England, and to the interaction of Racine and European cultural movements to the present day.
Contents: The Early Years – Poets, Players and Preachers 1663-1666 – La Thébaïde, ou les Frères Ennemis – Alexandre le Grand – Andromaque – The Conflict with Corneille – The Poet at Court I. Exploring the East – The Poet at Court II. Crown and Cabal – Phèdre and the Break from the Theatre – Courtier-Historiographer 1677-1687 – Esther and Athalie – 1692-1699, the last years remembered – Changing Images over Three Centuries.