Racine, Jean (1639-1699)
French dramatist, known for the effective simplicity of his poetic style and his psychological portrayals of the passions of his characters.
His works include La Thébaïde ( 1664); Alexandre ( 1665); Andromaque ( 1667); Les Plaideurs ( 1668), his sole comedy; Britannicus (1669); Bérénice (1670); Bajazet (1672); Mithridate (1674); Iphigénie ( 1674); Phédre ( 1677), regarded as the author's masterpiece; Esther (1688-1689); Athalie (1690), performed privately, called by some critics the author's greatest dramatic poem. The subjects of most of these dramas were derived from the tragedies of Euripides or historical accounts.
Racine was educated in a Jansenist school and at first intended for the priesthood; the influence of Jansenist doctrines of Original Sin combined with the classic Greek concept of Fate has been found in his tragedies. Moliére, La Fontaine, and Boileau were his friends in Paris, where his plays suffered through the enmity of partisans of his rivals, among whom was Corneille. Racine retired as a writer for the stage after the production of Phèdre. Esther was performed by the schoolgirl daughters of French nobles, and Athalie was not produced in Paris until 1716.