Esther par Jean Racine
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Esther par Jean Racine

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Esther par Jean Racine

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Publié le 08 décembre 2010
Nombre de lectures 107
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PAR
RACINE.
Heath's Modern Language Series.
ESTHER TRAGÉDIE EN TROIS ACTES
EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION, NOTES, AND APPENDICES, BY I. H. B. SPIERS,
Produced by Al Haines
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ESTHER ***
SENIOR ASSISTANT MASTER WILLIAM PENN CHARTER SCHOOL, PHILADELPHIA.
Title: Esther Author: Jean Racine Editor: I.H.B. Spiers Release Date: May 7, 2005 [EBook #15790] Language: French / English
D. C. HEATH & CO., PUB
BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
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COPYRIGHT
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2. FRENCH TRAGEDY.
WILLIAM PENN CHARTER SCHOOL, PHILADELPHIA. INTRODUCTION. 1. LIFEOFRACINE. Jean Racine, unquestionably the most perfect of the French tragic poets, was born in 1639, at La Ferté-Milon, near Paris. He received a sound classical education at Port-Royal des Champs, then a famous centre of religious thought and scholastic learning. At the early age of twenty he was so fortunate as to attract, by an ode in honor of the marriage of King Louis XIV., the favor of that exacting monarch,—a favor which he was to enjoy during forty years. Yet more fortunate in the friendship of Molière, of La Fontaine, and especially of his trusty counsellor, Boileau, he doubtless owed to them his determination to devote himself to dramatic literature. His first tragedies to be put upon the stage wereLa Thébaïde(1664) andAlexandre(1665), which gave brilliant promise. In 1667 appearedAndromaquechef-d'oeuvre, which placed him at once in the very front rank by the, his first side of Corneille. From that time forth, until 1677, almost each year was marked by a new triumph. In 1668, he produced his one comedy,Les Plaideurs, a highly successful satire on the Law Courts, in the vein of the "Wasps" of Aristophanes. In 1669, he resumed his tragedies on historical subjects withBritannicus, largely drawn from Tacitus, followed by Bérénice(1670),Bajazet(1672),Mithridate(1673),Iphigénie(1674), andPhèdre(1677), the last two being inspired by Euripides. Incensed at a literary and artistic cabal, by which a rival play ofPhèdre, by Pradon, was momentarily preferred to his own, Racine now withdrew from the stage. Appointed soon after to the not very onerous post of historiographer to the King, he lived for a period of twelve years a retired life in the bosom of his family. In 1689, at the request of Mme. de Maintenon, the secret wife of Louis XIV., he producedEsther, and in 1691,Athalie, both drawn from the Scriptures and intended for private performance only. Embittered by the indifference with which the latter tragedy was received,—although posterity has pronounced it his masterpiece,—Racine definitely gave up the drama. He died in 1699, after a few years devoted to hisHistoire du Règne de Louis XIV., his death being hastened by grief at having incurred the King's displeasure on account of a memoir on the misery of the people, which he wrote at the request of Mme. de Maintenon. A devoted husband and father, an adroit but sincere courtier, Racine has won the regard of posterity by his life as well as its admiration by his literary genius. As a poet, he was endowed with the purest gift of expression ever granted to a mind imbued with the works of the classical writers of Greece and Rome.
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4. THE PLAY OF "ESTHER."
).
In the year 1687, Mme. de Maintenon had founded at St. Cyr, in the vicinity of the royal residence of Versailles, an establishment for the education of two hundred and fifty girls, belonging to noble families in reduced circumstances. To this institution she devoted much of her time and care. It was usual, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, to consider the acting of plays a valuable aid to liberal education, suitable pieces being often written by the heads of the institutions in which they were to be performed. Dissatisfied with the compositions of Mme. de Brinon, the first superior of St. Cyr, and objecting to the love-making that held such a large place in the works written for the public stage, Mme. de Maintenon applied to Racine, requesting him to write a play that should be entirely suitable for performance by very young ladies. The courtier poet could not refuse, and the result was the play ofEsther, performed in January, 1689, by pupils of St. Cyr, not one of whom was over seventeen years of age. The success of the play was startling. The king witnessed it repeatedly, and insisted that all his court and guests should do likewise. The performances ofEsther, at St. Cyr, became great events for the fashionable society of the day. This unlooked-for result was not slow to alarm Mme. de Maintenon: their very success became a danger for the youthful actresses. Accordingly, Mme. de Maintenon discountenanced the resumption ofEstherafter the first series of performances was concluded, and she entirely withheld from public representation the second play,Athalie, written by Racine in the following year for the same purpose. Subsequently Mme. de Maintenon banished dramatic performances altogether from St. Cyr; she concluded it was better to train thereason[1] by thesolid[1] truths of philosophy than the imagination by the unrealities of dramatic literature.
3. PRODUCTION OF "ESTHER."
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