RACINE, Jean (1639-99). Jean (-Baptiste) Racine has been acclaimed as the greatest dramatic poet of France. He endowed his characters with human emotion and frailties; his plays are said to have helped free French drama of its artificiality and rigidity. Racine's plays include La Thebaide, Alexandre le Grand, Les Plaidurs (The Litigants), Berenice (his only comedy), Iphigenie, and Phèdre (adapted from Euripides' classical Greek tragedy). Racine's final two plays, Esther (1689) and Athalie (1691), were commissioned by Louis XIV's wife. Both plays are notable for the presence of choral interludes on the Greek model. This following is a short excerpt from his play, Esther.


O kindness reassuring to the heart It honors! No light matter prompts my prayer, Lo, misery or happiness awaits me; Which is shall be hangs trembling on your will. One word from you, ending my sore suspense, can render Esther happiest of queens. If Esther has found favor in your sight, If you are thus disposed to grant her wishes, Vouchsafe your presence at her board today, let Esther be admitted to the banquet. Then, in his hearing, I will dare to utter what in his absence I must still conceal.


All shall tremble at the name Of Esther's God. Rebuilt His temple, fill your wasted cities; let your happy seed with sacred triumph celebrate this day, And in their memory live my name for aye!





From: Philip Goodman, The Purim Anthology, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1988 pages 126-27

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