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