Esther by Jean Baptiste Racine


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Page 1




The tragedy of _Esther_ commends itself to moderately advanced students
of the French language by the fact that it is both the easiest and the
shortest masterpiece of French tragic literature. For such students
the present edition has been prepared. The text has been modified in
all minor points of spelling and grammar so as to conform with present
usage. The notes are intended either to make clear such matters of
history or grammar as offer any difficulty, or to emphasize that which
may be especially instructive from a literary, historical, or
grammatical point of view.

The appendix contains, in addition to a brief statement of the rules of
French verse, a systematic presentation of quotations from the play
illustrating a few of the grammatical points on which experience
teaches that the student's knowledge, in spite of grammars, is likely
to be vague.

The editor desires to acknowledge gratefully his indebtedness to M.

1865), and also to the excellent editions of Mr. G. Saintsbury (Oxford,
1886), and of Prof. E. S. Joynes (New York, 1882).




Jean Racine, unquestionably the most perfect of the French tragic

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

counsellor, Boileau, he doubtless owed to them his determination to
devote himself to dramatic literature.

and _Alexandre_ (1665), which gave brilliant promise. In 1667 appeared
_Andromaque_, his first chef-d'oeuvre, which placed him at once in the
very front rank by the 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 with _Britannicus_,

the last two being inspired by Euripides.

Incensed at a literary and artistic cabal, by which a rival play of

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 produced _Esther_, 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 his _Histoire

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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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 5th Jun 2020, 23:08