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Phaedra by Jean Baptiste Racine
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by Jean Baptiste Racine

Translated by Robert Bruce Boswell


JEAN BAPTISTE RACINE, the younger contemporary of Corneille, and his
rival for supremacy in French classical tragedy, was born at Ferte-
Milon, December 21, 1639. He was educated at the College of Beauvais,
at the great Jansenist school at Port Royal, and at the College
d'Harcourt. He attracted notice by an ode written for the marriage of
Louis XIV in 1660, and made his first really great dramatic success
with his "Andromaque." His tragic masterpieces include "Britannicus,"
"Berenice," "Bajazet," "Mithridate," "Iphigenie," and "Phaedre," all
written between 1669 and 1677. Then for some years he gave up dramatic
composition, disgusted by the intrigues of enemies who sought to
injure his career by exalting above him an unworthy rival. In 1689 he
resumed his work under the persuasion of Mme. de Maintenon, and
produced "Esther" and "Athalie," the latter ranking among his finest
productions, although it did not receive public recognition until some
time after his death in 1699. Besides his tragedies, Racine wrote one
comedy, "Les Plaideurs," four hymns of great beauty, and a history of
Port Royal.

The external conventions of classical tragedy which had been
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