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1910 New Catholic Dictionary

Jean Racine

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Dramatist. Born in 1639 in La Ferte-Milon in the old Duchy of Valois, France; died in 1699 in Paris, France. Early an orphan, he was sent by relatives to the College of Beauvais, to Port Royal, and to the College of Harcourt. In 1663 he wrote two odes which made him known at court, and in 1664 his first play, La Thebaide, was performed. Then came Alexandre, followed by the enormously successful Andromaque in 1667; his sole comedy, Les Plaideurs in 1668; Britannicus in 1669; Berenice in 1670; Bajazet in 1672; Mithridate in 1673; and Iphigenie in 1674. After the failure of Phedre in 1677, Racine severed his stage connections for 12 years, partly from conscientious motives and partly because of unjust criticism and rivalry; but, at the request of Mme. de Maintenon, he wrote, for her protegees at Saint Cyr, Esther 1689, and Athalie his masterpiece in 1691. On these his fame chiefly rests. Racine was a leader of the classical school, choosing always in marked contrast to his contemporary, Corneille, "a simple action. ..progressing steadily to the catastrophe...sustained by the interest, the feelings, and the passions of the characters." He is a great painter of love as a violent, jealous, and sometimes criminal passion. His work displays keen psychological penetration and an exquisite literary sense. He was a man of deeply religious sensibilities.

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Bibliography Information
Entry for 'Jean Racine'. 1910 New Catholic Dictionary. 1910.

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