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Esther   By: (1639-1699)

Book cover

First Page:

Heath's Modern Language Series.

ESTHER

TRAGÉDIE EN TROIS ACTES

PAR

RACINE.

EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION, NOTES, AND APPENDICES,

BY

I. H. B. SPIERS,

SENIOR ASSISTANT MASTER WILLIAM PENN CHARTER SCHOOL,

PHILADELPHIA.

D. C. HEATH & CO., PUBLISHERS

BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO

COPYRIGHT, 1891,

By I. H. B. SPIERS.

PREFACE.

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. Paul Mesnard's exhaustive work in the Collection des Grands Écrivains de la France , published under the direction of M. Ad. Régnier (Paris, 1865), and also to the excellent editions of Mr. G. Saintsbury (Oxford, 1886), and of Prof. E. S. Joynes (New York, 1882).

I. H. B. SPIERS.

WILLIAM PENN CHARTER SCHOOL, PHILADELPHIA. INTRODUCTION.

1. LIFE OF RACINE.

Jean Racine, unquestionably the most perfect of the French tragic poets, was born in 1639, at La Ferté Milon, near Paris. He received a 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 the friendship of Molière, of La Fontaine, and especially of his trusty counsellor, Boileau, he doubtless owed to them his determination to devote himself to dramatic literature.

His first tragedies to be put upon the stage were La Thébaïde (1664) 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 , largely drawn from Tacitus, followed by Bérénice (1670), Bajazet (1672), Mithridate (1673), Iphigénie (1674), and Phèdre (1677), the last two being inspired by Euripides.

Incensed at a literary and artistic cabal, by which a rival play of Phèdre , by Pradon, was momentarily preferred to his own, Racine now 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 du Règne de Louis XIV. , his death being hastened by grief at having incurred the King's displeasure on account of a memoir on the misery of the people, which he wrote at the request of Mme... Continue reading book >>




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