Racine: Five Plays

Racine: Five Plays - Jean Racine Racine tries his hand with different settings. He sets his tragedies in Rome (Britannicus and Berenice), the fall of Homeric Troy (Andromache), Greek mythology (Phedra) and the Old Testament (Athaliah). All of the plays take place within a short time and the plots center on a single conflict. With the exception of Athaliah, they follow similar patterns of love denied.

Phedra is the only one that fits the most classical definition of tragedy. Phedra attempts to subvert Fate’s decree. The Greeks were never kind to those foolish enough to think people actually controlled their destinies. The other plays are more mundane affairs. Unrequited love and human baseness. Not the most engaging storylines but good enough for a Sunday afternoon.

Supposedly, Racine was a master at the alexandrine meter and the form of his plays is where his true genius shines. Since I read his plays in the English translation from French, I’ll just assume he’s brilliant.