Jean Racine Drama Analysis
The outer form of Racinian tragedy differs little from that of his predecessors. His five-act plays are written in regular twelve-syllable Alexandrine verse; Jean Racine adheres to the three unities of time, place, and action, to the concept of bienséance, which prohibited vulgarity of language and overt violence on the stage, and to the required “unity of tone,” a sustained elegance and dignity proper to tragedy. The concept of gloire, which informs the work of Corneille, however, is modified in Racine. An exulted self-esteem and worldly fame arising from the exercise of total freedom, gloire in Racine loses its compelling force. Whereas in Corneille, the hero achieves self-realization through the domination of his or her love, the hero in Racine accepts fully this passion and the destiny that it entails. The dependent, yet far from weak, lover in Racine knows and acknowledges that he or she cannot exist without the beloved. This “demolition of the hero” reveals a new psychological realism that spurns the illusory ambition of complete self-mastery and independence. From a social and historical viewpoint, this new perspective bears witness to the decline of the ancient aristocratic ideals after the subjugation of the nobility during the absolutist regime of Louis XIV.
Although famous after the resounding success of Alexander the Great in 1665, Racine created in his next play,...
(The entire section is 4187 words.)
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