Racine, Jean (1639–1699), translated by Kline, A. S. (contact-email)

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Phèdre (initially titled Phèdre et Hippolyte) is a five-act tragedy in verse by Jean Racine, first performed in Paris on 1 January 1677. Composed of 1,654 alexandrine lines, the drama draws from Greek mythology, revolving around the forbidden love of Phèdre for her stepson, Hippolyte. Acclaimed as one of Racine’s masterworks, the play has profoundly impacted both literature and the arts, with notable references in Marcel Proust’s writings. Marking his last secular piece prior to a 12-year break, Racine’s Phèdre was influenced mainly by the Greek poet Euripides (484-406 BC).

The premiere faced immediate competition from Nicolas Pradon’s play of the same name, staged shortly afterwards at the Théâtre de l’Hotel Guénégaud. However, Racine’s profound portrayal of tragedy, with its intricate characterisations and poetic rhythm, rapidly overshadowed Pradon’s . The play’s resonance throughout the ages has confirmed Racine’s Phèdre as a cornerstone of French dramatic literature.

Author Details

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Kline, A. S.

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