Life Of French Dramatist Jean Racine English Literature Essay

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Jean Racine was born on December 20, 1639 in La Ferté-Milon. He was born in a family that belonged to the upper bourgeoisie, but was raised by his grandmother, because his mother died in 1941 at birth of a second child, dramatist's sister Mary, and his father also died in two years later. So, the boy was orphaned by his grandmother and she took him with her to the convent of Port-Royal des Champs near Paris. (Brereton, 1951). In this convent the boy was converted in Jansenism and years spent there had a decisive influence on his literary development. He studied with four prominent scholars of the era, and under their leadership became an excellent Hellenist. In that period of his life, impressionable young man very intensively perceived the direct effect of powerful and bleak ideas of Jansenism movement. The conflict between Jansenism and carried through a lifetime love to classical literature was a source of inspiration for Racine, and determined tone of his future creations. Don't feeling the calling to the church career, Racine in 1661 moved to his uncle (the priest), hoping to get from the church benefices, which would allow him to devote himself entirely to writing. But negotiations to this effect have not been successful, and in 1662 or 1663 Racine returned to Paris. His circle of literary acquaintances grew from day to day, and very soon it opened all doors to the court shows to Racine. It is believed that the first two of the surviving works - La Thbaide and Alexander the Great (Alexandre le Grand) - he wrote on the advice of Moliere, who put them in 1664 and 1665. Describing Racine, Hawcroft wrote that he is "playwright, poet, master of the classical French tragedy in the times of Moliére and Corneille. Racine took his subjects from antiquity or mythology and became very popular with his plays on blind, passionate love. His dramas followed the neoclassical tragic form; they had five acts and the dramatic time of the action did not exceed one day. Usually the action was restricted to one place." (Hawcroft, 1992) In addition, it is necessary to say that although by birth and upbringing Racine belonged to the bourgeoisie, but on its ideology, he was aristocratic, courtly-aristocratic poet. The problem of the class characteristics in Racine's art can not be divorced from issues of class attribution of French classicism, since Racine was a consistent and staunch classicist, who was not deviating from the classical canon, like Corneille and Moliere.

Describing Racine's plays it is necessary to mention that his aristocratic ideology finds its vivid expression in the subject area, plot and also shaped the structure of his tragedies. It has been observed for a long time that the tragedy of Racine gives an idealized map of the Versailles court, with all its customs, manners and conventions. Whatever the plot or theme was developed by Racine, whatever antic images or characters he described, in any case they were reinterpreted in a specific court, i.e., class-noble sense. Thus, all Racine's heroes and heroines depict two lovers, who suffer from love, because the socio inactive court aristocrats of the second half of XVII century were interested in love. (Campbell, 2006). Love, perhaps, was the only motive, being capable to gain the attention and interest of those times public (exactly this moment includes an important difference between Racine's tragedy and the tragedy of Corneille, where the last used the idea of political or religious heroism as the main motive power).

Elmarsafy stated that as the true Laureate Racine depicts sexual relations at a specific manner of Versailles; active role in his tragedy falls to the women's lot, who make their first steps; and the characters, who all in greater or lesser extent are similar to King Louis XIV, just listen to the declarations of love and choose the woman. (Elmarsafy, 2003). All Racine's characters were people with "royal blood", they strictly abide by the rules of court etiquette: they say "seigneuir", "madame", and even in moments of high passion remain people with graceful manners not allowing themselves to use a single bad word or vile expression.

So, analyzing the life of Jean Racine we see that all his talent develops under the sign of conflict between the aristocratic hedonism and asceticism of Jansenism. This contradiction is expressed in the drama, showing that all tragedies of his time give an apology of passion and an apology of renunciation of passion (an understanding of true love as a sacrifice). This approach again proved that Jean Racine adhered to a number of core principles of Jansenism in the views on human life. He learned, for example, position of the deep depravity and weakness of human nature, incapable to cope with the unworthy passions that result in death, without the help of grace, but in own efforts. Hence the perpetual conflict of its tragedy - is the struggle between passion and the will, which defeats the passion, namely due to weakness of will.

Thus, taking the above stated into the consideration it is possible to conclude that Racine was a prominent person of his time. Brought up on the study of ancient literature, perfectly aware of the great Greek poets, he had learned from them a sense of figurative and musical elements of speech and tried to use its power, without going beyond the narrow confines of the classical, rationalistic dosed and polished syllables and limited in its rhythmic possibilities Alexandrine verse. It is necessary to add that even the most ordinary words and phrases due to saturation of the tragic emotions become a kind of tremendous power under his pen.