Chapter

Racine and Anti-semitism

Joseph Frank

in Responses to Modernity

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780823239252
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823239290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823239252.003.0007
Racine and Anti-semitism

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Esther is one of the two Biblical plays written by Jean Racine (the other is Athalie) after he had officially retired from composing for the theater. Instead, he had assumed the post of official historiographer of the reign of Louis XIV. Various reasons have been offered for this change of direction. Despite his renunciation of the stage, Racine took up his poetic pen again at the request of Madame de Maintenon, the consort (and secret wife) of the King. His plays are one of the glories of French literature, and of course presumably still form part of the school curriculum. Those who launch accusations of rampant anti-Semitism against French culture, which God knows has contained enough since the French Revolution tore down the gates of the European ghettos, should be asked if they have read Esther. There is no other great classical work in any other European literature that so directly attacks, repudiates, and scorns the anti-Semitic accusations which always have been, and continue to be, leveled against the Jews.

Keywords: Esther; Jean Racine; anti-Semitism; plays; Louis XIV; Jews

Chapter.  3997 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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