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The Complete Plays of Jean Racine

Volume 4: Athaliah

Jean Racine and Translated into English rhymed couplets with critical notes and commentary by Geoffrey Alan Argent

Publication Year: 2012

As Voltaire famously opined, Athaliah, Racine’s last play, is “perhaps the greatest masterwork of the human spirit.” Its formidable antagonists, Athaliah, queen of Judah, and Jehoiada, high priest of the temple of Jerusalem, are engaged in a deadly struggle for dominion: she, fiercely determined to maintain her throne and exterminate the detested race of David; he, no less fiercely determined to overthrow this heathen queen and enthrone the orphan Joash, the scion of the house of David, whom Athaliah believes she slew as an infant ten years earlier. This boy represents the sole hope for the survival of the royal race from which is to spring the Christ. But in this play, even God is more about hate and retribution than about love and mercy. This is the fourth volume of a projected translation into English of all twelve of Jean Racine’s plays—only the third time such a project has been undertaken. For this new translation, Geoffrey Alan Argent has rendered these plays in the verse form that Racine might well have used had he been English: namely, the “heroic” couplet. Argent has exploited the couplet’s compressed power and flexibility to produce a work of English literature, a verse drama as gripping in English as Racine’s is in French. Complementing the translation are the illuminating Discussion, intended as much to provoke discussion as to provide it, and the extensive Notes and Commentary, which offer their own fresh and thought-provoking insights.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Title Page, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-

Translator's Note

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pp. ix-xi

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Athaliah: Discussion

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pp. 1-28

After completing Phaedra, Racine underwent a self-imposed retirement from the theater and only resumed his career as a playwright a dozen years later at the persuasive, if not peremptory, request of Madame de Maintenon, Louis XIV’s...

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Racine’s Preface

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pp. 29-36

Everyone knows that the Kingdom of Judah was composed of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and that the ten other tribes who revolted against Reboam made up the Kingdom of Israel.1 As the kings of Judah were of the house of David, and their inheritance included the city of...

Athaliah (1691)

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pp. 37-118

Athaliah: Notes and Commentary

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pp. 119-140

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 141-

Copyright Page

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Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271054001
E-ISBN-10: 027105400X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271052489
Print-ISBN-10: 0271052481

Page Count: 154
Publication Year: 2012

Volume Title: The Complete Plays of Jean Racine: Volume 4: Athaliah