THE BLOG
09/08/2014 12:03 pm ET Updated Nov 07, 2014

Translating Jean Racine (Part 2)

Over twenty centuries later of Racine's period, society had been developed in every way. The Roman empire intervenes and takes care of the state and puts aside the citizen's worries. The contribution and help of their twelve gods is totally different than the Olympic gods'.

Following the barbarous winters of the Dark Middle Ages, the human problems become mercy and sin. The Renaissance coming will bring another dimension giving space to letters, words and arts. The meditation and thoughts develop while the "humanism" is being established at the era of Jean Racine, that means back to the letters, ideals and to the ancient Greek way of thinking.

The Gaulic classism appears and Racine was the founder. The philosophy of classism is perfection and moderation and woman appears as the beauty of the society. The manners of "behaving" take a dominant place, the gallantry is set up definitely. The word passion has no place any more in the French society as it takes an aggressive meaning causing fear, hatred and violence. In the theater of the great poet, we distinguish the heroine, when it is about Andromaque, Iphigeneia, Pheadra and Antigona, as a lady around who intrigues and conflicts take place while the end is mostly a relief for the spectator. This the way that the poet prefers to give a nice end without sacrifices including new persons to give the solution, as Europhile in Iphigenia.

"He is great, wonderful full of passion" will say Voltaire about Racine. Who was indeed Racine as a person?

Jean Baptiste Racine lived in the 17th century (1639-1699) in France and was one of the greatest French dramatists. Only a few things are known to us about Racine from his human side. Weird and secret-minded are the names attributed to him while almost nothing had been reported by his contemporaneous writers. It is very known about his love of ancient Greece as the air of Renaissance helping through letters and humanistic sciences being the evolutionary linchpin to the thought and study of the ancient Greeks with the return to the letters and ideals. The intellectuals speak Greek and Latin while Racine becomes the establisher of the classism.

The Hellenist poet pumps his works from history or the Greek mythology. He adores the Greek tragedy with a great respect to Euripides whom he considers as the most tragic of the poets from whom he is inspired and keeps as his initial model and develops in the story to a non tragic end.
His works are monumental and are a great offer to the global classic theater as Andromaque, Berenice, Phaedra, Brittanicus, and Athalia etc.

Alexandra Symeonidou is a best-selling author in Greece and has published 10 novels, translated three French theater plays from old French to Greek and two children's books. "Nightmares in the Saudi Arabian Desert" is her autobiography and her first translation from Greek to English. It is available on Amazon.com.