Corneille is a part of the greatest period of French drama. His artistic model and theory of the drama were to be followed by successive generations of dramatists, including Racine. His plays deal with noble characters in closely defined situations of high moral intensity. After modest success as a writer of complex, baroque comedies, Corneille achieved fame with Le Cid (1636--37), adapted from Guillen de Castro's three-day comedy Las Moceddes del Cid. It vividly represents the dominant theme of his tragedies: the inner struggle between duty and passion. Corneille went on to dominate the French theater of his day with plays that reflect the changing relationships between the aristocracy and the new absolutist state. Some of Corneille's other major tragedies include Horace (1640), Cinna (1640), and Polyeuctus (1643). In his shaping of language and form to his dramatic purposes, Corneille had a great effect on the development of French literature; more specifically, it can be said that he gave form and aim to French neoclassicism.
When Richard Wilbur's Things of This World (1956) won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award the same year, the N.Y. Times commented editorially: "A seemingly effortless craftsman, Mr. Wilbur reveals a fine lyrical gift, a searching wit and, in his translations, a sympathetic kinship to the works of others." Wilbur was born in New York City and educated at Amherst College and Harvard University. During the late 1950s he taught at Wesleyan University. He has also been on the English faculty at Harvard and Wellesley College, and he is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. With Lillian Hellman he wrote the libretto for the opera Candide. He also is one of the premier translators of his generation. He has translated Moliere's Tartuffe and Misanthrope and many poems of Andrei Voznesensky and others. Co-recipient of the Bollingen Translation Prize in 1963, he was made the second Poet Laureate of the United States in 1987.