Jean Racine is considered the greatest of French tragic dramatists. If Shakespeare's (see Vol. 1) theater is characterized by exploration and invention, Racine's is defined by restraint and formal perfection. His themes are derived from Greco-Roman, biblical, and oriental sources and are developed in the neoclassic manner: keeping to few characters, observing the "three unities" defined by Aristotle (see Vols. 3, 4, and 5) as essential to tragedy (i. e., unity of time, place, and action), and writing in regular 12-syllable verses called "alexandrines." In contrast to Corneille, whose theater is eminently political and concerned with moral choices, Racine locates tragic intrigue in the conflict of inner emotions. He is a master at exploring the power of erotic passion to transform and pervert the human psyche. As a Jansenist who believed that a person deprived of grace was subject to the tyranny of instincts, Racine was interested in portraying human passions---particularly the passion of love---in a state of crisis. Racine is also one of the greatest of all French poets, and his plays are a challenge to any translator. His major tragedies include Andromaque (1667), Britannicus (1669), e Berenice (1670), Iphigenie (1674), and Phedre (1677).
Ted Hughes was born on August 17, 1930 in England and attended Cambridge University, where he became interested in anthropology and folklore. These interests would have a profound effect on his poetry. In 1956, Hughes married famed poet Sylvia Plath. He taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 1957 until 1959, and he stopped writing altogether for several years after Plath's suicide in 1963. Hughes's poetry is highly marked by harsh and savage language and depictions, emphasizing the animal quality of life. He soon developed a creature called Crow who appeared in several volumes of poetry including A Crow Hymn and Crow Wakes. A creature of mythic proportions, Crow symbolizes the victim, the outcast, and a witness to life and destruction. Hughes's other works also created controversy because of their style, manner, and matter, but he has won numerous honors, including the Somerset Maugham Award in 1960, and the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 1974. His greatest honor came in 1984, when he was named Poet Laureate of England. Ted Hughes died in 1998.
Geoffrey Alan Argent is an independent scholar residing in Pennsylvania.