This original and innovative study is the first systematic exploration of Racine's theatricality. It is based on a close examination of all Racine's plays and on evidence for performance of them from the seventeenth century to the present day. David Maskell considers, with the help of illustrations, the relationship between verbal and visual effects. He shows how the decor in plays such as Andromaque, Britannicus and Berenice is significant for the action, and
indicates the rich, often symbolic implication of stage properties and physical gestures, particularly in Mithridate, Phedre, and Athalie. Racine's usually neglected single comedy, Les Plaideurs, is shown to cast light on the theatrical language of his eleven tragedies. Some
familiar topics of tragedy - moral ambiguity, error, and transcendence - emerge in a fresh light, and the concept of the tragic genre is critically examined from the theatrical standpoint. This study challenges many long-established views of Racine and lays the foundation for a reassessment of his role in French drama. It also opens new perspectives on his relationship with dramatists writing in other languages.
`careful and exhaustive study ... The value of Maskell's study lies in the all-embracing picture it provides, and the wealth of evidence as to Racine's own clear preoccupations.
Richard Griffiths, Times Higher Education Supplement
`David Maskell's book constitutes a serious contribution to the recent effort amoung English critics of French literature to explore Rracine's dramaturgy and theatricality.
Ronald W. Tobin, Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature
`Maskell's command of the history of theater, its criticism, and rhetorical theory of the 17th century is impressive; his exemplary exegeses of the performance text open important new avenues of investigation in the Racinian oeuvre.
E.R. Koch, Tulane University, Choice, May '92
`Racine enthusiasts will ... be grateful to David Maskell for providing them with the first systematic study of Racine's theatricality. ... its author looks meticulously and skilfully for all those clues which confirm that Racine was a man of the theatre rather than a poet who happened to write plays. ... Maskell's study is particularly valuable for the way in which it establishes comparisons with Racine's only comedy ... with the Greek tragedians...
Maskell's richly suggestive, scholarly yet highly readable study should be the obligatory point de départfor all such readings.
James J. Supple, Theatre Research International
`he applies a meticulous scholarship to the recording and analysis of such effects throughout the twelve plays
W.D. Howarth, University of Warwick, MLR, 88.4, 1993
`Students of Racine's theatre will find much that is instructive and helpful in this thorough, well-documented, and systematic volume. Maskell's book contributes much to the study of Racine.
Keith Gore, Worcester College, Oxford, Notes and Queries, March 1994
Part 1 Setting the scene: Parisian theatres; ambiguous place and precise place; decor and text; the 12 plays; lighting and sound effects; interpreting the decor. Part 2 On stage, off stage: significant entrances; costume; significant exits; choruses. Part 3 Physical action: stage directions; visual language; "Athalie". Part 4 Verbal action: speech as action; the art of persuasion; acting styles. Part 5 Racine the director: "La Champmesle"; the alexandrine; conventional and incongruous "actio"; the listener's performance; interrogations; visual focus. Part 6 Across verbal frontiers: comparisons; French tragedies 1659-1664; the visual tradition; Greek tragedy. Part 7 Seeing the tragedy: moral ambiguity; errors of judgement; endings; transcendence; the alternative agenda.