Voltaire's "Racine": the paradoxes of a transformation
- Publisher: Modern Languages Research Association
This article highlights some paradoxical aspects of Voltaire's admiration for Racine. He paid little attention to Racine's plays as dramatic entities, followed received opinions, and made many unfavourable judgements, especially concerning Racine's mix of tragedy and galanterie. What he idolized was Racine's use of language and his poetic skill. He thus removed Racine's tragedies from the contingencies of the theatre, and transformed them into an eighteenth-century linguistic and cultural ideal that he used for polemical purposes in a war against Shakespeare and encroaching barbarism, leading the Romantics subsequently to reject the `Racine' he had been so influential in creating.