The politics of Esther

Article English OPEN
Campbell, J. (2009)
  • Publisher: Maney Publishing
  • Subject: PN0080

Racine's tragedy Esther is often presented as a religious poem extolling piety and innocence. This article argues that this reading is complicated by the political dimension of the work. This dimension is reflected in the context in which Esther was first performed, as well as in allusions to the prevailing socio-political situation and to the drama that is played out within the work. Despite the author's stated intention to compose a work of piety, his indebtedness to the two biblical versions of the Esther story and to other books of the Old Testament, the plot is based on a story of hatred, persecution, plotting, revenge, and extermination that exists in uncomfortable counterpoint to the hymns to God's goodness and providence chanted by a Chorus of innocent young maidens. The article concludes by suggesting that Esther does not offer any easy reading as a victory of right over might, and good over evil.
  • References (3)

    Bible. New International Version (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978), and The New Jerusalem Bible (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985).

    22 On this view of Athalie, see John Campbell, Questioning Racinian Tragedy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), p. 177 and following.

    23 See Scholar, p. 320.

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