book cover of Esther and Berenice

Esther and Berenice

Two plays
A collection of stories by

Poet, novelist, dramatist and journalist, Masefield's literary career was a varied one. He went to sea as a youth and his first volumes of poems earned him the title of Poet of the Sea. He was a prolific writer, publishing poetry and novels as well as taking on editorial tasks. In 1930 he became Poet Laureate, a post he retained until his death 37 years later. Masefield explains why these adaptations of Racine were made...We wanted, in short, plays in verse that were of the theater, that could be done with few properties and no scenery, with small casts of from six to nine persons. Knowing how keenly sensitive an English audience is to verse, we wanted plays with fine situations and stirring declamation. The French classical tragedies seemed to offer a foundation of what we needed, so these versions were made. The play of Ester is an adaptation, not a translation, because in Esther our audience asked for something more than the French formality allowed. We could make nothing of Racine's choruses in this play in translation; after some attempts we gave them up, and substituted others. When we came to rehearse the play, we found it too short; we therefore lengthened it. Berenice is a translation.

Genre: Literary Fiction

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