Jean Racine is the greatest tragedian of the French seventeenth century, using its strict rules and conventions to tell stories of overwhelming passion and cruelty.
This volume brings together three of his greatest plays. Britannicus, the earliest, is set in the court of the young Emperor Nero, and in an atmosphere seething with erotic tension, documents the power-struggles surrounding the birth of a legendary despot. Berenice probes the hearts of two lovers as they are torn apart amidst the splendours of Imperial Rome, and in Phedra, the most famous of the three, a woman betrayed by her own desires descends into a personal hell of shame, guilt and remorse.
These classic versions, by two of the country's most distinguished director-translators, prove that Racine is far from untranslatable; they offer blisteringly effective poetry, urgent plotting and powerhouse roles for both actors and actresses.
The plays in this volume - Cinna, The Misanthrope, Andromache and Phaedra - span only thirty-seven years, but make up the defining period of French theatre. In Corneille's Cinna (1640), absolute power is explored in ancient Rome, while Molière's The Misanthrope (1666), the only comedy in this collection, sees its anti-hero outcast for his refusal to conform to social conventions. Here also are two key plays by Racine: Andromache (1667), recounting the tragedy of Hector's widow after the Trojan War, and Phaedre (1677), showing a mother crossing the bounds of love with her son.
This translation of Phaedra was originally broadcast on Radio Three with a cast including Prunella Scales and Timothy West, and was praised by playwright Harold Pinter. This is the first time it has been published. The edition also includes an introduction by Joseph Harris, genealogical tables, pronunciation guides, critiques and prefaces, as well as a chronology and suggested further reading.
After a varied career as an actor, teacher, and BBC TV national newsreader, John Edmunds became the founder-director of Aberystwyth University's department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies. Joseph Harris is Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London and author of Hidden Agendas: Cross-Dressing in Seventeenth-Century France (2005).
Robert David MacDonald's translation of Faust, used in acclaimed productions in Scotland (Glasgow Citizens) and England (Lyric Hammersmith), offers access to the play in the English language for readers and playgoers alike and opens up the extraordinary range and pace of Goethe's language, rhythms, imagery and ideas, without sacrificing any of the play's humour. The Open University has adopted the translation as a set book for the course entitled 'From Enlightenment to Romanticism'
Major historical upheavals of the Sixteenth Century illuminate Schiller's increasingly troubled reaction to the present in these two plays. The huge epic Don Carlos (1787), a 'play expressing a view of life', marries the ideological battle between Philip II of Spain and his son Don Carlos to a gripping narrative. In Mary Stuart (1800), Schiller, sickened by the excesses of a revolution he had once supported, brings together two monarchs - the English Elizabeth Tudor and the Scottish Mary Stuart, cousins who in reality never met - when Mary, falsely accused of conspiracy, finds herself at Elizabeth's mercy.
The first published English-language edition of Goldoni’s worldly vision of the Don Juan legend, in verse, alongside translations of the naturalistic Friends and Lovers and The Battlefield, all of which were first seen at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow.
"Robert David MacDonald’s In Quest of Conscience, based on Gitta Sereny’s Into That Darkness, a record of her interviews with death camp commandant Franz Stangl, takes it for granted that the Holocaust was a shocking crime against humanity; what it wants to know, with an urgency amounting to desperation, is how it happened, and how it can be prevented from happening again." - Joyce Macmillan, Scotland on Sunday
"Stangl... bureaucrat of death who administered as massive an evil as the Holocaust in the same routine spirit in which he would have administered butter rationing ... What manner of man can be responsible for the slaughter of 1,200,000 of his fellows in the space of 14 months?" - Joseph Farrell, The Scotsman
"Plays such as In Quest of Conscience are messengers of the unspeakable, which is why they should be listened to as this powerful, dignified piece was in complete moral silence." - John Peter, The Sunday Times
"A brilliant and important play which is based on the actual interviews with the death camp commandant Franz Stragl by Gitta Sereny searching desperately to discover how the Holocaust happened, how one worked and lived with it, and how to prevent it occurring again" Blanche Marvin
Two plays about historical characters whose fame has also raised them to the level of myth. In Joan of Arc (1801), Schiller allows his heroine a more glorious death than her historical execution at the stake, and imbues her with more passion, and compassion, than is usually ascribed to the actual Joan.
In William Tell (1805), often regarded as his greatest play, Schiller creates a vivid sense of time and place - medieval Switzerland - and in his troubled hero, the accidental revolutionary Tell, create a complex and fascinating figure.
One of the great figures in German literature, Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) was in some ways the most significant playwright of his day, numbering among his devotees Coleridge and Carlyle. His plays are known for their originality of form, vivid stage imagery and powerful language, faithfully rendered in Robert David MacDonald's acclaimed translations.