The Tragedy of Primogeniture in Pierre Corneille, Thomas Corneille, and Jean Racine
Richard E. Goodkin
"As Stephen Greenblatt has shown about purgatory for the Elizabethan Age, Goodkin argues that sibling rivalry, a vital and enriching element of tragedy, has been swept off our horizon. The book makes a strong and compelling case for dramatic motivations that we would prefer to forget. In the midst of many elegant and enduring studies of classical theater Goodkin offers compelling interpretation."—Tom Conley, Harvard University
Through a study of the evolution of inheritance issues in seventeen tragedies written over the course of half a century the Corneille brothers, Pierre and Thomas, and by Jean Racine, Richard E. Goodkin questions the pervasive assumption that classical tragedy, a form written for the aristocracy, is informed exclusively by an aristocratic ethic.
Instead, a fresh reading of both canonical and noncanonical texts demonstrates that even the most formal body of literature produced by French classical writers expresses a conflict between a declining aristocratic hierarchy based on inherited privilege and a rising capitalistic ethic that favors competition and enterprise.
Richard E. Goodkin is Professor of French at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of The Tragic Middle: Racine, Aristotle, Euripides and Around Proust.