Esther and Berenice: Two Plays

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Kessinger Publishing, Jul 1, 2004 - Drama - 236 pages
1922. 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. See other titles by this author available from Kessinger Publishing.

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About the author (2004)

Once one of the most popular English poets of the century, Masefield has fallen into undeserved neglect since his death. He was born in a Victorian house with rural vistas, which he later recalled as "living in Paradise." In childhood, he had a series of intense, visionary experiences inspired by both nature and literature, which gave him a habitual sense of participation in a greater life. These had weakened by 1891, when he entered training for the merchant naval service. An officer on the White Star Line's Adriatic, he jumped ship in New York in 1895 and roamed across America. He returned to England two years later when a recovery of his intense childhood visions convinced him he could succeed as a writer. Masefield excelled more at narrative than at symbolism. His first book, "Salt Water Poems and Ballads" (1902), displayed the allegiance to outcasts and wanderers that marks his subject matter. The musicality of that volume derives partly from the strong early influence of W. B. Yeats. Increasingly, Masefield experimented with colloquial diction, particularly from the lower classes. His "The Everlasting Mercy" (1911) recounted the conversion of a rural scoundrel in language that astonished many readers. Highly prolific, he produced more than 20 volumes of fiction, 17 plays, and other prose work besides his major volumes of poetry. Masefield still appeals particularly to the common reader. He was appointed poet laureate in 1930.

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