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Two plays are necessarily found in any selection from Racine's works, Andromaque and Athalie, his first characteristic production and his last. Third in order, as midway in its author's career, would be Phèdre. In this edition, however, an earlier tragedy, Britannicus, has been substituted for Phèdre, partly because of the nature of the subject of Phèdre, partly because Britannicus is based on the history of Rome, and is probably an attempt to compete with Corneille on his own ground. Besides, as a matter of composition, there is quite as much difference between Andromaque and Britannicus as there is between Andromaque and Phèdre, while on the other hand Britannicus approaches nearer to Athalie than any of Racine's secular dramas.
The attention of students of Racine is called to a supplemental bibliography published by Professor A. R. Hohlfeld in the Modern Language Notes for 1896 (vol. xi, pp. 147-151), to Lectures 5 and 7 in F. Brunetière's Époques du théâtre français (Paris, 1892), to G. Lanson's Histoire de la littérature française and his article on Racine in la Grande Encyclopédie, and to current contributions in the Revue d'Histoire littéraire de la France.
This edition follows the text established by Mesnard in his Euvres de J. Racine (les Grands Écrivains series, Paris, 1865-1873), and is indebted to Mesnard's notes for the larger part of its comments. Acknowledgments are also due to the editions of Andromaque by Dr. B. W. Wells and Athalie by Dr. C. A. Eggert (D. C. Heath & Co.). The latter's study of Racine's versification is especially satisfactory. There is no American edition of Britannicus.