Britannicus is the first play in which Racine depicted Roman history. The tale of moral choice takes as its subject Britannicus, the son of the Roman emperor Claudius, and heir to the imperial throne. Britannicus' succession to the throne is however usurped by Lucius, later known as Nero, and the son of Claudius' wife Agrippina the Younger.
Racine portrays Nero's true nature as revealed by his sudden desire for Britannicus's fiancée Junia. He wrests himself free from his mother's domination and plots to assassinate his adoptive brother. Nero is driven less by fear of being overthrown by Britannicus than by competition in love. His desire for Junia manifests itself in sadism towards the young woman and all that she loves. Agrippina is portrayed as a possessive mother who will not accept the loss of control over both her son and the Empire. Despite giving his name to the play, the character of Britannicus is more minor than those of Agrippina and Nero.
Role names and descriptions are from the first edition.
- Nero, Emperor, son of Agrippine
- Britannicus, son of the Emperor Claudius
- Agrippine, widow of Domitius Enobarbus father of Nero, & from second marriage, widow of Emperor Claudius
- Junie, beloved of Britannicus
- Burrhus, governor of Nero
- Narcisse, governor of Britannicus
- Albine, confidante of Agrippine
- Hochman, Stanley, editor (1984). McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama (second edition, 5 volumes). New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-079169-5.
- This article is partly based upon a translation of the corresponding article from the French Wikipedia.
- Britannicus original text (French) at Wikisource
- Britannicus de Jean Racine : Analysis, Plot overview (French)
- Britannicus by Jean Racine in a new translation by Timberlake Wertenbaker