|French literary history|
Jacques Pradon, often called Nicolas Pradon (1632 – 14 January 1698), was a French playwright. Early in his career, he was helped by Pierre Corneille and was introduced to the salons at the Hôtel de Nevers and the Hôtel de Bouillon by Madame Deshoulières.
Pradon was born in Rouen and is the author of eight tragedies: Pyrame et Thisbé (1674) (see Pyramus and Thisbe), Tamerlan, ou la mort de Bajazet (1676), Phèdre et Hippolyte (1677), La Troade (1679), Statira (1680), Regulus (1688), Germanicus (1694) and Scipion (1697). His plays enjoyed a certain limited success, but were severely judged by his rival Jean Racine, who also wrote tragedies based on the stories of Bajazet (Bayezid I) and Phaedra ("The only difference between Pradon and me is that I know how to write", Racine is reported to have said), and Racine's supporter Nicolas Boileau. This rivalry was particularly intense when Pradon brought out his Phèdre et Hippolyte at the same time as Racine's Phèdre (the writers Donneau de Visé and Adrien-Thomas Perdou de Subligny both took Pradon's side), and throughout his life Pradon wrote several attacks on Boileau. He died in Paris.
Pradon's plays have been largely denigrated by modern critics, both for his lack of imagination or historical awareness and his utter adherence to the three unities and the "bienséances": refusing to show a stepmother in love with her stepson, Pradon made Phèdre merely Theseus' fiancée and Pradon's character of Tamerlan (Timur) walks and acts like a gentleman of the 17th-century French court. During the quarrel between the "les anciens" and "les modernes", he had chosen the side of the first one; it is viewable notably through the fact that he deletes any parenty link between his Phèdre and his Hippolyte, because Thésée and Phèdre aren't married in his piece, by opposition with Euripide, Sénèque and Racine's versions.