However, with the restoration of the dead king’s son, Charles II, to the throne in 1660, Dryden switched sides, celebrating the new monarchy in his poem is written as a debate on drama conducted by four speakers, Eugenius, Crites, Lisideius, and Neander.
These personae have conventionally been identified with four of Dryden’s contemporaries.
The moderns, inspired by various forms of progress through the Renaissance, sought to adapt or even abandon classical ideals in favor of the requirements of a changed world and a modern audience.
Dryden’s is an important intervention in this debate, perhaps marking a distinction between Renaissance and neoclassical values.
Like Torquato Tasso and Pierre Corneille, he attempted to strike a compromise between the claims of ancient authority and the exigencies of the modern writer.
In Dryden’s text, this compromise subsumes a number of debates: one of these concerns the classical “unities” of time, place, and action; another focuses on the rigid classical distinction between various genres, such as tragedy and comedy; there was also the issue of classical decorum and propriety, as well as the use of rhyme in drama.Again, their plots were usually based on “some tale derived from Thebes or Troy,” a plot “worn so threadbare . These are strong words, threatening to undermine a long tradition of reverence for the classics.But Eugenius has hardly finished: not only do the ancients fail to fulfill one of the essential obligations of drama, that of delighting; they also fall short in the other requirement, that of instructing.(1668) that “modern English prose begins here.” Dryden’s critical work was extensive, treating of various genres such as epic, tragedy, comedy and dramatic theory, satire, the relative virtues of ancient and modern writers, as well as the nature of poetry and translation. Dryden was also a consummate poet, dramatist, and translator.In addition to the , he wrote numerous prefaces, reviews, and prologues, which together set the stage for later poetic and critical developments embodied in writers such as Pope, Johnson, Matthew Arnold, and T. His poetic output reflects his shifting religious and political allegiances.Lisideius offers the following definition of a play: “” (36).Even a casual glance at the definition shows it to be very different from Aristotle’s: the latter had defined tragedy not as the representation of “human nature” but as the imitation of a serious and complete action; moreover, while Aristotle had indeed cited a reversal in fortune as a component of tragedy, he had said nothing about “passions and humours”; and, while he accorded to literature in general a moral and intellectual function, he had said nothing about “delighting” the audience.Kneller, Godfrey; John Dryden (1631-1700), Playwright, Poet Laureate and Critic; Trinity College, University of Cambridge; is skillfully wrought in terms of its own dramatic structure, its setting up of certain expectations (the authority of classical precepts), its climaxing in the reversal of these, and its denouement in the comparative assessment of French and English drama.What starts out, through the voice of Crites, as promising to lull the reader into complacent subordination to classical values ends up by deploying those very values against the ancients themselves and by undermining or redefining those values.Crites claims that the ancients observed these rules in most of their plays (38–39).The unity of action, Crites urges, stipulates that the “poet is to aim at one great and complete action,” to which all other things in the play “are to be subservient.” The reason behind this, he explains, is that if there were two major actions, this would destroy the unity of the play (41).