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John Dryden analysis

The reign of Augustus Caesar is regarded as the golden age of Latin or roman literature.the age of Dryden and Alexander Pope is called Augustan age in literature i.e;the last quarter of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century.The English literary men of the period hated both restoration profligacy and puritanism.Their primary aim hence was to teach and therefore their style was didactic.Their fav. form of writing = satire.They tried to reform by ridiculing the foolishness and wickedness.their attitude was rationalistic and utilitarian.their works are examples of perfect craftsmanship.But their were works are very artificial and less spontaneous.they spring not from heart but from head.in short they are known for correctness, elegance and finish.John Dryden (9 August 1631 1 May 1700) was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden. Walter Scott called him "Glorious John."[1] He was made Poet Laureate in 1668. Dryden forms the link between Restoration and Augustan literature; although he wrote ribald comedies in the Restoration vein, his verse satires were highly admired by the generation of poets who followed him, and his writings on literature were very much in a neoclassical spirit. In verse, the tight heroic couplet was common, and in prose essay and satire were the predominant forms. Any facile definition of this period would be misleading, however; as important as it was, the neoclassicist impulse was only one strain in the literature of the first half of the eighteenth century. But its representatives were the defining voices in literary circles, and as a result it is often some aspect of 'neoclassicism' which is used to describe the era. The literary criticism of these writers often sought its justification in classical precedents. In the same vein, many of the important genres of this period were adaptations of classical forms: mock epic, translation, and imitation. What Dryden achieved in his poetry was not the emotional excitement we find in the Romantic poets of the early nineteenth century, nor the intellectual complexities of the metaphysical poets. His subject-matter was often factual, and he aimed at expressing his thoughts in the most precise and concentrated way possible. Although he uses formal poetic structures such as heroic stanzas and heroic couplets, he tried to achieve the rhythms of speech. However, he knew that different subjects need different kinds of verse, and in his preface to Religio Laici he wrote: ...the expressions of a poem designed purely for instruction ought to be plain and natural, yet majestic...The florid, elevated and figurative way is for the passions; for (these) are begotten in the soul by showing the objects out of their true proportion....A man is to be cheated into passion, but to be reasoned into truth. As with his poetry, most of Dryden's prose is occasional. The exception is his Essay of Dramatick Poesy, a dialogue platonic in its framework and general conduct. Otherwise it is made up of dedications and prefaces, the former sometimes becoming critical essays, as the latter

always are. The dedications we tend to regard as fulsome; they are addressed for the more part to noble patrons, even to royalty, and may seem to us ludicrously, or shamefully, laudatory: but then the dedication was a genre of its own, with its laws and traditions. Dryden was the dominant literary figure and influence of his age. He established the heroic couplet as a standard form of English poetry by writing successful satires, religious pieces, fables, epigrams, compliments, prologues, and plays with it; he also introduced the alexandrine and triplet into the form. In his poems, translations, and criticism, he established a poetic diction appropriate to the heroic coupletAuden referred to him as "the master of the middle style"[13]that was a model for his contemporaries and for much of the 18th century. The considerable loss felt by the English literary community at his death was evident from the elegies that it inspired.[14] Dryden's heroic couplet became the dominant poetic form of the 18th century. The most influential poet of the 18th century, Alexander Pope,[citation needed] was heavily influenced by Dryden, and often borrowed from him; other writers were equally influenced by Dryden and Pope.

In the history of English literature the period dating from 1660 to 1700 is called the Age of Dryden. Also called the Restoration Period, this was an era of change in political and social as well as in literary fields. In politics the period saw the reign of three rulers, two dynasties and a revolution. The social life of this period was influenced much by the French manners. The life of the people of England was greatly affected by the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666. The city ravaged by the violent outbreak was later devastated by fire. The entire city was re-built. There was also a change in literary tastes during this time owing to the French influence. Literature appealed more to the head than to the heart and reason and good sense replaced emotion and imagination. The poetry of John Dryden possesses a grandeur, force, and fullness of tone that were eagerly received by readers still having something in common with the Elizabethans. At the same time, however, his poetry set the tone of the new age in achieving a new clarity and in establishing a self-limiting, somewhat impersonal canon of moderation and good taste. His polished heroic couplet (a unit of two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter, generally endstopped), which he inherited from less accomplished predecessors and then developed, became the dominant form in the composition of longer poems. Primarily focusing on drama, the poetry of plays, Dryden ultimately wants to make a case for the achievements of the British in that respect. In somewhat "Platonic" method, he creates a dialogue between poet/critics of the day who have different viewpoints about the strengths and weaknesses of, and influences on, British poesy. The benefit of this is to mount an argument which takes a variety of positions into consideration. Rather than attempting to create a new set of "rules" for drama, comedy, or verse, he chooses instead to review the existing, generally accepted conventions and decide in what respects they are being followed, or whether they should be followed by English writers. Further, through the use of the four-way dialogue, he is able to provide some insight on the prevailing notions of the day. It may be worth noting that the "characters" in this dialogue are associated for the purpose of argument with specific points of view: Crites praises the Greeks and Romans suggesting that they cannot be surpassed; Eugenius recognizes their worth but suggests that they

have indeed been exceeded and in many instances are not consistent in their adherence to Aristotle's conventions; Lisideius suggests that the French are superior to the English; and Neander (ostensibly Dryden) counters that, based on their agreed definition of what "a play ought to be," the English are superior.

In a number of critical works Dryden defined the stylistic restraint, compression, clarity, and common sense that he exemplified in his own poetry and that he showed to be lacking in much of the poetry of the preceding age, particularly in the exuberant and mechanically complex metaphorical wit of the older metaphysical school. His reputation rests primarily on satire. This form became the dominant poetic genre of the age, both because of the religious and political factionalism of the times and because mocking denunciation of the ludicrousness or rascality of the opposition comes naturally to an age with so strong a public sense of norms of behavior. Absalom and Achitophel (1681-1682) and Mac Flecknoe (1682) are the most remarkable of Dryden's political satires. Among his other poetic works are noteworthy translations of Roman satirists and of the works of Virgil, and the Pindaric ode Alexander's Feast, a tour de force of varied cadences, which was published in 1697. The bulk of Dryden's work was in drama. By means of it, following the new mode of living of the professional literary man, he could derive his support from a large public rather than from private patrons. In his heroic tragedies The Conquest of Granada (1670) and All for Love; or, The World Well Lost (1678), a rewriting of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra in the new taste, Dryden showed a different and not always satisfying side of his talent and exemplified the dominant quality of all Restoration tragedy. In order to achieve splendor and surprise on the stage, he sacrificed reality of characterization and consistency in motivation for sensual display in exotic locales and extravagance in plot and situation, presented in a style verging on the bombastic. The affinities of this kind of drama are with Beaumont and Fletcher rather than with the great Elizabethan age; and the indirect influence of Ben Jonson is apparent also, for these two men were Jonson's disciples. Probably the best example of this genre of tragedy was produced by Thomas Otway, whose Venice Preserved (1682) avoids the worst excesses to which this form is liable and also possesses considerable tenderness and sensibility. By this time, however, the vogue of heroic tragedy was coming to an end; the style already had been successfully parodied in The Rehearsal (1671), by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, and his collaborators. The comedy of the time is much more successful than the tragedy. It is derived directly from the comedies of Ben Jonson but tries for more refinement while displaying less strength. In a cool, satiric spirit, it criticizes middle-class ambition and other variations from the courtly social norm, of which the canons are aristocratic good taste and good sense, rarely conventional morality. In the eyes of succeeding generations, the chief defects of Restoration comedy are its reduction of sentiment and emotion to silliness and its frequent amorality. Reaction against this type of comedy, known as the comedy of manners, already had developed by the time that its greatest practitioner, William Congreve, was displaying his subtle artistry in Love For Love (1695) and The Way of the World (1700). Dryden was not rule bound critic he not only follows the moderns but he does not disparage the ancients he belonges to neoclassical era so he has all the qualities of his age.he used to talk about form and morality.

Just as Dryden's poetry defined the tone of his time, so too did his easy, informal, clear prose style, notably in his Essay of Dramatic Poesie (1668) and in various prefaces to his plays and translations. Neander has the last word, suggesting that based on the definition of a play, the English are best at "the lively imitation of nature" (human nature), conceding that while French poesy is beautiful, it is beautiful like a "statue". He even says that the newer French writers are imitating the English. One fault he finds in their plots is that the regularity, which has been complimented as uncluttered, also make the plays too much alike. He defends the English invention of tragi-comedy by suggesting that the use of mirth with tragedy provides "contraries" that "set each other off" and give the audience relief from the heaviness of straight tragedy. He suggest that the use of sub-plots, if they are well-ordered, make the plays interesting and help the main action. Further, he suggests that English plays are more entertaining and instructive because they offer an element of surprise that the ancients and the French do not. As far as decorum, things the French choose not to portray on-stage, he brings up the idea of the suspension of disbelief. The audience knows that none of it is real, why should they think scenes of death or battles any less "real" than the rest? I think here he credits the English audience with a certain robustness in suggesting that they want their battles and "other objects of horror." Ultimately, in discussing the English habit of breaking the rules, he suggests that it maybe there are simply too many rules and often that following them creates more absurdities than they prevent. In the last of the essay, a discussion of the proper use of rhyme and verse ensues, mostly between Crites, who wants to eliminate the use of rhyme, which he sees as sounding artificial, and Neander, who says if you want to eliminate rhyme on that basis, why not verse on the same grounds. Neander suggests that comedy should not be rhymed but that the heroic tragedy should be. To Crites' charge that it is too much invention, Neander says that if a writer must choose every word, that is artificial. If properly done, the additional artifices of verse and rhyme are no less contrived, but can add to the effect of the play.

That Dryden concerns himself with the influence of the French is no surprise. Charles II, installed as King after the fall of the commonwealth under Cromwell, returned from exile in France, and court society during his reign adopted much of French fashion and taste. Corneille, especially in his heroic tragedies, was a favorite, and in this genre, Dryden would never surpass him. His concerns expressed in the essay about the Roman and Greek influences naturally follow because of Corneille's adherence, and that of the French writers in general, to the conventions of unity and considerations of decorum. Dryden's strength in writing for the stage would be in the comedies which reflected the changing social milieu. As far as discussion of the influences in English plays, he focuses on Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, the Homer and Virgil of English playwriting, respectively. Shakespeare he admits can be inconsistent, sometimes flat and bombastic, yet Dryden says he had "the largest and most comprehensive soul." Jonson, on the other hand, he calls the "most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had." Jonson could use all the conventions as well as the ancients of the French. Dryden, commenting on the two together notes that he "admires" Jonson but he "loves" Shakespeare.

But for the British loyal to the king, and Dryden was, the restoration was also time of renewed nationalism, and Dryden seems, at least in this essay, to be interested in defending British sensibilities. Dryden was also very concerned in his art with the events of the day. Even this piece of criticism begins at the moment of the second British victory over the Dutch. Some of Dryden's best works are his later ones, particularly Absolom and Achitophel prompted by the Popish plot, and are inspired by specific political and social issues of the day. In that respect, as well as stylistically in the use of heroic couplet, they contrast works of broader scope such as Paradise Lost published in 1666 by John Milton, who Dryden would compare to Homer and Virgil in his 1688 "Epigram on Milton." (By contrast to Dryden, Milton seems clearly from a different era). Dryden's real strengths were translations, the later satires, and the solidifying of a base for continuing British criticism. Although he was Poet Laureate during the reigns of Charles II and James, he was relieved of the honor with the ascension of William and Mary, remained loyal to James, and converted to Catholicism. His (1700) "Secular Masque," written for the turn of the century, registers a disenchantment with the entire age. It is interesting, in light of what he says in "An Essay..." to look at a play like Congrieve's (1700) "The Way of the World" which is marked by the shift from verse to prose, the more natural reflection of conversation that Dryden seems to suggest as a possibility for comedy.