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REPRESENTATIVE ENGLISH DRAMAS

FROM DRYDEN TO SHERIDAN

JOHN DRYDEN

THE CONQUEST OF GRANADA

John DRYDEN was born of good, vigorous Puritan stock on August 9, 1631, at Aldwinkle in Northamptonshire. The rigorous drill of Busby, and much reading in the Latin and Greek poets at Trinity College, Cambridge, made up his academic education till 1654, when he received his bachelor's degree. His poetic genius was slow in developing, as the notorious verses on the death of Lord Hastings abundantly testify, and it was not till the death of Cromwell in 1658 that he did anything with much promise of eminence in verse. This production was the Heroic Stanzas, followed two years later by Astrea Redux, which welcomed the restored Charles. Dryden, as Professor Root points out, is not to be charged with mere time-serving, since he but joined in the universal welcome to a king who seemed to assure stability of government when a collapse was threatened by the weak rule of Richard Cromwell. Dryden was throughout in strong sympathy with autocracy.

In 1663 began his active connection with the stage that lasted more or less constantly for thirty-one years and that witnessed the composition of twentyeight plays. He wrote comedies that pandered all too successfully to the corrupt taste of the Restoration Court, such as The Wild Gallant and The Rival Ladies (1663), Marriage à la Mode (1672), and The Spanish Friar (1681); heroic plays, which are the most striking examples of the peculiar product of this age, such as Tyrannic Love (1669), The Conquest of Granada (1670-2), and Aurengzebe (1675); adaptations of foreign plays, such as Sir Martin Mar-all (1667) from Molière, and of native plays, such as The Tem- , pest with D'Avenant (1667), All for Love (1677-8), and Troilus and Cressida (1679) from Shakspere; a “tagging” of Milton's Paradise Lost in The State of Innocence (1674); a dignified tragedy in Don Sebastian (1690); and a bitter invective with the purely political purpose of stirring up English wrath against the Dutch in Amboyna (1673). After writing his earlier plays in the heroic couplet he discarded in All for Love his “long-loved mistress Rhyme” for blank verse. It was a long and arduous service for a man not particularly gifted as a dramatist, but it gave him a mastery of verse and of terse expression, as one can see by comparing his early work in Annus Mirabilis (1667) with the splendid satires of the '80's.

In 1670 Dryden attained the height of his popularity when he was appointed historiographer royal and poet laureate, and he expresses his supreme self

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