John Dryden An Essay On Dramatic Poetry

To the English stage as a whole he will not allow a position of inferiority ; for * our nation can never want in any age such who are able to dispute the empire of wit with any people in the universe' (p. Crites now introduces the subject of rhyme, which he maintains to be unsuitable for serious plays. His argu ment, and Neander's answer, take up the rest of the Essay.

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Dryden and others were not slow to consult the taste prevailing at Court.

Before undertaking to decide this point,\ Neander says that he will attempt to estimate the dramatic genius of Shakespeare, and of Beaumont and Fletcher.

This he does, in an interesting and well-known passage (p. He then examines the genius of Jonson with reference to many special points, and gives an analysis of the plot of his comedy, Epicoene, or the Silent Woman ; but he gives no direct answer to the question put by Eugenius.

It is usually assumed that Dryden was alto gether wrong in preferring the heroic couplet to blank verse as the metre of serious dramas ; and his own sub sequent abandonment of rhyme foreshadowed, as we have seen, in the prologue to Aurung-zebe is regarded as an admission that his argument in favour of it was un sound.

And yet much of what he says in defence of rhyme appears to be plain common sense and incontro vertible, and to deserve, whatever his later practice may have been, a careful consideration. Sir Charles Sedley n was a well-known Kentish baronet, and Lord Buckhurst, soon to be the Earl of Dorset, was heir to the illustrious house, of Sackville. It is unlikely however that Dryden called himself ' Neander ' n in the sense of ' novus homo,' a man of the people, desiring to rise above his station. The fact is, that the amazing superiority of Shakespeare, lying much more in the matter than in the form of his tragedies, makes us ready to admit at once that blank verse is the proper metre for an English tragedy because he used it. We do not see that the ensemble of the facts of the case, viz. After all, if the heroic rhyming plays of Dryden and Lee have found no successors, has not blank verse also notoriously failed, however able the hands which wielded it, to be- x PREFACE. With introduction by Sir ADOLPHUS WARD, and notes by C. come the vehicle and instrument of an English dramatic school, worthy to be ranked alongside of the great Elizabethans ? Dryden was too proud of his own good birth for that, and the term appears to be a rough anagram on his own name, just as Lisideius was on that of Sedley. This question as to the value of rhyme in dramatic poetry is by no means an obsolete or unprofitable inquiry ; it still exercises our minds in the nineteenth century ; it has received no permanent, no authoritative solution. DRYDEN AN ESSAY OF DRAMATIC POESY ARNOLD OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS LONDON EDINBURGH GLASGOW NEW YORK TORONTO MELBOURNE CAPE TOWN BOMBAY HUMPHREY MILFORD PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY 9 DRYDEN AN ESSAY OF DRAMATIC POESY EDITED WITH NOTES BY THOMAS ARNOLD, M. In that drama, when prose was not employed, the use of rhyme was an essential feature. COLL., OXFORD AND FELLOW OF THE ROYAL UNIVERSITY OF IRELAND THIRD EDITION, REVISED BY WILLIAM T. Charles II, having been much in Paris during his exile, had been captivated by the French drama, then in the powerful hands of Corneille and Moliere.

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