John Dryden Essay, Research Paper
John Dryden is considered one of the most accomplished poets of theRestoration Period. He was also gifted as a dramatist, essayist, satirist and critic,but despite his popularity little is known of him except what is contained in hisworks. Born on August 9, 1631 at Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, Dryden grewolder writing poems and already had been successful at it. Matthew Arnold said,”Here at last we have the true English prose, a prose such as we would all gladlyuse if only we knew how” (446). His father was a country gentleman. Drydenattended Westminister School as a young adult in London. It is here he publishedthe elegy “Upon the Death of Lord Hastings” in 1649. He graduated from TrinityCollege, Cambridge where he received his B.A. degree in 1654. This year alsomarks the death of his father. Five years later he published his first significantpoem “Heroic Stanzas”, about the death of Oliver Cromwell. The next year hebowed down to the return of King Charles II and made a complete turn-around. Healso converted from Puritan, then Anglican, and finally settled on RomanCatholicism.Dryden began his career as a playwright, producing blank verse tragediesand comedies. He was named Laureate in 1668, but because of royal treasuryfunds running short he received only half of his reward for his membership. “Allfor Love” (1677) was arguable said to be his best play. He also wrote “Absalomand Achitophel”, which is a political poem published in 1681. Some would say”Absalom and Achitophel” is where he showed his full power of writing style, butothers would say that “The Medall” was just as good. “He displays his full powerin Absalom and Achitophel, a political poem published in 1681. This poem wasfollowed later by the equally impressive ‘The Medall’ also on politics” (Arnold 446).After the revolution of 1688, which brought William and Mary to thethrone of England, Dryden lost his Laureateship and was replaced by ThomasShadwell, whom Dryden had satirized in Mac Flecknoe.John Dryden was also known for his Odes, which in simple terms is nothingmore than a rhymed lyric poem. One of John Dryden’s most famous Odes is “ASong for Cecilia’s Day”. John Dryden started out writing many odes, but when hefirst started he wasn’t very experimental with his writing as he later became.”Dryden patterned his odes loosely on classical models. Later writers varied theform in many ways” ( Arnold 453).It is said that there is a relationship between “A Song for Cecilia’s Day” andJohn Dryden’s’ domestic situation with his wife, Lady Elizabeth. “His listeningbrethren stood around, And, wondering, on their faces fell To worship thatcelestial sound” ( Dryden 455). These lines give just a small hint about what mayhave been going on between him and his wife. Overall he was generally knownvery well for his poems and odes, but always there will be those who don’t agree.”As for the Odes, these have been often enough and highly enough praised for acaveat of dispraise to be entered against them here. They have at best, in myexperience of them, a glinting and labored, ungainly, heteroclite, and flashy in ahalf-hearted and mechanical fashion” (Morgan 67).”‘Mac Flecknoe’ is said to possibly be Dryden’s greatest works. ‘MacFlecknow’ is Dryden’s masterpiece in the genre” (Morgan 67). The first edition of”Mac Flecknow” appeared in 1682. The idea for “Mac Flecknow” was suggestedby the death of the Irish priest and poet Richard Flecknow. Apparently Drydenimagined Flecknow, the monarch of the “Realms of Non-sense,” immediatelybefore, appointed Shadwell as his worthy successor. One thing that is importantabout “Mac Flecknoe” is it was made to hold the interest of many people betterthan other poems of the time. “The piece of Dryden’s which is most fun, which is
the most sustained, display of surprise after surprise of wit from line to line, is’Mac Flecknoe’” (Elliot 10). It is believed among many literary researchers that”Mac Flecknoe” was meant to be a fun poem. It is still to this day one of his mostpopular works.”All for Love” retells the story of the infamous Antony and Cleopatra. Hisplay recounts how Antony is forced by family and friends to make a decisionbetween staying with his wife Octavia or leaving to be with his mistress,Cleopatra. Antony must decide if he should stay with his deep love for Cleopatraor be honorable and fulfill his duty with Octavia. “All for Love” is said to beDryden’s most admired work as well as most financially successful play. “All forLove” was a rewritten account of Shakesphere’s “Antony and Cleopatra” but amuch simpler version. “We are forced to admit, however, that this is too simple,and that we owe the solitary outstanding play of “All for Love” rather to afortunate group of circumstances than wholly to trends mounting up through theearlier dramas” (Morgan 61).Dryden produced many different kinds of works, including tragedies.”Some admire his Don Sebastian, but the heart of his dramatic work and it is workthat profoundly affected subsequent English tragic writing —is in the heroicsequence climaxed by “All for Love” (Kaufmann 87). This was overall through hismost successful play. “Dryden ‘All for Love’ or ‘The World Well Lost’ is generallyacknowledged as his play, and without much question it is the best tragedy of its’age” (Prior 95)Little was known about Dryden unfortunately, except what is in his works. Drydenwrote from the beginning to the end of the Restoration Period. In fact, manyliterary scholars consider the end of the Restoration Period to have occurred withDryden’s death. John Dryden had a very successful career in many areas ofliterature, and was very well known among even the average literary reader. Evencritics who tried to come with something wrong with his writing didn’t base it onany hard facts. “Most of the attacks on Dryden are painfully dull reading. Themajority of them contain nothing, but the same stock charges against him” (Osborn31). It is generally well-known among literary scholars that John Dryden wasn’tjust a part of the Restoration Period, he is the Restoration Period.
1. Arnold, Matthew. “John Dryden” The British Tradition. Ed. Ellen Bowler et al. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1996: 446 2 Dryden, John “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day.” Rpt in “The British Tradition.” Ed. Ellen Bowler Et al. Ner Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1996: 453 3.. Elliot, T.S. “John Dryden.” Selected Essays of T.S. Elliot. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1960. Rpt in Dryden. Bernard Schilling. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1963. 8-16. 4. “Guide for Interpretation, A Song for Cecilia’s Day” The British Tradition Ed. Ellen Bowler et al. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1996: 452. 5. Kaufmann, R.J. “On the Poetics of Terminal Tragedy: Dryden’s All for Love” The Introduction to John Dryden’s All for Love. San Francisco: Chandler Publishing Company. 1962 Rpt in Dryden. Bernard Schilling. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1963. 86-94. 6. Morgan, Edwin “Dryden’s Drudging.” The Cambridge Journal VI, No. 7. 1953. 414- 429 Rpt in Dryden. Bernard Schilling. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1963. 55-70. 7. Osborn, James M. “The Medal of John Bayes” John Dryden: Some Biographical Facts and Problems. New York: Columbia University Press, 1940. Rpt in Dryden. Bernard Schilling Englewood Cliffs: Prenitice Hall, Inc., 1963. 31-42. 8. Prior, Moody E. “Tragedy and the Heroic Play.” The Language of Tragedy. New York: Columbia Univeristy Press. Rpt in Dryden. Bernard Schilling. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1963. 31-42.