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Their opening exchanges display the currency of ironic repartee familiar from Restoration comedy, as fears are voiced that an English victory will be heralded by a plethora of outlandish celebrations from those ever-eager “leveller[s] in poetry.” These tart remarks, carrying more than a hint of cultural elitism, lead into a serious discussion of drama.Lisideius proposes a definition for a play which all accept, although the precise meaning of “A just and lively Image of Human Nature” will be differently interpreted according to each speaker’s idea of how it is that Art should imitate Nature.
Progress in science has been matched by progress in the arts.
The Moderns have improved upon the older dramatists’ hackneyed exploitation of myth; furthermore, they are more precise observers of the “Unities,” which, as he accurately observes, are mostly the product of continental criticism.
Both works have in common the contemporary drama of the sea battles against the Dutch, providing an epic canvas and subject for the poem, and a backdrop and extended metaphor of international conflict for the essay.
Precedent for such a confrontational setting had already been established by some unflattering remarks made upon the English stage by the French commentator Samuel Sorbière in his Relation d’un voyage en Angleterre (1664; Account of a voyage in England).
Conversely, the English stage is more vital, more exciting.
Subplots and tragicomedy lend variety and contrast, dramatic dialogue is better suited to passion, and even violent action is justified by deference to popular appeal.Unlike the greater part of Dryden’s criticism, which is found in prefaces, prologues, and dedications, the Essay is distinguished by its formally articulated speeches, and by the poise with which conflicting critical positions are offered for the reader’s consideration.We are witness to a sophisticated débat between four Restoration gentlemen as they float down the Thames on a barge, the better to catch the sound of “distant Thunder” as the English and Dutch navies “disputed the command of the greater half of the Globe.” As his combatants dispute the relative merits of Ancient and Modern drama, of English and French theatrical practice, Dryden conjures up echoes of the Platonic dialogue, although his dramatic reconstructions lack Plato’s purposeful drive toward a conclusion.Out of such classical spareness, claims Lisideius, emerges a new verisimilitude.It is left to Neander to reply, and to summarize, one suspects, on Dryden’s behalf.by John Dryden, 1667–68 When John Dryden (1631–1700) published the Essay of Dramatic Poesy late in 1667 or early in 1668, he was already actively engaged in writing for the London stage.He had written, collaborated on, or adapted some seven plays in various genres, including comedy, tragicomedy, and heroic.Foreign slanders provoke indignant counterblasts, and, in the following year, Thomas Sprat, the historian of the Royal Society, published his Observations on M. At about the same time, Dryden was involved in a debate on the question of rhyme with his brother-in-law and collaborator, Sir Robert Howard (soon to become the Crites of the Essay).In the dedication to The Rival Ladies (1664), Dryden had argued in favor of rhymed drama, to which Howard replied in the preface of his Four New Plays (1665), rejecting the device on the grounds of its “unnaturalness.” Here were all the ingredients for civil and international “war,” and, in part at least, the writing of the Essay can be seen as an episode in a landscape of critical skirmishes.He cites the application of the pseudo- Aristotelian “Unities” as an example of how far short of the classical model the Moderns have fallen.Eugenius, in response, attempts to turn Crites’ points against him.