Dramatic Essays (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Dramatic Essays

These were some of the subjects most prominent in the literary discussions of the time when Dryden wrote his essays in dramatic criticism, and it was perfectly natural, therefore, that his own mind should be full Of them. What are the relative values of the ancient and modern dramas How does the French drama (based in theory on the ancient) com pare with the romantic drama of the older English stage? What in turn may be said for and against this romantic drama itself when it is set beside the drama of Dryden's own time What is the real significance of the unities? Has tragi-comedy any justification? What is the proper place and what the proper treatment of love in the modern drama? What are the advantages and drawbacks of action and narrative of rhyme and blank verse? Such are the topics which recur in Dryden's pages; and if for most of us to-day they are scarcely living issues, the historical importance, and even the critical value, of what Dryden says about them are not the less on that account.

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Born August 9, 1631 into a wealthy Puritan family, John Dryden received an excellent education at Westminster School and Cambridge University. After a brief period in government, he turned his attention almost entirely to writing. Dryden was one of the first English writers to make his living strictly by writing, but this meant he had to cater to popular taste. His long career was astonishingly varied, and he turned his exceptional talents to almost all literary forms. Dryden dominated the entire Restoration period as a poet, playwright, and all-round man of letters. He was the third poet laureate of England. In his old age Dryden was virtually a literary "dictator" in England, with an immense influence on eighteenth-century poetry. His verse form and his brilliant satires became models for other poets, but they could rarely equal his standard. Dryden was also a master of "occasional" poetry - verse written for a specific person or special occasion. Like most poets of his time, Dryden saw poetry as a way of expressing ideas rather than emotions, which makes his poetry seem cool and impersonal to some modern readers. Dryden also wrote numerous plays that helped him make him one of the leading figures in the Restoration theatre. Today, however he is admired more for his influence on other writers than for his own works. He died on April 30, 1700 in London.

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